Apr 16, 2012

The Five Things You'll Be Hearing About At NAB This Week

 While NAB is due to start in about 12 hours, I wanted to do a quick rundown of the sorts of things we expect to be seeing there:

1. Social TV Apps: The Pets.com of 2012. Lots of VC money being thrown at any and every permutation of "social TV," 99% of them suffer from two big problems: they don't interact with each other and they don't interact with the TV set.  Anyone who solves those problems will be drawing huge crowds.

2. Ahhhhh! Netflix!!!: The astounding success of their streaming service caught everyone (including Reed Hastings) by surprise as it flew in the face of three things that used to be part of the Conventional Wisdom: (1) Consumers are giant technophobes who won't try new technology until it's neatly packaged and served up on a platter for them, (2) Consumers are only interested in seeing the latest hit movies and anyone who can't offer that is dead in the water, (3) Video delivered via broadband will look like crap on a 42-inch HDTV.  Which is why so many broadcasters are standing like deer in the headlights trying to get their IPTV mojo flowing so they can figure out some sort of response to Netflix. (Hint: pay careful attention to the UX) Remember, this is an industry that just a year ago saw VOD as a promotion tool for new movies (hence the spate of five minute "The Making Of...." videos.) So look for a spate of people talking about consumer demand for streaming video and a smaller number offering actual solutions.

3. Gaming: Gaming is huge. It uses video. TV is huge. It also uses video. For some reason, that's as far as the industry's gotten: they still haven't figured out a way to successfully join the two. Using gaming devices like XBox to stream broadcast and subscription television is a step in the right direction- and there will be a lot of chatter about that at NAB- but I keep thinking there's got to be a better way to meld the two. And while TV-on-the-XBox is a great solution for the US and Europe, the high price of legally obtained discs for gamers in developing countries means that many of them don't connect their devices at all.

4. Timeshifting and It's Affect On Advertising: Not as scary as Netflix, but close: the more people timeshift-- particularly people in the desirable higher income brackets-- the less advertisers are willing to pay, since the assumption is that no one would willingly sit through a block of commercials when they own a set top box that allows them to fast-forward in 30-second intervals. A lot of the sessions around this broader topic are going to resemble group therapy, since there's no easy answer: what makes consumers happy makes advertisers unhappy, and vice versa. I'm hoping to hear about a couple of alternate solutions, a way for broadcasters to make money and without having to let technology pass them by.

5. Google and Apple and Facebook and Amazon: I'd be surprised to hear any sort of announcement here: if nothing else, NAB is not their crowd and won't generate the buzz they want. But what they are doing around TV, streaming video and the like, when and where (Kansas City) and why is bound to the topic of endless after hours conversations and a surefire conversation starter.

Tomorrow, we'll find out if I'm right.

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