Editor’s Corner—NAB Show arrives amid a shifting media landscape

Las Vegas skyline facing south
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The annual NAB Show is almost ready to once again unleash its multiday conference across the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center.

More than 100,000 attendees will swoop into town to see more than 1,800 exhibiting companies spread out over close to 1.1 million net square feet of exhibit space and nearly 700 educational sessions. More than 25% of those attendees will be from outside the United States, with about 161 countries represented in all.

The whole show will take place amid an altered television broadcasting landscape that in the past year has seen Sinclair acquire Tribune in a bid to become a broadcasting giant, along with a number of changes in FCC rules that could help facilitate that merger. Also since the last NAB Show, the FCC officially authorized ATSC 3.0, the ATSC finalized the standards and the next-gen TV technology moved swiftly into the early implementation stage. Markets including Dallas and Phoenix have become test beds for technologies like interactive features, mobile television viewing and targeted advertising.

This past year as also seen media megamergers of all sorts. Discovery's $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps went pretty smoothly. Disney's $52.4 billion bid for most of 21st Century Fox is just getting started, as is the will-they-won't-they remerger story of CBS and Viacom. And of course, AT&T's $85 billion bid for Time Warner has morphed into a courtroom drama pitting AT&T against the Justice Department.

In the meantime, traditional media companies and broadcasters are moving further into the world of OTT. CBS this past year unleashed its second ad-supported streaming news channel and made plans to go international with All Access. Disney is just about to launch its ESPN subscription streaming service and is gearing up to launch its own branded streaming service in 2019. Fox News is making the jump to OTT with Fox Nation later this year. And Turner just announced a live sports streaming service that will allow users to buy sports on a per-game basis.

All of these developments will undoubtedly shape the narrative at this year's show.

As it has in past years, NAB Show will be flashing a little bit of star power. Both “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” will be honored Monday night when hosts Pat Sajak, Vanna White and Alex Trebek, along with producer Harry Friedman are inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame. ABC Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts will receive the NAB Distinguished Service Award, and television and film actress Kristen Bell will receive the TV Chairman’s Award.

Some of the most notable keynotes include YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan and Congressman Greg Walden during the NAB Show opening, and a talk from CBC News Digital head Christy Tanner.

On the floor, new attractions and pavilions will include the Immersive Storytelling Pavilion, the Podcasting Pavilion, Destination NXT Theater, AI Experiential Zone, the Road to ATSC 3.0, the Advanced Advertising Pavilion, IP Showcase, Connected Media and the International Pavilions highlighting countries like China, Brazil, France and Great Britain.

Of course, many smaller conferences are held within the NAB Show as well. The new Ad Innovations conference takes place Tuesday through Wednesday, the Business of Sports Entertainment happens Tuesday, the Next-Generation Media Technologies conference runs Monday through Wednesday, Business of Broadcast runs Sunday through Wednesday and the new Streaming Summit takes place Wednesday.

It’s been an eventful past year and that will likely shape another interesting conference. Of course, FierceCable and FierceVideo 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.

I look forward to seeing you there.—Ben | @fierce_video

Editor's Corner is an opinion column written by a member of the Fierce editorial team. Our editors' opinions draw from extensive reporting and the piece is edited for balance and accuracy.