Editor’s Corner—NAB 2017 readies for big broadcaster, cable turnout

The National Association of Broadcasters expects more than 100,000 attendees at its annual show. (NAB/Robb Cohen Photography and Video)

The National Association of Broadcasters is once again gearing up for its annual show in Las Vegas.

This year NAB is expecting about 103,000 attendees and nearly 1,900 exhibitors (with about one-third of each coming in from outside the U.S.) to spread out over about 1 million square feet of space.

“We build a mid-size city and then tear it down a few days later,” said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for NAB, who added that there could be more cable industry attendees this year since NCTA, The Internet and Television Association, is no longer holding an annual show.

In fact, one of this year’s keynotes will feature Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei, who’s running the newest entrant in the U.S. cable industry.

Going into this year’s show the big issues facing TV broadcasters will of course be the incentive auction—which at long last wrapped up on March 30—and the resulting channel repack process that has only just begun. Broadcasters who sold their spectrum during the auction have 39 months to move their signal to a new channel—and do so without causing major interruptions to service—or risk being kept off the air. Vendors like Dielectric and GatesAir will be at the show showing off antennas and RF systems built to help TV broadcasters efficiently pull off the channel repack.

Also top of mind for broadcasters will be the next-generation broadcast standards known as ATSC 3.0, which are due to be finalized soon and authorized by the FCC by the end of 2017.

At NAB this year, two areas will be dedicated to ATSC 3.0: the NextGen TV Hub and the ATSC 3.0 Pavilion. Both are located in the North Hall, but the Hub will be more consumer-oriented and the Pavilion will be more focused on broadcast technology.

Another point of emphasis for this year’s show will be the continuing transition toward IP. There will be a Connected IP Pavilion and an IP Showcase. Wharton said part of that emphasis is due to the push surrounding IP-based ATSC 3.0.

Of course, a number of big names in media, broadcast, film and online video will be at this year’s show. From Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” Executive Producer Daniel Percival and actor Joel de la Fuente will be part of a session discussing how OTT series can compete with traditional TV shows. Veteran journalist and “CBS Sunday Morning" Host Jane Pauley will emcee the official opening of the show. And actor and producer America Ferrera will receive the TV Chairman’s Award at the TV luncheon.

But perhaps the most pressing topic at the show will be the regulatory environment that envelops all the work being done in the broadcast industry. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will be addressing the crowd at NAB for the first time as chief of the agency, and Wharton anticipates he’ll get a few standing ovations because of support for the broadcast TV industry.

“It’s refreshing from an NAB perspective to have a chairman of the FCC who actually really likes broadcasting, instead of some of his predecessors who were more interested in broadband,” Wharton said.

Touching almost every aspect of the show this year is something the NAB refers to as the MET, or Media Entertainment Technology, Effect. Even the varied attendee population demonstrates the convergence of media, entertainment and technology and the effect that’s had on the industry and consumer experience.

Of course, FierceCable and FierceBroadcasting will be on the ground, covering this year’s NAB Show. I’ll be joined in Las Vegas by FierceCable Editor Daniel Frankel, and we’ll be bringing you all the top stories and insights before, during and after the show. We’ll also be conducting various video interviews with top industry executives.

I look forward to seeing you next week. — Ben | @wwbenmunson

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Editor’s Corner—NAB 2017 readies for big broadcaster, cable turnout