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Looking back at NAB Show 2019

Looking back at NAB Show 2019

We’re a full week out since the end of NAB Show 2019, and I wanted to share some thoughts on the highs—and lows—of this year’s edition.

Content—of course—remains key for broadcasters, streaming services, and studios all looking to leverage consumer’s relentless adoption of OTT. Panels about content—especially live content—were a constant. Latency, and the effort to reduce its impact was center stage.

This year has seen streaming of major sports events move into the mainstream. During the Super Bowl, an average of 2.6 million viewers per minute streamed the action, up from 2 million a year earlier on NBC.

Last month, NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament on CBS and Turner Sports set records for live streams and live hours consumed, 100 million and 24 million respectively, with the championship game setting records based on live uniques (albeit with a woeful latency reported of as much as a minute).

This week’s Masters featuring Tiger Woods? CBS saw more than one billion minutes of live streaming coverage.

Even Tiger’s Sunday victim, Francesco Molinari, who ended up tied for fifth after his Sunday stumble, is cashing in on the OTT gold mine, announcing a deal to produce a raft of content for GolfTV’s OTT service. There is no end to who can be a content supplier in the OTT Universe.

As to latency, for some viewers, it may just be a case of “who cares?” Avoid social media, launch the game on your favorite streaming service, and settle back to watch. There’s plenty of potential for improvement on the horizon. Amazon Prime Video exec BA Winston, during a discussion at the Streaming Summit, said it was aiming for latency “significantly” less than five seconds, similar to OTA broadcast. That’s far easier to achieve during low-demand events. For more popular games, the immediate tradeoff will be quality; faster delivery, for now, means it’ll be lower.

ATSC 3.0 vs. 5G

Also on the horizon: Next-gen mobile delivery, or 5G. Proponents say 5G could deliver content with less latency than OTA, especially of live feeds directly from an event. 5G was everywhere, as was the broadcast industry’s own next-gen delivery mechanism, ATSC 3.0, which Sinclair Broadcast Group Executive Chairman David Smith called critical.

“Our future depends on whether we can talk to every device in the market,” he said during a news conference, something ATSC 3.0 is designed to do. Its rapid deployment—Sinclair said the top 40 markets will have the technology available by 2020—is the launchpad, the life, of the broadcast industry.

But there’s a problem. A big one, actually.

While Android phones will be getting ATSC 3.0 chips, turning them into mobile TV sets—literally —smartphones and tablets from Apple aren’t set to be in the same wave, and may never be; the chips draw more power than Apple is willing to part with. Can ATSC 3.0, “next-gen TV technology,” succeed in reaching next-gen consumers, 45% of whom use iOS devices? Nope.

A number of panels talked about a mix of 5G and ATSC 3.0 delivery technologies, a hybrid of sorts. But “hybrid” often is just another way of saying “I’m not sure,” right? In this case, the benefits of 5G—and the global commitment to mobile—just seems to carry too much weight moving forward. 5G will win. It may take a few years, and it doesn’t mean ATSC 3.0 won’t see adoption, but the telcos have the early momentum.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning also made plenty of noise at the show, as they have for the past three years. High on the “need to have” list:

  • Discovery and recommendation in a rapidly expanding universe of content as providers look to expand engagement and making their services sticky;

  • Automation of production from encoding to delivery, getting content into consumers’ hands more quickly;

  • Automated subtitles—and even translations—from audio to make content global; and

  • Automating the collection of metadata.

Does VR have a place at the table?

Of course, there are only so many spotlights to go around, even in the three-ring circus that is the North, Central, and South halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

One former-bright light, Virtual Reality, was, virtually, absent this year. It’s looking more and more like VR may be falling into the same shadow as did 3D just a few years ago.

While the show floor did have examples of VR and AR, the buzz—except in the case of gaming and esports—was notably diminished. There wasn’t a single stand in South Hall that I could find with a row of seats upon which sat attendees wearing VR headsets and swiveling their heads about as they followed the action on their personal screen.

That’s really not too surprising. As a recent Parks Associates report pointed out, only eight percent of U.S. broadband households (HH) own VR headsets and just a quarter of those HHs say they’re even familiar with them.

Last year’s IBC may have been a bit of a predictor here, as the number of panels and presentations touting VR as a major technology of the future dropped by more than half. It seems the idea of draping a one-pound chunk of tech on your head and cutting yourself off from everyone around you may not be as appealing(?) as it initially seemed.

As far as Brightcove's presence at the show, we received the Future Best of Show Award from TV Technology—for Brightcove Live—and used the opportunity to demo new formats that the solution takes in while streaming out to multiple platforms, including Facebook.

Stay tuned.

Interested in our award-winning Brightcove Live solution?