It's fitting that this year's National Association of Broadcasters tradeshow takes place, as usual, in Las Vegas: for the past few years, NAB members have increasingly gambled on having a presence in the online video ecosystem. But this year, more than ever, that bet looks like a sure thing.
Next week I'll be on site at the show, along with my colleague Daniel Frankel, editor of FierceCable, getting a close-up look at many of the technologies that most of us have only heard about. I expect to see a few themes emerge during the event -- after all, NAB is dedicating a big chunk of its space and schedule to online video at its OTT Conference Monday through Wednesday.
However, there are some underlying technologies and marketing trends that I expect to see a lot of. Here are a few of them:
Cloud goes from concept to practice: Clearplay, Imagine Communications, IneoQuest, IBM, Microsoft -- you name it, cloud application and particularly SDN and NFV is shifting from a conceptual stage to implementation. Already we're seeing announcements ahead of the show about cloud-based services being launched. Clearplay is touting a software-defined solution, and IneoQuest will likely be showcasing SDN and network functions virtualization products at the show as well.
Drones swarm overhead: Of course they'll be out in force, held back only by safety netting. Drones are cool, they're a really affordable way to get access to overhead shots (compared to renting a helicopter), and in an industry that is increasingly defined by software, they're among the few pieces of technology that attendees can actually see and touch.
4K technology leads sales pitches: I don't think it's possible to sell 4K equipment or services to broadcasters that doesn't have an OTT streaming component, and vendors are certainly packaging their 4K products to serve both mediums. As providers increasingly add 4K options to their broadcast and online content, expect technology around 4K delivery to continue being heavily touted at the show.
Live streaming remains a hot topic: The sheen has not gone away from live streaming yet, with most OTT industry players offering some live streaming-related service. Of biggest concern for broadcasters adding a live streaming component, however, is latency. Vendors like IneoQuest and Net Insight will be showcasing solutions to reduce the lag time between the broadcast and streamed versions of live events.
Virtual reality gets real…er: Unlike 3D, which may have had its last gasp around 2011 or 2012, VR is catching a lot of attention in the media and entertainment space. Even though it has many of the same requirements as 3D – a clunky interface is required to view VR, like Google Cardboard or Oculus Rift, and pricier camera setups are a must – the technology seems to have far fewer critics. The biggest reason for that is VR's accessibility: almost anyone can record, edit and distribute their own 360-degree video, thanks to relatively low price points for video recording hardware, editing software, and available outlets like YouTube.
Turnkey OTT on tap: Brightcove, Xstream, and Quickplay are just three of the vendors that will offer "turnkey" transition solutions at the show for broadcasters and content providers looking to bring their content either direct to consumer or into a TV Everywhere format. It's part of a continuing move toward simplifying the OTT process and could result in a baby boom of sorts in the form of new SVOD services a few months down the road.
Will those trends actually show up and pan out next week? Keep an eye on this site and check out FierceCable as well for ongoing news and updates from the NAB Show. -- Sam