NAB/RTNDA: Simon’s Closing Thoughts

By Brian 

TVNewser NAB blogger Simon Marks wraps up the week:

If you’d asked me before I arrived in Las Vegas where this industry of ours is heading, I would have said “not much of a clue.” Like most of us
toiling in the on-camera trenches, I don’t usually give much thought to how
my boyish good looks get from my dateline into the living rooms of our “end
users” – the viewers whose eyeballs we crave. For 20 years, I’ve just
taken it for granted that they do.

But visit Las Vegas this week and you catch a glimpse of the future….or,
to be more accurate, a glimpse of several futures some of which appear to
be in direct contradiction to one another…

That’s partly because of the dizzying array of technical wizardry on
display here. Much of it is jaw-dropping. And the breadth of choices
indicates that the manufacturers themselves don’t know which of the myriad
technical developments will eventually come out on top.

But there are some jugements that you can safely make.

Stand for 5 minutes and watch the folks at Apple or Avid demonstrate their
latest editing software, and you realize that there is no limit on the
ability of a 15 year-old with a laptop to create imagery and effects in
moments that once took an entire post-production team days to complete.

Play with some of the new cameras unveiled here this week, like the Canon
XL H1 (or its JVC or Sony equivalents) and you experience a seamless
transition from Standard Definition to High Definition, from 4:3 aspect
ratio to 16:9. Sony’s slogan here has been “HD for All”, and at $ 5000 for
a fully-stocked HDV kit, they’re not kidding.

Visit the Inmarsat booth, and check out the BGAN satellite modems that are
hopefully weeks away from winning full FCC approval, and you come to
understand that the days of racing through the unfamiliar streets of a
foreign capital to make a satellite feed may not be over, but are most
assuredly numbered.

Watch any of the numerous displays of IPTV here, and it becomes clearer
than ever that when our kids grow up, they’ll be watching video news via
broadband, wireless internet connections. The monthly cable bill will be
as anachronistic to them as the old radio licence is to us today.

On Monday morning, when this conference opened, the new NAB chairman David
Rehr assured delegates that the country’s over-the-air networks have a
bright and exciting future.

“Broadcasting still has the eardrums and eyeballs. It isn’t even a contest
with cable” he said, going on to declare the business models of satellite
radio providers XM and Sirius “bankrupt.”

With respect, a wander around this convention suggests that he may not be
entirely right. Will our kids really see the same distinctions between
“broadcast”, “cable” and “satellite” that we draw? Or will they just be
choosing from thousands of different providers pumping material into the
ether through a variety of platforms, interacting with viewers and
competing with one another purely on the basis of their content? How will
the over-the-air networks retain a position of dominance when a new
generation of consumers is coming of age that knows little of Murrow or
Cronkite, Jennings or Rather, or the journalistic legacies they bestowed?

As I said, I don’t profess to know the answers. But people in Vegas know
quite a bit about crap shoots. Which is why we’ll all be rolling the dice
here again next year.