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Exhibit halls transformed into high-tech haven

Apr 16, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The National Association of Broadcasters is revved up to host its annual conference in Las Vegas next week. Here’s a special sneak preview showing that technology and policy will take center stage this year.
As you head to the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas next week, be sure to pack your walking shoes. More than 1,700 exhibitors are expected to showcase products and services at NAB 2001, which will take place April 21-26. This year, exhibit space totals more than 1 million square feet.“It’s overwhelming if you’ve never been there before,” said Dennis Wharton, senior vice president of corporate communications for NAB. “You can walk for miles on end and not see the entire show.”
The overriding theme for NAB 2001 is convergent media. That is made abundantly clear by the networking and education opportunities available at the conference not only for broadcasters but also for those who work in the new media industry. Milford Smith, vice president of engineering at Greater Media, has been attending NAB for almost 30 years and has seen a lot of changes, but never more than in the past five years, with the broadcast industry’s transition to computer-based and digital equipment.
“You’re certainly seeing a broadening of the perspective of the show,” Mr. Smith said. “I think it remains the largest technology and equipment show devoted to broadcasting that you’ll find anywhere in the world, but certainly with the inclusion of newer technologies, the scope of the show has gotten a lot wider. And there are certainly a lot of attendees at the show that are not from the broadcast realm.”
One of the hot topics this year is streaming media, with the number of sessions scheduled on Internet streaming at NAB 2001 doubled from last year. “Broadcasters see the Internet as an opportunity to enhance service to listeners and viewers, but they’re also looking for new revenue opportunities,” Mr. Wharton said. “That’s certainly a market that’s exploding, and it’s only going to continue to grow in this new era that we’ve joined.”
Mr. Smith is most interested in checking out what’s new in digital radio broadcasting. “That development effort has been under way for a long time,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of twists and turns, but it seems like we’re getting very close to the prize. We’re expecting to see a number of manufacturers with at least prototype transmission equipment at the show.”
New to the show this year is E-topia, an exhibit hall in the Sands Expo that’s completely dedicated to the newest-to-market technologies in electronic media. There, more than 250 exhibitors will display new technology ranging from broadband to wireless. “We put them all together in one spot [where] people can go around and sort of kick the tires of what’s on the front line or cutting edge of new business opportunities,” Mr. Wharton said.
Within E-topia, the Interactive Living Pavilion, produced in partnership with the TV-Anytime Forum, will showcase the most advanced interactive technologies, including television and personal entertainment. There will also be a “Cyber Cave” where attendees can relax, check e-mail, get a bite to eat or play video games.
Exhibiting for the first time at NAB in the E-topia exhibit hall is .tv Corp. (Booth E3613), which offers .tv Web addresses. The company will be announcing its new product at NAB, which pairs the ability to stream video with a personalized Web address. Expected to be available this quarter, it allows customers to come to the .tv Web site, buy a Web address, download software and sign up to receive a Web cam. A special two-for-one promotion will be available for show attendees.
“We thought NAB was a nice place to show off a product like that,” said Craig Frances, president of .tv. “We’ve always been very popular among the broadcast community. We have over 150 broadcasters around the world that have adopted .tv Web addresses.”
Concurrent Computer Corp. (Booth E2823) will also be exhibiting in the E-topia hall. Though the company is best known for its video-on-demand solutions for the cable industry, at NAB the company plans to demonstrate its MediaHawk Broadband VOD System for a variety of IP-based video services for the education, entertainment and hospitality industries.
In addition to displaying its products, the company will be at NAB to check out new products and technology. “It’s a good place to learn what’s going on in our product space,” said Del Kunert, vice president of marketing for Concurrent. He said that although the show is under the entertainment industry’s auspices, it has increasingly become digitally focused. “A lot of companies use this as their showcase event to introduce new technologies and products,” he said.
Another first-time exhibitor at NAB is Picture Pipeline (Booth S4064), which provides a high-speed digital conduit to securely stream video for real-time collaboration among multiple remote production locations. The company is currently working with television program “Third Watch,” connecting Warner Bros. editors in Burbank, Calif., with the show’s producer, director and crew on site in New York.
In addition to exhibiting, the company will look at potential partners to integrate into its service offerings. “Our concentration is on providing a fully integrated solution to people so they don’t have to figure out where the telecommunications, software or hardware [is] going to come from,” said Tom Gritzmacher, president and CEO. “We’re always looking for new products in development that are anywhere along that chain.”
Longtime exhibitor IBM (Booth L1117) will be showcasing a plethora of new technology solutions for entertainment and broadcast companies. Of special note is the unveiling of a media asset management system it created with Sony for CNN. The end-to-end media asset system allows producers and researchers direct access to digital files, reducing costs while delivering digital storage, retrieval and preservation of materials.
“As the industry moves more and more toward digital production and distribution of content, it’s more and more within IBM’s realm of core competencies,” said IBM spokesman Jeffrey Gluck. “We’ve created a whole suite of tools around the concept of managing and creating digital content. Each industry has its own needs, but bits and bytes are bits and bytes. We know how to manage bits and bytes.”