Smith ‘Amazed by Incredible Advances in Technology on Display’

Gordon H. Smith

Shortly before the start of the 2018 NAB Show, the Daily News spoke with NAB President and CEO Gordon H. Smith about NAB Show and how broadcasters are adapting to stay competitive.

DAILY: What new aspects of the show are you most excited about?

SMITH: Over the years I’ve met so many remarkable individuals through our awards presentations and marquee events, from Betty White to Bob Woodruff. NAB’s Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Distinguished Service Award, Crystal Radio Awards and technology awards are among the industry’s highest honors.

I’m excited about the new events we’ve established this year to recognize our honorees. The Achievement in Broadcasting Dinner on Monday at the Encore is sure to be a star-studded event, and the “We Are Broadcasters Celebration” on Tuesday afternoon will be open for all attendees to enjoy at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

I’m always amazed by the incredible advances in technology on display each year and the potential that they represent for broadcasting and the broader media and entertainment industry.

DAILY: Can you talk about The M.E.T. Effect returning as the show’s theme?

SMITH: The convergence of media, entertainment and technology is more evident now than ever. NAB Show’s education sessions and exhibits will again showcase shifting business models, next-generation technologies and new ways for our exhibitors and attendees to make money.

With top-notch education programming and the world’s most innovative companies, NAB Show remains the ultimate destination for professionals who are leading the way in advancing all aspects of media, entertainment and technology.

DAILY: How are broadcasters using technology to better compete in the audio and video marketplace?

SMITH: To stay competitive, broadcasters are moving content to mobile platforms that younger audiences have embraced. That’s just a natural evolution of our business. In radio, stations are launching podcasts as a complementary service to traditional radio. At NAB Show, we’re introducing a new Podcasting Pavilion in South Hall along with a conference on content strategies.

And with the FCC’s approval, TV stations have begun making the voluntary transition to Next Gen TV. This standard will allow broadcasters to deploy new services such as Ultra High Definition pictures, immersive audio, datacasting and interactive emergency alerts. We will be showcasing early deployment markets in the “Road to ATSC 3.0” booth in the Grand Lobby. We’ll also demonstrate advanced emergency alerting and interactivity capabilities of the new standard in Futures Park.

Many national and local broadcasters have also unveiled or are developing streaming services offering premium content to subscribers. NAB Show has a new Streaming Summit on Wednesday, which will explore all aspects of the business from advances in technology to monetization opportunities.

DAILY: How has the notion of “fake news” affected the broadcast industry?

SMITH: I think people need broadcasting more than ever to cut through the noise. Polls show that broadcast radio and TV are the most trusted sources of news because we leave the “shout shows,” the finger-pointing and the conspiracy theories to others; we just deliver the facts, without fear or favor.

DAILY: What is NAB’s focus with regard to spectrum policy?

SMITH: As part of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction, the FCC is shrinking the TV band and has assigned nearly 1,000 TV stations new frequencies. This process poses significant challenges for our stations; it will eventually require viewers who watch TV for free — using an antenna — to take action to re-scan their TV sets and maintain access to their broadcast programming.

Repacked stations will need to complete channel moves, and low-power TV stations and TV translators will be impacted. Radio stations may also be affected if they are located on a tower with a repacked TV station. NAB is committed to helping stations and has created TVAnswers.org to help consumers and stations prepare for the repack.

This is not going to be easy; the complexity of this repack is going to make the analog-to-digital TV transition look like a Sunday picnic.

DAILY: What are the prospects for music licensing reform this year?

SMITH: Congress is closer to enacting music licensing reform than it’s ever been. NAB has had a seat at the table to make sure radio stations are not hurt if this bill — the Music Modernization Act — becomes law. I think there’s a very good chance the legislation passes, in part because both House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch plan to retire at the end of the year, and both of them have made this a priority.