Editor’s Corner—Latency stinks, addressable rules and other takeaways from NAB 2019

The NAB Show 2019 took place April 8-11 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Ben Munson/FierceVideo)

LAS VEGAS—The annual NAB Show is winding down, so it's to reflect on what we saw at this year’s show while we try to rehydrate.

NAB said that preliminary registered attendance for this year’s show totaled 91,460, only slightly down from the 92,912 who attended in 2018. It was a big, diverse crowd with more than 24,000 international attendees from 160 different countries.

That crowd was met with a lineup of speakers and programming assembled to address a deep set of different topics ranging across broadcasting, streaming, OTT, advertising, video production workflows and more. Here are just a few of the takeaways FierceVideo had after the show.

Latency still running too far behind

Latency (or delay) is a fact of life, but it will have to get better for livestreaming sports particularly if providers want to avoid spoiling events for fans, or if livestreaming and legal betting ever hope to go hand in hand.

Case in point: Phenix measured various livestreams during Monday’s NCAA tournament championship game between Virginia and Texas Tech, and found livestreams on average trailed the game by 28 seconds, with some delays peaking at 78 seconds.

At the Streaming Summit, Amazon offered up a lofty goal of driving latency down to sub five-second levels. But B.A. Winston, global head of digital video, playback and delivery at Amazon Prime Video, warned that while low-latency solutions for livestreams often looks good in demos, scaling them is another story.

AWS Elemental unveiled chunk-based transfer and lots of other companies looked to tackle latency at this year’s show but if March Madness results show anything, it’s that there’s still work to be done.

Monetization = Addressable

For broadcasters, programmers and media companies looking to launch OTT video services and continue to grow traditional television advertising, monetization is a big deal.

With subscription fatigue setting in for lots of end users, and Disney+ and/or WarnerMediaflix being the next likely contenders to snatch more subscription fees, ad-supported streaming and advanced advertising are logical next steps for lots of media companies and broadcasters looking to further monetize content. And addressable will be a key part of that.

On Wednesday during the show, Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at TV[R]EV, hosted a panel to discuss monetization of content. The conversation inevitably turned toward how data is being used for targeted and addressable advertising, and TruOptik CEO Andre Swanston said that this is manifesting itself both in direct sales to agencies and brands, as well as programmatically through supply-side platforms like SpotX and Beachfront.

Addressable advertising was a big topic of discussion during a panel focused on Project OAR (Open Addressable Ready) as a future of enhanced monetization across multiple screens. FreeWheel’s Geoff Wolinetz right now the priority is surfacing data in a way that will enhance the entire ecosystem. After that there needs to be a deeper willingness to strike deals with programmers and, finally, the industry needs to achieve true programmer addressable where programmers have more control over their share of the ad inventory.

Considering all the talk at NAB, and the fact that the show featured an entire pavilion for addressable advertising, it’s being recognized as a huge new opportunity for monetization.

ATSC 3.0’s identity crisis

ATSC 3.0 is clearly go for launch. Sinclair, its joint venture ONE Media and a handful of other broadcasters and industry groups together announced 40 U.S. markets where ATSC 3.0 will be deployed by 2020.

The IP-based ATSC 3.0 standard can clearly accomplish many things that traditional broadcast can’t. It can return viewership data that can be used for targeting ads. It can improve audio and visual quality for over-the-air signals. It can provide more robust, multimedia emergency alerts. It can be an on-demand bandwidth pool for wireless services. It can power immersive media experiences in public venues. It can beam OTA TV signals into connected cars and smartphones. That last one will require 3.0 chips getting into devices, which won’t be an easy task. But at an NAB press conference featuring SK Telecom and Saankhya Labs, a small tuner/receiver dongle that plugs into a smartphone was on display.

So clearly, ATSC 3.0 is capable. But, what exactly will it mean for consumers and how will it be presented to them? For starters, it needs a catchier name. The education effort needs to ramp up so consumers are better informed about the transition from ATSC 1.0 and the capabilities of ATSC 3.0. Perhaps most importantly, ATSC 3.0 needs to find its killer app, the one that will convince consumers to buy 3.0-ready devices.

5G is here. Now what?

It’s already widely accepted that 5G can transform how consumers watch video. The extra bandwidth and coverage can translate to expanded mobile usage and immersive video experiences in the wild. But, what will it mean for video production and delivery?

Taher Behbehani, Samsung’s new senior vice president and general manager of mobile B2B, said Wednesday during an NAB Show main stage panel that 5G can unlock new video production workflows and can potentially help incorporate on-site, user-generated video to provide hundreds of angles to enhance live broadcasts like sports. But when asked what he would tell media companies about what they can do with 5G today to update or upgrade content creation, service composition, aggregation, distribution and user engagement and other parts of the media production chain, he said he would invite them to “come and brainstorm” with Samsung.

That means 5G is still very much in the identifying use cases stage of implementation. But, it will be fascinating to see what comes out of those brainstorms. — Ben | @fierce__video