In this week’s issue… NAB Show returns from pandemic – WFAN’s McCann retires – Remembering Sid Mark
By SCOTT FYBUSH
LAS VEGAS – We’re back, more or less.
Three years since the last time the NAB Show took place in person in Las Vegas, the biggest convention in broadcasting is once again underway. It’s not the same 100,000-attendee monstrosity it used to be, with many international attendees staying away and some domestic convention-goers still wary of the pandemic – but it’s still the first time many of us in the industry have seen each other in person since 2019.
The show is arranged a little differently this year, now that the Las Vegas Convention Center has opened a mammoth new West Hall across the street from the original three halls. Some of the ancillary conferences that surround NAB are back – we spent the end of last week at the Public Radio Engineering Conference, for instance – while others, such as the PBS TechCon, may be gone for good.
Against this new backdrop and with rather smaller attendance (the NAB will likely announce about 50,000 attendees, though the halls seem emptier than that to us), what have we learned in the first few days of the convention?
We’re living in an increasingly virtual world, for one thing. While the industry hasn’t stopped building studios, the reality is that more and more broadcasting will be happening from home and remote locations. There are lots of vendors offering remote studio setups, but it goes beyond that – the next step will include entire automation systems and airchains in the cloud, delivering a fully encoded signal (processing, HD, EAS, album art and more) straight to transmitter sites, whether as a primary airchain or as a backup.
Radio and video aren’t strangers anymore, of course, and so rather than having all the “radio” vendors concentrated in one area, they’re intermixed with video companies throughout the show. Looking to add video to your “radio” production? The technology keeps getting easier and cheaper.
One big surprise at the start of the show was the sale of GatesAir. The venerable Illinois-based transmitter manufacturer has been through a series of owners in recent years since being spun off from Harris. Now it’s changing hands from the Gore Group venture firm to Thomson, the big French electronics company that has owned other transmitter companies in the past, including Comark. While GatesAir operations are expected to remain in Illinois, the sale still takes the last big US-owned transmitter maker into foreign hands and will no doubt provoke some concerns about the future of its product lines.
On the more distant horizon, Xperi is offering a vision of the future of HD Radio that could include a new transmission layer that will allow for greater data throughput, and thus better audio, more subchannels and improved metadata. But there’s a catch, of course – it will require new radios that won’t show up in cars until perhaps the 2025 model year. Will broadcasters pursue that niche? We’re waiting to hear much more on this project.
We’re still only two days in to the show, so there’s no doubt more we’ll be seeing on the floor and telling you about when we’re back home next week.
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