If you think you've been hearing a lot about over-the-top video and 4K TV already, you ain't heard nothing yet.
When broadcasters, video programmers, pay-TV distributors and media and entertainment vendors convene in Las Vegas for the annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show that runs from April 11-16, OTT video, Ultra HD, or 4K, TV and multiscreen video are likely to dominate the agenda. Judging from the show schedule and the press releases already streaming in from vendors, these three topics will be front and center as conventional TV players strive to remain relevant in the swiftly evolving video-delivery business.
With Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) slated to launch its much anticipated HBO Now online video service next week, OTT will particularly grab the show spotlight in Vegas. Seeking to generate new revenue streams or at least fend off new video rivals, traditional broadcasters and programmers like HBO, CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), NBC Universal , Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) and others are increasingly looking to online video for salvation, if they can only come up with the right business model.
Accordingly, for the first time in the show's long history, the NAB convention will devote a full program to OTT video. The two-day Online Video Conference, taking place April 14 and 15, will feature 12 keynote sessions, panels and workshops focusing on the increasingly prominent role that OTT is playing in the content delivery landscape. Key speakers throughout the two days will include Alison Moore, EVP/General Manager of TV Everywhere for NBC Universal Content Distribution; Marty Roberts, co-CEO of thePlatform Inc. ; and Braxton Jarratt, co-founder and CEO of Clearleap .
Plus, NAB will kick off this conference-within-a-conference with a special "super session" about the disruptive impact that OTT is having on the traditional pay-TV space. Produced in tandem with Parks Associates , the April 13 roundtable, entitled Constant Cravings -- Using OTT to Win the Next Generation of Viewers will feature a line-up of OTT experts, including: Rebecca Glashow, SVP of digital distribution & partnerships for Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK); Marc DeBevoise, EVP and GM of entertainment, news & sports for CBS Interactive; and Darcy Antonellis, CEO of Vubiquity Inc. .
While not playing quite the starring role on the show's official agenda as OTT video, 4K TV will never be far from anyone's sight at the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center over the show's six days. Numerous vendors will be showing off displays of one aspect of Ultra HD technology or another, ranging from video encoding and processing to testing and monitoring to content protection and security. Still others will be demonstrating the wonders of High-Dynamic Range (HDR), a separate but related technology that provides greater luminance and contrast to video and thereby helps 4K pictures stand out much more from today's HD standard. (See HDR: The Next Big Video Thing .)
Despite all the hype still touting 4K as the next great wave of video, much of the exhibit-floor and show discussion will likely focus on the great challenges of making Ultra HD a mainstream reality before the end of the decade. These challenges include encoding the complex 4K video signals, delivering the huge video files to multiple devices, developing the user interfaces for the devices and protecting the content from piracy.
In one show sideline session hosted by Verimatrix Inc. and Elemental Technologies Inc. (ETI) , five video technologists will largely focus on the encoding, delivery, security and other issues posed by UHD. This session, entitled Shaping the Future of TV: Where to Place your Bets, will feature, among others: Javier Izquierdo, global DTH operations director for Telefónica 's Media Networks unit; Chuck Hasek, VP of video technology for Layer3 TV; and Petr Peterka, CTO of Verimatrix.
So the NAB show, which is expected to attract about 100,000 people to more than 1 million square feet of exhibit space this year, promises to produce much news and noise about these advanced video technologies. Stay tuned for our coverage, starting next Monday.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I should make it clear that I will be moderating both of the panels highlighted above. But they should still be worthwhile.)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading