Comments on NAB Show in Vegas

Well I spent a few days this week in Las Vegas at the National Association of Broadcasters Tradeshow and Conference. I think the best way to describe it is "overwhelming". There were over 1,500 exhibitors, which you might think is not so many if you attend a lot of technology tradeshows.

One of the things that struck me was the average booth size. Remember, this is a group that consistently tries to outdo each other. Here size matters. If you wanted to be noticed the minimum size booth was 20X20 and then you still needed lots of glitz and glimmer. When all was said and done, these 1,500+ exhibitors filled all five halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center and spilled over into the Hilton. I did not speak to one individual who has able to make it through all the halls. I didn’t even attempt it.

They did try to keep like companies together, which made it easier for attendees to find what they were looking for, but a lot of exhibitors didn’t like it. Too many competitors, too close and they needed to make sure their conversations were somewhat guarded. They also did not like how easy it was to compare and contrast. You know like, when you look at TV’s and they are all in a row and on the same show, how you get to make some decision about who has the better picture?

I spent most of my two days within the TV/Video/Film hall with a client but wandered downstairs to the Multimedia/Internet hall for a short time.

So, what was big in TV/Video/Film? Lot’s of buzz around Internet TV (IpTV) from around the world. Not necessarily big yet the US. The buzz inside the US is on the carriers and around the concept of “Triple Play” or “How can the Tier One Carriers shore up their customer base from the onslaught of the cable companies?” Cable companies have been offering Local and Long Distance along with Cable TV and Internet services to their customers while the carriers haven’t had a good offer for TV. The carrier’s broadband offer is DSL, not quite sufficient for TV and they still don’t have a “Fiber into the Home” solution. Someone in the Telecom Capital of the World here in San Diego should be working on something in this space. For example, WiMax is talked about as a potential solution for the final 100 feet.

So the big players like AT&T and Verizon seem to be struggling with solutions, In fact, if you look at AT&T, and their recent announcement of Home Zone TV, you can see that they are attempting to solve this in the short term with a kludge of offers and technologies from different players mashed up in a single box. You got satellite TV from Dish, movies from MovieLink, older programming from Akimbo, and a DVR capability. This just doesn’t sound like an elegant solution and AT&T never exhibited a core competency towards integrating media for the home market.

There was some talk about the big two, Verizon and AT&T, possibly working with Microsoft on some futures. So, now we can calculate the possibility of a solution in our lifetimes. Neither of Verizon or AT&T has been known as pioneers in moving into new converged areas. Combine this with Microsoft who can’t get their next generation operating system to market without being at least two years late. I am not sitting in front of my media station with equipment all warmed up and ready to go. Maybe they’ll have something before HDTV is mandatory at the end of this decade. A true breakthrough is possible if some small companies would come up with solutions and be acquired by one of the three.

The other area that was getting attention was mobile media and pushing it to wireless phones. Again there was a lot more buzz outside the US. There are trials going on in Korea and Japan and in countries like Brazil there are twice as many cell phone users as cable users. For the US, the buzz is early stage with focus towards 2008+ when sufficient bandwidth becomes available.

There were also a number of companies focused on media/content development, and, as owners of the content, they are looking for ways to protect it. The aggregators and carriers aren’t very concerned unless content they own is part of the solution. Also, content owners have experienced what happened in the music industry and all issues around illegal downloading over the last few years. Look for Digital Rights Management to be a big issue with multimedia content owners for the next few years. This is another opportunity for local entrepreneurs to pursue.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll cover some other topics from the show. But for now, the show ended today, but the real show about how all this will come together and change our lives is just beginning

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