Snapshot of the NAB in Las Vegas for advertisers

This was my first NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show and having a background in the demand side of media, I did not quite know what to expect. But I have to say if you want to learn very quickly about all aspects of broadcast and the latest ideas, then this is definitely the place to start. It was a fantastic show where all the big names and some smaller ones showed off their various solutions and services for the broadcast industry.

A term used a lot was “Glass to Glass”, suggesting that all aspects of broadcast were covered – from the camera lens capturing the images to the device showing the image (such as a TV, PC or tablet) and all the software and components in between. As you walk around this huge show, you soon realize what it takes to bring that image to our screens.

There was no doubt in my mind that traditional broadcasting was very well covered with many suppliers showing off clever ideas when it came to quality of transmission, auto correction and automation of programming. But it was also clear the extent to which video and IP networking of content was making waves with crowds attracted to stands with any kind of asset management system. The key features highlighted were the ability to store metadata with videos to enable searching and finding content and formats of video. Integration into other pieces of the trafficking workflow was key such as feeding into automated systems for generation of content schedule. Some of these solutions were being offered as a service over the cloud rather than in-house implementations. Each piece of content is specifically made for the device on which it will be consumed so managing these formats and delivering them down the right channel is challenging. Video management software aims to help with this process and provides as much automation as possible.

Quality of video transmission is as important as live broadcast and as such, tools are available to automatically track the quality that is being received and can monitor and rectify the source automatically. There were many demonstrations of this for live broadcast and video as the devices used to consume them are so different and there is plenty of room for error.

I have been to some seminars in the UK where big brands like Tesco have talked about the power of video and advertising, but I was able to see some real examples of this and the technology that enables it. Tesco provided an example of a cookery program demonstrating a particular recipe. The viewer can see the recipe ingredients on screen and move the ingredients into their shopping basket. One supplier had a demonstration of cars, where the viewer could find more information or the specification of a car being shown and then be taken directly to the site to buy the car with the correct specification. I also saw examples of broadcast and social media interaction such as Twitter being available on the screen, so that as viewers watched programs, they could read what was being said about it and interact themselves.

It was interesting to see that the convergence of media in the advertising space is key these days and it is the same from a sales point of view, but also in relation to broadcast technology. A typical broadcaster has to deal with SD, HD and 3D transmissions as well as IP devices such as TV, PC and mobile. Up until now, this would have meant large cabinets with multiple transmitters and servers, whereas now it can be handle by a single box. One of the unique offerings was the Harris Systems product called Selinio which combines traditional baseband video and audio processing, video and audio compression and IP networking in a single platform. It is amazingly light and compact, so is ideal for being used in vehicles for mobile transmission.

There were a few examples of 3D transmission and smaller screen devices that are able to show 3D without the need for glasses. I found the quality pretty good, but you definitely have to move the screen around until you get to the sweet spot and can view in perfect 3D. No doubt this technology will get better and be suitable for larger screens.

From an advertising perspective, there is no doubt that digital outdoor device and management software has improved tremendously over the last few years. What is now being presented looks even better and is a very powerful platform for advertising. It is now possible to deliver live dynamic content to individual screens or a group of screens in any location. The software to manage video, live broadcast and HTML-type content is here today and the effect is pretty amazing. Some of the largest buyers of this technology are shop chains, but US sport stadiums are also very keen on this technology and are embracing this new way of targeting messages around the stadium. Although currently the main aim is to advertise products that they sell or events in the stadium, the technology will make this a very flexible and powerful advertising platform.

There were a few suppliers of sales management systems, but Harris Systems has the advantage of being fully integrated from the sales point through to traffic and program automation and very clever scheduling/inventory optimization. There are quite a few standards available, which enable different software platforms to work with each other, which is not so evident in the advertising system business.

With brands starting to build their own online TV channels and the evolving connected TV technology, you can see how important this type of technology will be going forward. Many people have advertised the demise of broadcast TV with online, but this show proves that both technologies have their place and they can work seamlessly together to provide a very interesting and powerful story for the advertiser and agency.

This is only meant to be a quick view on some key areas of the show that have some relevance to advertising, but there is a huge amount of information in detail on the NAB show website: