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Four Trends We'll Be Tracking at NAB 2019

Jeff Baumgartner

The annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas will kick into high gear on Monday and offer a glimpse at what's new and what's on the horizon for video technologies -- spanning enhancements and innovations in areas such as workflow and encoding -- as well as pay-TV and OTT video service trends, and key updates on ATSC 3.0, the next-gen broadcasting standard.

In an attempt to separate some signal from the noise, here's a snapshot of what Light Reading will be focused on next week in Sin City in between hands of Texas Hold'Em:

Has AV1 made much progress?
Last year's NAB served as debutante ball for AV1, a new royalty-free video codec from the Alliance for Open Media designed to be about 30% more efficient than HEVC and VP9, and backed by such heavy hitters as Apple, Google, Mozilla, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Netflix.

Though initial use-cases for AV1 were targeted at browsers and focused on OTT video, this week's event will likely shed some light on progress being made with respect to AV1-optimized hardware and some proof that the codec is gathering steam in terms of adoption and widescale commercial readiness. We also expect some additional big names to join the mix and add more heft and credibility to AV1.

What's next for OTT?
Led by giants like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and (soon) Disney, OTT video has matured into a massive, but fragmented, business. There's never been more consumer choice for on-demand and live TV options that can be streamed in via the Internet.

Monday morning's Light Reading-hosted event -- Getting to OTT 2.0 -- will cover various aspects of the OTT business, including profitability, quality and differentiation, with perspective from top execs from Viacom, Philo, Digital Media Rights, SSIMWAVE, Ovum and Synamedia.

But another area we'll be looking into next week are the advancements being made in latency to more closely synch up the traditional live broadcast TV feed and those being delivered via the Internet through OTT apps and virtual MVPDs. A session on Monday with execs from Tribune Media, Sky Italia, Limelight Networks, Imagine Communications and Verizon Digital Media Services will dig into some new techniques and best practices that can help to close the gap.

ATSC 3.0: go for liftoff?
At the show, there will be a major focus on ATSC 3.0, the next-gen broadcast signaling standard that will carry along some key OTT-like capabilities (support for multiple screens, 4K resolution, interactivity and targeted advertising). There will also be attention paid to some regulatory wrinkles that still need ironing pit -- how, for instance, will ATSC 3.0 affect the redistribution rules of local broadcast TV on cable systems?

But this is a broadcast-focused show, so expect that industry to toot its horn on ATSC 3.0. Expect some horn-blaring on Monday afternoon during an ATSC 3.0 rollout session featuring Sinclair Broadcast Group chairman David Smith and execs with ONE Media, SK Telecom, Spectrum Co. and Saankhya Labs.

But just to show that we're all friends here, a session on Wednesday will argue that ATSC 3.0 is complementary, rather than competitive, with 5G.

The 411 on 5G
And since no one can have a technology discussion without including 5G, the next-gen mobile/wireless standard will also have some sessions dedicated to the topic.

For us, the can't-miss 5G session gets underway Wednesday, with Taher Behebhani of Samsung Electronics America, Lynn Comp with Intel and Christopher Levendos, the former Google and Frontier Communications exec who is now with Crown Castle.

Related posts:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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