Heading into the National Association of Broadcasters show last week, talk of innovation and industry cooperation was superceded at times by a practical question: How big would attendance be?
The expected drop was significant: 83,842 attended, a dip of about 20% from the 105,259 who came in 2008.
The silver lining, however, comes from an NAB show that in many ways stressed quality over quantity. Instead of waves of "tire-kickers," there were senior executives with purchasing power.
"The people who came are buying," said Del Parks, VP of engineering and operations for Sinclair Broadcast Group.
As always, NAB provided a forum for new ideas, from mobile DTV and 3D to centralized graphics and low-cost cameras. In his opening keynote, NAB President/CEO David Rehr stressed that the toxic economy presents both great challenges and great opportunities for broadcasters. He cited the Open Mobile Video Coalition and the 70 stations launching mobile DTV service this year in 28 markets hitting 39% of the country.
"Television broadcasters are moving TV beyond the bedroom, living room or kitchen," Rehr said. "That means anywhere you are, you can access the news or your favorite shows. That's our future."
Mobile DTV Matures
Although the technology has yet to be formally standardized, mobile digital television looked very close to reality in Las Vegas last week. More than 400 broadcasters attended a panel discussion where members of the Open Mobile Video Coalition identified test markets for both consumer and technical trials of the technology and announced plans for launching commercial service on some 70 stations later this year.
Broadcast vendors like Harris and Rohde & Schwarz were showing working systems that stations can buy today to launch mobile DTV services, including digital exciters, encoders, multiplexers and software systems that can generate electronic program guides for mobile devices. Harris was even showing a prototype professional demodulator/decoder for mobile DTV, which will eventually be needed by stations to monitor mobile DTV streams.
Sinclair Broadcast Group showcased its effort to combine mobile DTV gear from different vendors into a complete system. Sinclair doesn't want to buy a complete turnkey system from someone like Harris, explained
VP of Engineering Del Parks, so it undertook the three-month integration effort to create an alternative.
Joked Parks: "I want my easy button."