Attendance at this year’s show comes in at just under 84,000, down from 104,000 in 2008. Some exhibitors say, however, that while there were fewer people, the ones on hand were the decision makers and many report solid foot traffic. NAB says it’s glad the drop wasn’t greater. (John Staley photo)
One of the greatest attractions of this year’s NAB Show was curiosity — and concern — for the attendance. The numbers of those coming to the show was obviously going to be down, reflecting the economic downturn. But how far down? Now, the numbers are in from NAB. Registered attendees came in at just under 84,000 — down from last year’s 104,000.
“We couldn’t be more happy having less than a 20 percent drop off while other shows have been having an attendance meltdown,” said Dennis Wharton, the NAB’s senior vice president, corporate communications. “There’s no reason to panic after this show. I have to admit that we came here jittery, but we’re leaving with renewed optimism that (as the expression goes) ‘this, too, shall pass.’ “
How does this compare to previous downturns? Its high watermark came during the Dot Com boom when the show peaked with 115,000 attendees in 2001, dropping to 92,000 in 2002. The bottom came the following year with a low of 88,000. Then, the bubble inflated to 110,000 in 2007. Now, after two down years, it’s anyone’s guess what NAB 2010 will bring.
“We have to be optimistic because to do otherwise is unthinkable,” said Wharton.
Going hall-to-hall, perceptions varied as to the level of the year’s drop off.
For Harris, North Hall wasn’t as bad as feared. “We came expecting the worst, and so were pleasantly surprised by good traffic on Monday and Tuesday,” said David Cohen, Harris’ director of marketing communications. “Most large customers are cutting back but still sent people. Our salespeople have been able to meet with key customers.”
Heading south, Central Hall seemed to have a constant flow with clumps of crowds around some of the usual favorites. Sony’s move here consolidated most of the major camera manufacturers into this hall with Panasonic, Canon, JVC, Ikegami and Hitachi all within spitting distance of each other. At the JVC booth, interest in economical HD acquisition gear kept a constant flow of traffic coming by.
Success came from matching the needs of today’s market, according to Lee Thompson, JVC’s national manager, marketing and communications. “Our move from tape to hard drives to solid state media fits the new business realities. People have been drawn [to the JVC booth] because we’re delivering economy and efficient workflow to make for a great value proposition,” Thompson said.
In South Hall, upper and lower levels told different stories. Like Central Hall, South Lower seemed at times to have the volume reminiscent of better years, said Francois Quereuil, marketing director for Aspera, a digital transport company. However, he noted that the 20-plus person delegations from large media companies that were commonplace in the past had vanished. But trading quantity for quality isn’t a bad thing.
Those large meetings “lacked focus and would run over as we tried to answer all the questions. This year, conversations have been far more focused,” Quereuil said.
Upstairs, vendors reported much more of a mixed bag than in South Lower. For Dan Levitt, director of sales, SintecMedia, an international software development company specializing in sales, traffic and scheduling systems, the first sign came before he made it to the convention center.
“I’ve been coming to NAB for 15 years and always arrive around 9 a.m. on Sunday morning to face a wait of up to a half-hour to get a cab. This year, there was no line,” Levitt said.
The challenge Levitt faced wasn’t about the raw numbers of attendees, but the kinds of people who came to the show. The senior operations and IT people from station groups were largely no-shows.
Do this year’s discouraging results alter SintecMedia’s plans for 2010?
“We’ll be here next year. This is still the show for our industry,” Levitt said.