Smith Sees Trends as ‘Exciting Developments’

Shortly before the start of the 2016 NAB Show, the Daily News spoke with NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith about industry trends and some of the issues facing broadcasters.

DAILY: What industry trends do you see emerging at this year’s NAB Show?

SMITH: Advances in technology and the rapid evolution of next-generation video platforms are transforming media and entertainment as we know it. From displays showing crystal clear pictures delivered using 4K and High Dynamic Range technology to discussions on the proliferation of over-the-top video services, NAB Show will address a multitude of trends that are impacting the industry.

We are seeing exciting developments in virtual and augmented reality capabilities that create astonishing immersive experiences for consumers. Furthermore, sophisticated advertising technology is offering a broader range of targeting opportunities for content owners and distributors in a multiscreen world. And drones are back, empowering content creators with a variety of applications from filmmaking to newsgathering.

DAILY: What growth have you seen in the Show in the past few years?

SMITH: Since emerging from the recession, we have seen steady growth in attendance at NAB Show, last year topping 100,000 attendees for the first time since 2008. Exhibits are expanding as well, netting one million square feet of exhibit space in 2015. This year, more than 200 companies will exhibit at NAB Show for the first time.

As the world’s largest trade show for media and entertainment, we look forward to strong international participation at the show, where typically one out of four attendees come from outside the United States and more than a third of the exhibiting companies are based outside the United States.

NAB Show offers upwards of 760 educational sessions, and this year we’ve added several new conferences to address issues that are top-of-mind for attendees. New conferences include the Virtual Reality Production Summit, Multicultural TV & Video Conference and Digital Futures Exchange. We’ve also added dedicated areas to the exhibit hall, including the Virtual & Augmented Reality Pavilion, Advanced Advertising Theater and the ATSC 3.0 Consumer Experience.

DAILY: Where do you see the future of broadcasting?

SMITH: The definition of broadcasting is evolving, but the one thing that remains the same is that content is king. That puts broadcasters in a great position. Broadcasters have the most desired content, and we have invested in making that content available on as many platforms as possible when and where consumers want it.

The radio industry has reached agreements with several wireless carriers to activate the radio chips already installed in mobile devices so listeners can tune to their local stations without dipping into their allotted data. The NextRadio app marries the radio chip with online multimedia content such as album information and interactive advertising. Many radio stations are also extending their reach to audiences by streaming their programing over the Internet. NAB successfully secured lower royalty streaming rates for radio stations, which will allow more stations to stream and increase the pool of compensation for artists.

On the television side, broadcasters produce some of the most popular video programing. Hulu has offered an over-the-top pathway for broadcasters to distribute content to viewers for years, and networks are launching their own standalone online services. Many local affiliates across the country live-stream much of their programming, especially local news and emergency information, to reach viewers on the go, and station websites are often the most trafficked sites in local communities.

The progress that the Advanced Television Systems Committee has made in developing a new transmission standard for television has been remarkable, and the many capabilities of this next-generation broadcasting platform will be on display at NAB Show. Indeed, ATSC 3.0 has the potential to strengthen broadcasters’ ability to provide richer and more personalized content experiences for viewers.

Broadcasting is the only audio and video platform that offers locally-based content for consumers. As long as radio and TV stations remain committed to localism, I think the future of broadcasting is bright.

DAILY: Do you believe U.S. regulators are prioritizing broadband over broadcasting?

SMITH: I don’t believe the Federal Communications Commission is intentionally favoring one over the other, but I do think the Commission is guilty of getting distracted by broadband at the expense of broadcasting. Radio and television broadcasting have been around for decades, while broadband is a hot new commodity. It’s easy for the Commission’s attention to be drawn to the newer industry.

I think just a short tour of the show floor easily demonstrates that consumers profit best from a combination of broadcasting and broadband. It shouldn’t be up to the FCC to pick winners and losers between the two industries. That’s why NAB is advocating to ensure fair rules for TV stations following the broadcast spectrum incentive auction. We want broadcasters to have sufficient time and financial resources to move to another channel so viewers aren’t shortchanged by the FCC’s rush for broadband spectrum.