Smith Sees a ‘Sea Change in Technology’ Affecting How We Do Business

Gordon H. Smith

Shortly before the start of the 2017 NAB Show, the Daily News spoke with NAB President and CEO Gordon H. Smith about The M.E.T. Effect and the appointment of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

DAILY: Can you talk about the theme and trends surrounding
this year’s NAB Show?

SMITH: This year’s theme is The M.E.T. Effectsm, which encompasses the evolution of media, entertainment and technology that will be reflected by sessions and exhibits on the NAB Show floor.

It’s no secret there’s been a sea change in technology that’s impacting how media companies do business and how people consume content. In response, the industry is rethinking how content is created and delivered. And nowhere is the intersection of media, entertainment and technology more center-stage than at NAB Show.

The exhibit floor is the ultimate marketplace for content creators to display new products, and to demonstrate new delivery platforms in innovative ways.

Our conference sessions will focus on next-generation technologies, cyber-security, advances in advertising and greater emphasis on digital strategies. It’s all under The M.E.T. Effect umbrella — and we think our 100,000 attendees will be blown away by this year’s show.

NAB staff work year-round to create the world’s largest convention for media, entertainment and technology. I can’t say enough good things about the phenomenal NAB Conventions team. At the same time, we have our other day job back in Washington — which is to win our advocacy issues on Capitol Hill and at the FCC representing the business interests of radio and television stations.

DAILY: Speaking of that, the FCC has a new chairman in Ajit Pai. What can broadcasters expect from the commission under his leadership?

SMITH: It’s been a welcome change to have an FCC chairman who openly embraces the positive role played by broadcasters in local communities. I think our attendees will be impressed by Chairman Pai’s keynote speech on Tuesday morning. Ajit Pai likes to tell the story of his Indian-born parents immigrating to the United States with $10 in their pocket and a transistor radio. He has spoken about how broadcasting became his window to the world while growing up in Kansas. What impresses me most is how many broadcast stations Chairman Pai has visited — both as a commissioner, and now as the FCC chairman.

He doesn’t just pay lip service to broadcasting — he’s acted to help the business grow and thrive. Chairman Pai has been a longtime advocate for AM radio revitalization. He’s been a driving force behind the FCC granting more flexibility to AM broadcasters to improve their service using FM translators. He has also been a consistent voice in support of reforming outdated broadcast ownership rules.

We feel good having Chairman Pai now in charge of carrying out the TV incentive auction. NAB supported the auction because it was voluntary, and we were promised that broadcasters would be held harmless if they did not participate. But there are real issues that need to be addressed by both Congress and the FCC to avoid a consumer backlash. For example, the $1.75 billion relocation fund set up by Congress to compensate those TV stations forced to move will likely be insufficient. There’s also a huge radio issue brewing — hundreds of radio stations whose transmitters are located on TV towers might be temporarily forced off the air without compensation. We also think an arbitrary 39-month timeframe is insufficient to complete all of this work. Thankfully, there is bipartisan support in Congress for fixing this, and we believe the FCC will be sympathetic to consumers who could be impacted if we don’t get this right.

DAILY: In what ways will Next Gen TV be featured at this year’s show?

SMITH: To his credit, Chairman Pai initiated a rulemaking on Next Gen TV, which will allow innovative new services for consumers. Imagine local TV stations delivering the best in network TV content, local news and emergency weather warnings to cellphones, tablets and a new generation of Ultra HDTV sets. IP delivery, immersive sound, free to the viewer. That’s what’s possible with Next Gen TV, and the NAB Show floor is where this will be showcased.

New this year will be the NextGen TV Hub: Powered by ATSC 3.0. It’s in the Grand Lobby of the convention center, and it’s a can’t-miss attraction for anyone interested in the future of television. We’re especially proud that the Hub will feature a live Next Gen broadcast on a 4K Ultra HD TV, originating from a local Las Vegas TV station.