TV’s Future Is Now On NAB’s Exhibit Floor

Starting this weekend, broadcasters will be tempted with new ways of producing, managing, storing and airing programming with promises of better quality and greater efficiency. Prominent among those new ways will be cloud technology, mobile DTV and next-generation transmission standards.

Each year, broadcasters head to Las Vegas for the annual NAB Show to replace and upgrade technology needed to keep their facilities up-to-date and running efficiently.

In addition to shopping, they also will be looking ahead at where technology is shifting and how new TV regulations, standards and technology might impact their business.

This year will be no different. Starting this weekend, they will be tempted with new ways of producing, managing, storing and broadcasting programming with promises of better quality and greater efficiency. Prominent among those new ways will be cloud technology. Is it a neat fit with broadcasting?

Broadcasters will also catch up on mobile DTV, take in demos of what ATSC 2.0 is capable of delivering and learn about  ATSC 3.0 — the next-generation television standard. And they will have an opportunity to learn about the FCC’s incentive auction, which is aimed at reallocating a large hunk of TV spectrum to wireless broadband.

“It’s really important that our broadcasters pay attention to what’s going on here because we need to stay relevant,” says NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.

“We need to make sure our technology is future-looking. TV broadcasters need to see the next TV standard, they need to know how to reach as many platforms as possible and they need to be exposed to the exhibitors on the show floor who are helping make all of that possible.”


Although ATSC 3.0 was a topic at last year’s show, discussions should be more focused this time around.

A call for proposals (CFP) was sent out last month, asking broadcasters, consumer manufacturers and professional manufacturers to submit systems for consideration as the new standard.

According to the CFP, the Advanced Televisions Standards Committee will evaluate how the proposed transmission systems will deliver programming to a slew of fixed and mobile devices and whether  they can handle HD and UltraHD (4K and 8K) signals in real time and non-real time.

On Sunday, Jim Kutzner, PBS senior director of advanced technology, and Luke Fay, Sony Electronics senior staff SW systems engineer, will present a technical paper, ATSC 3.0: The Next Generation Broadcast Television System, that will delve into the CFP. The presentation is from 10:30 to 11 a.m. in S225 of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

ATSC 2.0, an enhancement of the current digital TV standard that could be finalized by year’s end, will be demoed at the ATSC booth (N2837) and Triveni Digital booth (SU5602). ATSC 2.0 lets broadcast viewers store and watch video on demand — in non-real time — and call up graphics and data. It also aims to let marketers broadcast interactive and targeted advertising.

“Almost more important than the technology, we want to show broadcasters how these advancements can increase their business,” says Richard Chernock, Triveni’s chief science officer and head of the ATSC group responsible for the implementation of ATSC 2.0.

In addition, a technical paper, ATSC 2.0: What is it And How Will it Benefit Broadcasters, is scheduled from 3 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday in S225.

Mobile TV, another enhancement to the current standard, will be showcased in the Mobile Pavilion (N2536-2638) with representatives of the Mobile500 Alliance and Mobile Content Venture (Dyle) on hand.

Several vendors will provide audience tracking and monitoring solutions for mobile TV.  Attendees will have an opportunity to buy Escort and Elgato dongle adapters that will let them receive mobile DTV signals on their iPhones or iPads. RCA’s mobile TV tablet, which has a built-in antenna, won’t be for sale, but will be available for demo. The 8-inch tablet is expected to sell for $299 when it’s released sometime this year. 

The FCC incentive auction worries broadcasters, even those who say they have no intention of selling spectrum back to the FCC. They are concerned that the incidental repacking of the TV will result more interference and diminished coverage.

The incentive auction will be addressed in three sessions:

• Incentive Auction Repacking Using OET-69,  Mon., April 8, 11-11:30 a.m., S225.

• Incentive Auctions of TV Spectrum — How and When They Will Impact Your Business, Monday, April 8, 2:30-3:45 p.m., N235.

• How the FCC’s Repacking of the TV Band Will Affect Your Station; Wed, April 10, 10-10:30 a.m., S228.

“Mapping the Future of Broadcast TV,” is a panel session that will wrap up many of these topics and discuss the future of broadcasting from the perspective of the broadcaster, consumers and organizations developing future global television technical standards. The session, moderated by TVNewsCheck Editor Harry Jessell, is Tues., April 9, 10:30 a.m. to noon, S222.

This year, some 91,000 people from around the world are expected at the convention. They will represent companies involved in every aspect of professional video and audio production and distribution — from Hollywood to sports to the military. Broadcasters will be a minority at their own convention.

Some 1,600 companies will occupy 840,000-square-feet of exhibit space. That’s not a record for one of the world’s largest trade shows, but it’s up 10% from the 765,000-square-feet at last year’s exhibition. A third will be from outside the United States.

Notable first-time exhibitors include Samsung Electronics, which will show off its display systems, and Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of the massive online retailer that broadcasters could turn to for cloud-based media asset storage.

Getting Up To Speed On Cloud

Dozens of companies this year will participate in the NAB Cloud-Computing Pavilion (N5012) pitching potential customers on the benefits of storing and organizing media in cyberspace.

“Cloud is one of these areas where the adoption and understanding takes some time,” says Mark Overington, president of Aframe North America, a company that’s making its second NAB appearance and trying to break into the U.S. broadcast market. “It’s certainly here to stay. It presents a great opportunity to do things faster, more efficiently and more cost effectively.”

Aframe established a partnership with Panasonic in January that lets customers include their cloud-based storage and media asset management service when buying new ENG cameras.

At this year’s show, it’s pitching AFrame 2.0, an improved user experience that lets broadcasters upload, organize and edit content to Aframe’s cloud 15 times faster than Aframe 1.0. Demos of its  software will take place at booth NCP 13/15 and Panasonic’s booth (C3607).

Bitcentral is taking a “baby steps” approach to the cloud, says John King, Bitcentral VP of engineering services. “Everyone asks about it — especially for things like long-term storage, because that’s easy to understand. But it’s still going to take some more convincing.”

That’s what he plans to do at this year’s show. Bitcentral’s new CORE product is an all-in-one content creation, media management and distribution tool designed for a multiplatform TV station. Everyone in a newsroom using CORE can touch all the content and upload it to their cloud from anywhere with an Internet connection. The only difference between Bitcentral’s solution and Aframe’s is that the station hosts its cloud storage.

“CORE brings that cloud-based experience with the confidence of local hardware,” says King. “As broadcasters use CORE, they’ll become more receptive to a cloud environment without even realizing it.”

Elemental plans to show off Elemental Cloud, a solution for securely managing the creation of premium live and on demand content for delivery to every screen and processing video in the cloud.

Front Porch Digital plans to release its DIVArchive V7.1 content cloud storage management system, which features a higher LTO-6 storage capacity (2.5 TB). And several streaming companies, including SnapStream and StreamGuys, let users share video clips via the cloud, allowing those with permission to view them on any device.

“It’s clear that cloud computing is a big element of the show,” Wharton says. “The question that will be asked is how service providers can better insure the safety of their cloud-data that gets stored.”

Preparing For UltraHD

Deployment of a standard that will let stations broadcast UltraHD is still several years off, but some broadcasters believe it is not too early to think about creating the infrastructure for the service.

 “I think the only eye toward 4K at this time is asking the question: ‘What might my pass-through strategy be?’ and ‘What did I learn in the last transition that could add benefit in today’s decisions for the future?’ ” says Mark Aitken, Sinclair Broadcast Group VP advanced technology.

“That means, the purchases we are making today, do they fit into a logical ability to pass through network and syndicated 4K content in a system configurable way at some point in the future? I do not see 4K origination playing a role yet.”

Jim Ocon, Gray Television VP of technology, says he plans on checking out prices on 4K routers and cameras at this year’s show. “4K, in my opinion, is gaining much more traction that 3D. 3D is almost a moot point,” he says. “We want to be ready for [4K].”

Many vendors will pitch how their existing solutions, like routers and switchers, are now 4K-ready. For example, Snell is offering 4K functionality on many of its products, including production switcher, which lets users mix and match any combination of SD, HD, 1080p and 4K sources seamlessly in a live production environment.

And Harris Broadcast is showing off its newly designed, Platinum IP3 router, which can handle ultra-high bandwidth needs, including 4K.

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