Editor’s Corner—The best and worst of NAB 2017

This year's NAB show in Las Vegas covered the potential of ATSC 3.0 heavily.

The annual NAB Show in Las Vegas is officially in the books for 2017. The National Association of Broadcasters said more than 103,000 attendees, on par with last year’s attendance, graced the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center to take in all the news, insights and products vying to impact the broadcast industry over the next year.

For TV broadcasters, next year’s show will likely serve as a checkup on ATSC 3.0 commercial deployments, channel repack progress and the state of regulations under a more laissez-faire FCC. But for now, FierceCable and FierceBroadcasting are taking a look back at some of the best and worst that this year’s NAB Show had to offer.

Best

  • ATSC 3.0’s potential unlocked: For years, ATSC 3.0 has been a major talking point in the broadcast industry and, I dare say it, positioned as a savior due to all the technological innovations the next-generation TV standard can bring to market. But now it’s getting real enough that, by the time NAB 2018 rolls around, ATSC 3.0 should have already hit the ground running.

    The current FCC has made some controversial moves early on, but greenlighting ATSC 3.0—though many questions remain—looks like a logical step that will benefit broadcasters and consumers. The standard will bring enhanced image quality, immersive audio, mobile broadcast, addressable advertising, audience measurement, IP-based flexibility and other features to over-the-air TV. This will help broadcasters look for new ways to monetize and deliver consumers the rich content they demand.

    At this year’s NAB, half the fun was thinking about how much farther along ATSC 3.0 will be next year and what features will have the most immediate impact. — Ben | @Fiercebrdcstng
     
  • The NAB tent expands to include cable: Just as CES swallowed once powerful industry events like Comdex, NAB has become a powerful source of gravity for the consolidating media trade show sphere. This year, the cable industry—bereft of a place to crash in the spring due to the loss of the erstwhile Cable Show/INTX—found a home in Las Vegas. Perhaps most notable was Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei delivering a vastly uninteresting keynote and Comcast hosting a party.

    Pay-TV in general was well-repped. Dish Network, for example, made the kind of splashy product announcement that it would traditionally make at CES. And new players like Layer3 TV were on hand taking meetings. Right before they took INTX out to the desert and buried it, NCTA officials were talking about making the SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo their replacement show. But NAB could be the place where this happens. — Dan | @FierceCable

Worst

  • The undying ‘TV’s not dead’ dialogue: Typically, when a great deal of time and effort is spent convincing someone that something is alive, it’s because that person has good cause to believe that something is dead. Much like a pet store clerk trying to sell a deceased parrot, broadcasters and programmers at NAB trotted out assurances that linear TV isn’t dead.

    When NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt sat down with Nerdist CEO Chris Hardwick, they both agreed that while the occasional lazy article will proclaim TV dead because of falling nightly ratings, nightly ratings don’t tell the whole story anymore and certainly can’t be considered TV’s only sign of life. A great deal of the talk was dedicated to the worthwhile discussion around what NBC is doing to expand and sharpen its digital and social strategies, but it was tiresome that this time was dedicated to convincing the crowd that TV is still alive.

    TV is an evolving space and it would be better to simply focus on how traditional and non-traditional broadcast platforms are intersecting during the transition. — Ben | @Fiercebrdcstng
     
  • Pandering FCC Chairman Pai just wants to ‘get out of the way’ … of everything: After declaring that the FCC would soon review its entire regulatory regime and that no law established under his Democratic predecessor was safe, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai—a man fond, perhaps overly so, of sports analogies—told a packed Convention Center ballroom that he wanted to be like legendary Dodgers play-by-play man Vin Scully. The Hall of Fame broadcaster’s best moments, Pai said, were when he stopped talking and let the crowd call the game.

    “That’s what I’m trying to do—get out of the way, so broadcasters can rev that engine,” he said. But Pai should remember—Scully also called the game.

    Let’s not confuse dismantling for the sake of dismantling with governance. So, on spiraling retrans fees, we’re going to let the ol’ free market sort it out? You cable guys want Pai to get out of the way of that one, too? Sure, folks in the telecom biz had every right to be spooked about former Chairman Tom Wheeler’s speculated relationship with Google. But the job does involve governing and making sure the market functions fairly. And at some point, you have to take a position and regulate someone. — Dan | @FierceCable

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