CES 2018 has been over for a little more than a week, so it’s time to look back at the convention.  All in all, it was a good convention – not a great one. From the television standpoint, the most interesting offerings were from Samsung, Hisense, Changhong and LG. I’ll take the four in order, but first, some general thoughts on the sets for this year.


Big is back in a serious way, with almost everyone demonstrating at least one TV set at 75” or larger, a lot of them much larger. If Alexa-enabled sets have been the “thing” for the past couple of years, Google Home and Google Assistant were all the rage this year. In fact, you couldn’t go anywhere in the convention center or even on the Strip and not see “Google” plastered right before your eyes. It was a “Google World” this year at CES, and the television sets were no different. (On a side note, Amazon might as well change the name of the “Echo” to “Alexa” because that’s all anyone calls the device!) Also, 8K is back in a big way after basically disappearing from last year’s convention. Whether it’s because there will be 8K signals being delivered from South Korea during the Winter Olympics or that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will likely be a true “coming out party” for 8K as Japan delivers 8K in a big way, I don’t know. But 8K is definitely back and all the set manufacturers are now talking about 8K as the coming thing in the very near future. Further, AI, of course, is big for TV this year, as it was for everything, it seemed. (I’m waiting for an AI toothbrush that can control the TV set in my mirror and tell me when I am starting to get a cavity or need a professional cleaning!)


Samsung provided what, for me, was the most forward-looking of all the television sets being demonstrated at this year’s convention. Samsung debuted a seamless television set of micro LED modules, each approximately 4” high by 8” long. I’m not sure if that is the exact dimension, but it’s close. Each panel could be interconnected to other panels on any of the four sides. By connecting a given number of panels, a person could conceivably create a television set size of his/her choice. Samsung’s model was 140” and the way the modules connected, the picture was truly seamless. Further, I suppose you could buy enough modules to build the 140” set, then break it down into two, three, or more sets of varying sizes. It was a very interesting concept, and, quite honestly, could be one of the possibilities for the TV set of the future. Samsung also demonstrated a series of native 8K television sets. They are due out in March 2018, but only in an 85” size. The set can also be a hub for connecting other smart appliances around the house.


Hisense demonstrated a different style of large TV set this year, a 150” laser projection set. Like last year, the projector sits below the screen and projects the picture upward onto the screen, but the picture quality is far superior to last year’s model. The set has four million micro-mirrors and generates 83 million pixels, using a dual laser system. The set uses a Harman/Kardon audio system (as do others), high dynamic range and wide color gamut, and ambient light reflection.  The 100” is already on sale, with the smaller 88” and 80” sets due out in time for Christmas, and the 150” set arriving next year most likely. In addition, Hisense was the only set manufacturer to actively tout the fact that at least some of their TV sets will have an ATSC 3.0 tuner in them by this April. While I am sure that some of the other sets will also have the tuners, Hisense was the only one I talked with that actively pushed their TVs as being ready for the new standard.  Hisense also had 8K TV sets as well.

Changhong is a company I have mentioned before, but is likely not well known in the U.S.,
although they are for sale here in the States. Changhong also demonstrated a 100” laser
projection system, with triple-color lasers, a color gamut of 180%, and, interestingly, eye
protection ability to soften the picture without taking away from the picture quality. Further,
Changhong demonstrated a 150” Smart Cinema TV set, helping to continue the push for the very large screen TV set.


LG, for me, was disappointing. No sets larger than 77,” the usual excellent OLED screens, and super thin sets that seem to almost blend into the wall. All the sets had HDR, Dolby Vision, Technicolor, Hybrid Log Gamma for broadcast, and HDR10 for streaming. Unlike the first two companies I mentioned, LG did not have any 8K sets on hand, which surprised me because I had a chance to see a multitude of 8K sets being sold around South Korea when I was there 18 months ago. The UHD set picture, of course, was beautiful, but nothing there wowed me like the other companies. LG sets are also designed with AI capability, and LG has a huge number of different smart home appliances to connect to their TV sets.


Finally, a quick mention about a company called StreamTV. The company was marketing a UHD, 3D, glasses free software that they will license to companies. The software can convert live TV in real time and, when it is launched, it will launch in 8K first. While the 3D is not like what you see in movies with the funky glasses, it still provides an interesting depth to the TV picture. Where it goes from here, well, the original 3D didn’t last, but who knows? Maybe StreamTV has an answer.


As you can see, there were some interesting products demonstrated at CES 2018, but nothing that was earth-shattering. Maybe this was just a down year and CES 2019 will have everyone going crazy for the fantastic, amazing new television products. After all, it’s only 11 ½ months away!

4/24/2017

ATSC 3.0 - Yes? No? Maybe? No? Yes?

NAB 2018 - Thoughts Before The Convention

Despite death threats to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who chose to cancel his appearance, the FCC Road Show went on as planned at CES 2018 with Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Mike O'Rielly, and Brendan Carr, otherwise known as "A Democrat and Two Republicans." After going through what amounted to airport security measures, those who got in (including yours truly) were quite entertained for an hour, and as usual with FCC commissioners and other politicians, the audience was not allowed to ask questions, thus making sure the commissioners were not challenged in any way. While there were numerous topics announced beforehand that would be covered by the commissioners, in reality, three major topics dominated the discussion - Net Neutrality (of course),  consideration for rewriting the Telecom Act of 1996, and, at the end of the hour, the rollout of 5G.


The repeal, by the current FCC, of net neutrality regulations under Title II, enacted by the
Obama-appointed, Tom Wheeler-led FCC, led off the discussion, with the expected results.  Leading off, Commissioner Clyburn referred to the repeal action as the "Destroying Internet Freedom Order" which got the attention of the audience quickly. Clyburn argued for what she called a "free, open, and inclusive Internet," and rationalized her argument stating that there are "pockets" in the U.S. without the ability for the types of investment needed without net neutrality.


As expected the two other commissioners, both of whom voted for the repeal, took positions that differed from Commissioner Clyburn's. Commissioner Carr stated that he was excited about the future now that the FCC had repealed the net neutrality order, telling the audience that, under Title II, net neutrality has hurt the types of innovation that will likely resume with the overturning of the Title II order. However, Carr did say that he thought there was still room for "reasonable" disagreement. Commissioner O'Rielly chose not to engage in the back-and- forth directly, choosing instead to focus on the timeline for net neutrality from this point forward.  According to O'Rielly, the next step in the process is the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for transparency considerations, then to Congress, then finally, the inevitable court challenges, leading, most likely to the U.S. Supreme Court, depending on the Court's decision regarding the challenges to the Obama FCC's net neutrality order. (NOTE: With the repeal of net neutrality by the current FCC, the U.S. Supreme Court may consider the question of the Obama-FCC net neutrality moot, and wait for challenges to the repeal to reach the justices - we'll have to
wait and see).


The other major topic was the edit/rewrite of the Telecom Act of 1996 by the U.S. Congress. The Act of 1996, while not replacing the previous Communications Act of 1934, made sweeping changes in a number of areas to update or address innovations and the changing regulatory climate in the U.S. While all three commissioners were respectful of not stepping on Congress' toes, both O'Rielly and Clyburn did express their thoughts on the subject. Commissioner O'Rielly was the more amenable of the two to the idea of a complete or extensive rewrite of the Act by Congress, but ruled out the likelihood of that occurring in 2018. Commissioner Clyburn, on the other hand, felt that a total rewrite was "problematic" and said that the Act should be reviewed "in real time today" to see what changes are needed. Clyburn also said that nothing should be passed that would take the FCC out of the regulatory job that it currently is empowered to do.

Finally, there was some discussion among the commissioners over the rollout of 5G technology nationwide. While all three commissioners supported the idea of a 5G rollout, they differed in how the rollout should proceed and in the time frame. Both Commissioners Carr and O'Rielly called for pushing out 5G quickly nationwide. Commissioner Clyburn was somewhat less eager to follow her colleagues' lead. Commissioner Carr told the audience that the U.S. is on the cusp of important changes and called a buildout of one million cell sites nationwide (a 4X increase over current numbers). He also stated that 5G should be pushed out quickly around the U.S. Commissioner O'Rielly agreed with his colleague and said that the FCC needed to push state and local barrier out of the way to get 5G rolled out as quickly as possible. Commissioner Clyburn, though, argued for the need for the FCC to work with states and local communities in rolling out 5G and not to "take a sledgehammer where a scalpel is needed."

All in all, it was an interesting and enjoyable hour, if for no other reason than it was an
opportunity to see how the commissioners interacted with each other in public.  Nevertheless, there was no blockbuster news that left the audience surprised or amazed. In the end, it was more "dog-and- pony show," but an enjoyable one. Now the question is whether or not we will see any actions on the topics they discussed, especially the 5G rollout. Time will tell.

CES 2018 began today under rainy, cool skies. One thing I noticed is that almost no one is prepared for rain in Las Vegas - it's in the desert, for goodness sake! It's not supposed to rain in the desert - at least not for a day-and-a-half - but it has and everyone is trying to cover up as best as possible. Puddles everywhere and the monorail doesn't work well with a major convention occurring and rain - believe me, you don't want to ride the monorail in Las Vegas in the rain during peak times for a major convention; it can be scary!  The weather actually wouldn't be bad except it's rather cool so the air feels cooler than it actually is.

This year's convention is the largest ever it seems to me - more exhibits, more hotel conference and convention centers being used, more conference rooms for sessions in use, and I'm sure more people from more countries doing more deals. It's just bigger.

Even though this is the first day, I have already been surprised by a couple of things - ATSC 3.0 has not been mentioned and robots are huge. As big as ATSC 3.0 has been over the last two to three years at both CES and NAB, this year the topic has not come up in the sessions so far (and I don't remember seeing it mentioned in more than maybe one or two sessions throughout the entire convention). OTT seems to be the story, and what might be next for television in the OTT space, but not ATSC 3.0.

Robots are huge as I just said. It seems like every electronics company from startup to major player is working on some type of robot for the home, the office, or around town. Further, the robots for the home not only handle a variety of functions like turning on and off the lights, stove, oven, and monitoring everything, but they have a pleasing voice and even a personality of a sorts. They are being marketed as a friend and/or a companion. I think I would feel sorry for someone who needs a robot for a buddy, but they are around and, quite honestly, many are also designed to be cute - think Olaf from Frozen but a robot. Some move around and some just sit on the table or counter. For businesses there are robots being demonstrated that can serve the job of porter at a hotel, carrying luggage to the customer's room. At the Seoul Incheon airport, LG is also experimenting with robots that not only can supply information to the flier, but will even walk the flier to his/her gate to make sure the person doesn't get lost - all with a pleasant voice to listen to.


The underlying technology is, of course, artificial intelligence (AI), but that's a topic for a different day.

As expected, ATSC 3.0, or Next-Gen TV as it is also called (a perfectly unoriginal moniker, since the term has been used to describe color TV, digital TV, HDTV, and 4K TV as well), has been on the lips of every speaker and participant that I have heard since I arrived here four days ago. Even with topics as diverse as drones, VR/AR, OTT, 4K and 8K content, and many others to talk about and discuss, it seems as if the only term to approach ATSC 3.0 is IP - which, of course, the two go hand in hand. Whether it is Gordon Smith, NAB CEO in his show-opening address, to ATSC committee member speakers, to major exhibitors, there is an almost giddiness over the rollout of the new next-gen TV service. Therein lies the concern for me.

First, though, allow me a quick and simplified explanation of ATSC 3.0 for anyone who is not familiar with the term. ATSC 3.0 is a set of standards that allows broadcasters to deliver the Internet and World Wide Web over the airwaves to smart TVs, tablets, computers, smartphones, etc., using a portion of each station's channel bandwidth to deliver the signal. In essence, it is a direct competitor to all other ISPs currently in operation today. In the most positive scenario for the broadcasters, they would be the major producers of content, distributors of content, AND control the pipeline over which the content is delivered to the viewer. In the scariest situation for the consumer, the broadcasters would once again have complete control over television and could decide who could get any competitors such as Netflix, or even if Netflix would be allowed to be distributed. That, of course, is almost certain not to happen, but it would be possible. ATSC 3.0 is incompatible with television today and is not backward compatible, meaning that consumers would have to buy new TV sets and stations would have to purchase all new equipment. Further, the changeover will be voluntary, meaning that in a market you could have some stations that are ATSC 3.0 capable and some that aren't - potentially a chaotic mess.

Here's the unspoken problem with ATSC 3.0 that it is seemingly impossible to get an answer to - how will it be made available to the public? The answer is that there appears to be no definitive answer! One person has told me that users will subscribe to the next-gen service like they would cable or telco broadband. A second person says that there will be a nominal charge, but much less than other broadband services. A third person has told me the service would be free to the consumer, but will be ad-driven. In other words, there is no consensus as to what a consumer must do to receive next-gen TV from the broadcasters - will it be free, a nominal cost, or just another broadband-priced service?

ATSC 3.0 will be successfully deployed in South Korea beginning the end of May, and the broadcasters in the U.S. are already touting that country's almost certain success as a precursor to success here. However, the country of South Korea is about the size of Indiana, with five TV companies, mainly government-run, with a handful of channels that all broadcast nationwide. Using South Korea as a model for the U.S. is truly comparing apples to oranges - there is no comparison.

The more the broadcasters tout ATSC 3.0, the more it begins to feel like a redux of Mobile DTV, the "killer" service that failed miserably three-to-four years ago, before it ever really got rolled out. The giddiness, the hype, the excitement around this untried next-gen TV service that is incompatible with today's TV, that has a voluntary adoption process, and which has many more questions than answers, makes success seem much less likely. As a gentleman I was talking with this morning put it, "So the broadcasters are going to begin offering a service to consumers they are already using (Wi-Fi and cellular), and they are coming late to the party." For ATSC 3.0, the future may well be "Yes? No? Maybe? No? Yes?"

1/23/2018

CES2018 - CONVENTION OPENS

CES 2018 has been over for a little more than a week, so it’s time to look back at the convention.  All in all, it was a good convention – not a great one. From the television standpoint, the most interesting offerings were from Samsung, Hisense, Changhong and LG. I’ll take the four in order, but first, some general thoughts on the sets for this year.


Big is back in a serious way, with almost everyone demonstrating at least one TV set at 75” or larger, a lot of them much larger. If Alexa-enabled sets have been the “thing” for the past couple of years, Google Home and Google Assistant were all the rage this year. In fact, you couldn’t go anywhere in the convention center or even on the Strip and not see “Google” plastered right before your eyes. It was a “Google World” this year at CES, and the television sets were no different. (On a side note, Amazon might as well change the name of the “Echo” to “Alexa” because that’s all anyone calls the device!) Also, 8K is back in a big way after basically disappearing from last year’s convention. Whether it’s because there will be 8K signals being delivered from South Korea during the Winter Olympics or that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will likely be a true “coming out party” for 8K as Japan delivers 8K in a big way, I don’t know. But 8K is definitely back and all the set manufacturers are now talking about 8K as the coming thing in the very near future. Further, AI, of course, is big for TV this year, as it was for everything, it seemed. (I’m waiting for an AI toothbrush that can control the TV set in my mirror and tell me when I am starting to get a cavity or need a professional cleaning!)


Samsung provided what, for me, was the most forward-looking of all the television sets being demonstrated at this year’s convention. Samsung debuted a seamless television set of micro LED modules, each approximately 4” high by 8” long. I’m not sure if that is the exact dimension, but it’s close. Each panel could be interconnected to other panels on any of the four sides. By connecting a given number of panels, a person could conceivably create a television set size of his/her choice. Samsung’s model was 140” and the way the modules connected, the picture was truly seamless. Further, I suppose you could buy enough modules to build the 140” set, then break it down into two, three, or more sets of varying sizes. It was a very interesting concept, and, quite honestly, could be one of the possibilities for the TV set of the future. Samsung also demonstrated a series of native 8K television sets. They are due out in March 2018, but only in an 85” size. The set can also be a hub for connecting other smart appliances around the house.


Hisense demonstrated a different style of large TV set this year, a 150” laser projection set. Like last year, the projector sits below the screen and projects the picture upward onto the screen, but the picture quality is far superior to last year’s model. The set has four million micro-mirrors and generates 83 million pixels, using a dual laser system. The set uses a Harman/Kardon audio system (as do others), high dynamic range and wide color gamut, and ambient light reflection.  The 100” is already on sale, with the smaller 88” and 80” sets due out in time for Christmas, and the 150” set arriving next year most likely. In addition, Hisense was the only set manufacturer to actively tout the fact that at least some of their TV sets will have an ATSC 3.0 tuner in them by this April. While I am sure that some of the other sets will also have the tuners, Hisense was the only one I talked with that actively pushed their TVs as being ready for the new standard.  Hisense also had 8K TV sets as well.

Changhong is a company I have mentioned before, but is likely not well known in the U.S.,
although they are for sale here in the States. Changhong also demonstrated a 100” laser
projection system, with triple-color lasers, a color gamut of 180%, and, interestingly, eye
protection ability to soften the picture without taking away from the picture quality. Further,
Changhong demonstrated a 150” Smart Cinema TV set, helping to continue the push for the very large screen TV set.


LG, for me, was disappointing. No sets larger than 77,” the usual excellent OLED screens, and super thin sets that seem to almost blend into the wall. All the sets had HDR, Dolby Vision, Technicolor, Hybrid Log Gamma for broadcast, and HDR10 for streaming. Unlike the first two companies I mentioned, LG did not have any 8K sets on hand, which surprised me because I had a chance to see a multitude of 8K sets being sold around South Korea when I was there 18 months ago. The UHD set picture, of course, was beautiful, but nothing there wowed me like the other companies. LG sets are also designed with AI capability, and LG has a huge number of different smart home appliances to connect to their TV sets.


Finally, a quick mention about a company called StreamTV. The company was marketing a UHD, 3D, glasses free software that they will license to companies. The software can convert live TV in real time and, when it is launched, it will launch in 8K first. While the 3D is not like what you see in movies with the funky glasses, it still provides an interesting depth to the TV picture. Where it goes from here, well, the original 3D didn’t last, but who knows? Maybe StreamTV has an answer.


As you can see, there were some interesting products demonstrated at CES 2018, but nothing that was earth-shattering. Maybe this was just a down year and CES 2019 will have everyone going crazy for the fantastic, amazing new television products. After all, it’s only 11 ½ months away!

CES2018 - CONVENTION OPENS

CES Unveiled - Part 2

Nokia - it's a name that was synonymous with the mobile phone every kid had in his or her pocket back when the mobile phone was used, well, as a phone. However, as the mobile phone gave way to the "smart" mobile phone (the "smartphone"), Nokia missed the tidal wave and has struggled to keep up as the Apples, Samsungs, LGs, Huaweis, etc., of the world took market share after market share from Nokia, leaving the once-vaunted company an almost-forgotten entity.

Nokia seems to have learned its lesson as it has become the leader in virtual reality solutions, driven by the early success of its OZO VR camera. Nokia introduced the OZO more than a year ago, and it was a dramatic - and continues to be a dramatic - improvement over the other professional-grade VR camera systems. Notice that I use the word "camera" for the OZO while using "camera system" for Nokia's competitors. That's because Nokia has built its "system" into a single housing instead of a series of cameras built around a wheel-style support mechanism.

The Nokia OZO is a single housing designed to be the size of a human skull. The housing encompasses eight cameras and eight microphones spaced with a 105% overlap to provide maximum 360 degree coverage. Additionally, each camera is designed with two layers of pixels - one for each eye - to further enhance the VR experience and to capture the best possible "sense of presence" or the life-like feel of the VR experience as well. Further, the OZO is the only VR camera to deliver the 3D feel when the viewer looks up or down. All other systems can only provide a 2D experience when the viewer looks directly up or down.

This year, though, Nokia has expanded its offering by providing the software necessary for a complete end-to-end solution to go from the shoot to the final product. Additionally, the software makes it possible to tie together several OZO cameras to create a  VR sense of presence from numerous angles and points of view. With that ability, Nokia has opened the way to go from a single "lean-forward" television experience to the ability to socialized experiences over VR with others.

With the OZO and now the complete end-to-end solution, Nokia is once again making its name as a leader in cutting edge technology, this time in the coming 21st Century Television world of VR. For Nokia, perhaps the lessons of the past will equal continuing success in the future.

(NOTE: The complete OZO system's price is $40,000, but Nokia is offering a "Storytellers" opportunity that discounts the system to $25,000. Nokia's system is used by the Disney Group, Sony Pictures, Universal, and the Coachella Festival,)

4/22/2017

NAB 2018 is only a few hours old and already there is some controversy over the broadcasters' answer to delivering their programming to viewers anywhere and on any device. At the morning sessions of the Global UHD Conference, both Lynn Claudy, Senior Vice President of the NAB and Hossein Hashemzadeh of the FCC provided reasons for again wondering when ATSC 3.0 will become a reality or even IF it will become a reality. According to Hashemzadeh, the roll out of ATSC 3.0 will likely not begin until the end of this year, or 1st Quarter of 2019, a delay of almost two years from the initial expected roll out of the set of standards. He also said that the broadcasters still have more to do before they can begin telecasting using ATSC 3.0. Further - and I do not know if this was just a misspeak or not - but Hashemzadeh continued to refer to the new set of standards as "ATSC 3.1" and not ATSC 3.0, leading one to wonder - if it was not misspeak - if the FCC has a slightly different/upgraded standard in mind. If so, the roll out of ATSC 3.0/3.1(?) could again be delayed.

Claudy's presentation yielded some interesting problems to be considered when thinking about global use of ATSC 3.0. As it turns out, there are a number of different standards designed to accomplish what ATSC 3.0 is for: ATSC 3.0 for the U.S., ATSC 3.0 (but there are differences) for South Korea, DVB/DVT Phase 1 and Phase 2 for Europe, and a fourth system in Japan that is different from the other three. The implication is that the four different standards are not compatible with each other, with Japan already looking forward to broadcasting/telecasting in 8K by the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, while the others are focused still on UHD/4K. The reason that Claudy's presentation raises concerns is that, with four different incompatible advanced television systems available depending on the area of the world, and with the beginnings of global convergence of the television industry (think Altice buying Cablevision and Disney attempting to get Sky and Star TV from Fox), the lack of a single system could also delay any roll out of ATSC 3.0 or even make it disappear in favor of one of the other delivery systems.

Will we ever see ATSC 3.0? Will it ever be all that the U.S. broadcasting industry is hoping/expecting it to be? At this point, the first morning of NABShow 2018, there seems to be reasons to think ATSC 3.0 is in trouble. I'll keep you informed as the convention goes along. It should be very interesting!

The M.E.T. Effect - Transformation or One-Year Wonder

4/26/2017

CES2018 - CONVENTION OPENS

CES UNVEILED

1/6/2018

CES 2018 PREVIEW

4/23/2017

One thing I like about this first day is that it is sort of the calm before the storm. Very few people around, but there are sessions going on today on which I'll report. I will warn you, though, the sessions today are primarily engineering ones, so it will likely happen that I could end up in a session where I will understand nothing! I guess you can't be proficient in everything.

The first thing I will say is that - as mentioned in my pre-NAB article - IP and ATSC3.0 are two of the really "hot topics" at this year's convention, even more so than last year. If the first sessions today are any indication, one will be hard-pressed to find a session where one or the other topic is not mentioned. In fact, it may be that either ATSC 3.0 or IP will be mentioned in every session between now and Thursday when the convention ends.

Thomas Edwards, VP Engineering & Development at Fox Networks kicked off the sessions today by announcing that this is the year that live IP structure is real. In that regard, Edwards offered what he termed Fox's "2020" Strategy. a shift from hardware to software where it's likely that there will be no special broadcast equipment, just a data center, and a strategy that will be flexible, agile, multi-format, COTS IT hardware, software media processing, and run through a public/private hybrid cloud. (For a primer on cloud technology in television, please see my book, Television In The Cloud, available on all Amazon sites worldwide.)


The strategy revolves around three steps in content creation:                               

(1) Automate Processes - any that are manual or repetitive;

(2) Enable Self-Service - including   

         (a) push decision-making and entry of data upstream into producer hands, and

         (b) eliminate the "middle-man"; and               

(3) Adopt Object-Based Assembly Downstream - meaning the assembly of production elements as far downstream as possible in the production process to allow multiple divergent versions of content.

The distribution phase of the strategy involves four phases:                                

(1) FY15-16 - Shift from hardware-based to software-based systems for multi-platform distribution;             

(2) FY16-18 - Develop full cloud capability for end-to-end NE&O processes;     

(3) FY17-19 - Complete migration to cloud and dynamic content assembly; and

(4) FY 20 & Beyond - Scale direct to the consumer.

According to Edwards, IP is the "on-ramp" to virtualized broadcast data centers.

What's fascinating to me is the time frame involved. 2020 is less than three years away, and Edwards is, in effect, describing an all-IP system for broadcast designed to be ready for delivery to everything from smart TVs to computers, tablets, and smartphones. While not mentioning it specifically, I feel certain that would include the completed rollout of ATSC 3.0. Edwards' presentation was an excellent kick-off to what I have a feeling will be a transformative NAB convention. There simply will be no going back!(NOTE: ATSC 3.0 is also a topic for these Saturday sessions. I will have more about that topic a little later.)


CES 2018 began today under rainy, cool skies. One thing I noticed is that almost no one is prepared for rain in Las Vegas - it's in the desert, for goodness sake! It's not supposed to rain in the desert - at least not for a day-and-a-half - but it has and everyone is trying to cover up as best as possible. Puddles everywhere and the monorail doesn't work well with a major convention occurring and rain - believe me, you don't want to ride the monorail in Las Vegas in the rain during peak times for a major convention; it can be scary!  The weather actually wouldn't be bad except it's rather cool so the air feels cooler than it actually is.

This year's convention is the largest ever it seems to me - more exhibits, more hotel conference and convention centers being used, more conference rooms for sessions in use, and I'm sure more people from more countries doing more deals. It's just bigger.

Even though this is the first day, I have already been surprised by a couple of things - ATSC 3.0 has not been mentioned and robots are huge. As big as ATSC 3.0 has been over the last two to three years at both CES and NAB, this year the topic has not come up in the sessions so far (and I don't remember seeing it mentioned in more than maybe one or two sessions throughout the entire convention). OTT seems to be the story, and what might be next for television in the OTT space, but not ATSC 3.0.

Robots are huge as I just said. It seems like every electronics company from startup to major player is working on some type of robot for the home, the office, or around town. Further, the robots for the home not only handle a variety of functions like turning on and off the lights, stove, oven, and monitoring everything, but they have a pleasing voice and even a personality of a sorts. They are being marketed as a friend and/or a companion. I think I would feel sorry for someone who needs a robot for a buddy, but they are around and, quite honestly, many are also designed to be cute - think Olaf from Frozen but a robot. Some move around and some just sit on the table or counter. For businesses there are robots being demonstrated that can serve the job of porter at a hotel, carrying luggage to the customer's room. At the Seoul Incheon airport, LG is also experimenting with robots that not only can supply information to the flier, but will even walk the flier to his/her gate to make sure the person doesn't get lost - all with a pleasant voice to listen to.


The underlying technology is, of course, artificial intelligence (AI), but that's a topic for a different day.

It's interesting - though not surprising - that the second keynote of the morning session of the Global UHD Conference today was about how UHD displays are progressing in the U.S. What makes it interesting is that it immediately followed the keynote by Dong June Lee of the Korean Broadcasting System who spoke on his country's development and implementation of ATSC 3.0. The fact that the Korean keynote was on ATSC 3.0 and the U.S. keynote was about UHD displays underscores the fact of how far behind the U.S. is in the development and implementation of the 3.0 standard.

Mike Bergman of the Consumer Technology Association - the organizers of the Consumer Electronics Show, also held in Las Vegas - did a fine job of covering his topic, given who he was following. Bergman started off showing that even today, television set household penetration is still the highest of consumer technology products, although the smartphone is not far behind (96% to 80%). There are 2.7 television sets per household in the U.S. on average, and each year about one in five adults say they intend to buy a TV set. With more than 300 million TV sets in U.S. homes, that's about 60 million new sets that are being bought - once again, on average.

Bergman also announced that 2018 will be the first year that more than half of all TVs sold will be 4K UHD sets, a milestone in TV development. Further, the growth of 4K UHD television sets in just the few years they have been available far surpasses the growth of HDTVs during their first years. People are ready for the better picture quality. Additionally, in just five years, the cost of a UHD TV set has dropped by more than 80%, also leading to the grow of the business. Bergman's research showed three times a year when UHD sales peaked - November, September, and March. Surprised? You shouldn't be. That's the Christmas buying season, the start of the football season, and the NCAA "March Madness" basketball tournament.

As also might be imagined, the size of the TV set is growing with the 55-59" set growing the fastest and the 65-69" set growing second fastest. Look for the larger set to replace the 55-59" category as the fastest growing as the price of those larger sets continue to drop. Further, Bergman pointed out that 4K and UHD TV sets today are almost completely "smart" sets, bringing the viewer the ability to watch his or her favorite OTT service on the home big screen.Bergman also showed that Blu-ray player sales are still growing if they are UHD, which is surprising to me given the ability to digitally download programs. It will be interesting to see if that changes in the future.

As AT&T prepares to shutter its U-verse television service for good, it seems as if the country's second largest mobile phone company may be planning to make more than just its DirecTV service available to its customers and the public. In addition to its plans to bring Time-Warner into its fold, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, AT&T and Spectrum (formerly Charter) are quietly in the early stages of putting together what would be another mega-merger among MVPDs.

Let me say right up front that I have not been able to verify this action beyond the one source, so this must still remain in the realm of conjecture. However, the synergies that will come from an AT&T/Spectrum merger make the deal something that must be considered a definite possibility. For AT&T, the merger brings a well-established replacement for its failed U-verse TV service beyond its DirecTV offering, which has a limited lifetime in this era of IPTV, while combining Spectrum's second-largest cable service with its MVPD-leading DirecTV service makes the joint company the largest MVPD by a substantial margin. Further, AT&T would receive a well-established, powerful broadband capability to go along with its own U-verse broadband, making the combined entity a strong competitor in the industry as the broadcast industry moves to finish its rollout of ATSC 3.0. Add to this merger, should the Time-Warner merger be completed, the combined companies would complete a vertical integration structure to rival Comcast-NBCUniversal plus a powerful mobile phone service.

For Spectrum, the merger provides the company with a mobile phone capability that is the final piece of the quad-play bundle desired by all MVPDs. Additionally, Spectrum would have the top DTH satellite service to cover those areas of the country where it does not offer service, while having a way to compete with the other MVPDs in their coverage markets without appearing to be attempting to "poach" on the others' service areas.

The merger seems a "win-win" for both parties, but there are obvious mountainous challenges to any such merger, if and/or when it occurs. First and foremost, the AT&T/Time-Warner merger is still not completed and there is substantial resistance to the merger, including strong negative comments by then-candidate Donald Trump, although others in the administration seem to be softening the President's earlier rhetoric. However, a move by AT&T to partner with Spectrum would assuredly bring challenges at least intense as the ones during the failed Comcast/Time-Warner Cable merger, if not more. Second, a successful AT&T/Time-Warner plus AT&T/Spectrum combination would set off a huge wave of mergers, led alomost immediately by an attempt by Comcast and Verizon to merge. While such previous discussions went nowhere last year, all bets would be off if an AT&T/Time-Warner/Spectrum coupling was successfully completed. Those two mergers would then bring Sprint, T-Mobile, Dish Network, and the other major cable companies onto the merger scene, as well as the other three major broadcast networks and the major production houses. In the end, there could be only three or four mega-companies delivering television from content creation to the consumers' homes.

We'll wait and see if - or more likely when - any or all of this comes about.

4/7/2018

Despite death threats to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who chose to cancel his appearance, the FCC Road Show went on as planned at CES 2018 with Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Mike O'Rielly, and Brendan Carr, otherwise known as "A Democrat and Two Republicans." After going through what amounted to airport security measures, those who got in (including yours truly) were quite entertained for an hour, and as usual with FCC commissioners and other politicians, the audience was not allowed to ask questions, thus making sure the commissioners were not challenged in any way. While there were numerous topics announced beforehand that would be covered by the commissioners, in reality, three major topics dominated the discussion - Net Neutrality (of course),  consideration for rewriting the Telecom Act of 1996, and, at the end of the hour, the rollout of 5G.


The repeal, by the current FCC, of net neutrality regulations under Title II, enacted by the
Obama-appointed, Tom Wheeler-led FCC, led off the discussion, with the expected results.  Leading off, Commissioner Clyburn referred to the repeal action as the "Destroying Internet Freedom Order" which got the attention of the audience quickly. Clyburn argued for what she called a "free, open, and inclusive Internet," and rationalized her argument stating that there are "pockets" in the U.S. without the ability for the types of investment needed without net neutrality.


As expected the two other commissioners, both of whom voted for the repeal, took positions that differed from Commissioner Clyburn's. Commissioner Carr stated that he was excited about the future now that the FCC had repealed the net neutrality order, telling the audience that, under Title II, net neutrality has hurt the types of innovation that will likely resume with the overturning of the Title II order. However, Carr did say that he thought there was still room for "reasonable" disagreement. Commissioner O'Rielly chose not to engage in the back-and- forth directly, choosing instead to focus on the timeline for net neutrality from this point forward.  According to O'Rielly, the next step in the process is the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for transparency considerations, then to Congress, then finally, the inevitable court challenges, leading, most likely to the U.S. Supreme Court, depending on the Court's decision regarding the challenges to the Obama FCC's net neutrality order. (NOTE: With the repeal of net neutrality by the current FCC, the U.S. Supreme Court may consider the question of the Obama-FCC net neutrality moot, and wait for challenges to the repeal to reach the justices - we'll have to
wait and see).


The other major topic was the edit/rewrite of the Telecom Act of 1996 by the U.S. Congress. The Act of 1996, while not replacing the previous Communications Act of 1934, made sweeping changes in a number of areas to update or address innovations and the changing regulatory climate in the U.S. While all three commissioners were respectful of not stepping on Congress' toes, both O'Rielly and Clyburn did express their thoughts on the subject. Commissioner O'Rielly was the more amenable of the two to the idea of a complete or extensive rewrite of the Act by Congress, but ruled out the likelihood of that occurring in 2018. Commissioner Clyburn, on the other hand, felt that a total rewrite was "problematic" and said that the Act should be reviewed "in real time today" to see what changes are needed. Clyburn also said that nothing should be passed that would take the FCC out of the regulatory job that it currently is empowered to do.

Finally, there was some discussion among the commissioners over the rollout of 5G technology nationwide. While all three commissioners supported the idea of a 5G rollout, they differed in how the rollout should proceed and in the time frame. Both Commissioners Carr and O'Rielly called for pushing out 5G quickly nationwide. Commissioner Clyburn was somewhat less eager to follow her colleagues' lead. Commissioner Carr told the audience that the U.S. is on the cusp of important changes and called a buildout of one million cell sites nationwide (a 4X increase over current numbers). He also stated that 5G should be pushed out quickly around the U.S. Commissioner O'Rielly agreed with his colleague and said that the FCC needed to push state and local barrier out of the way to get 5G rolled out as quickly as possible. Commissioner Clyburn, though, argued for the need for the FCC to work with states and local communities in rolling out 5G and not to "take a sledgehammer where a scalpel is needed."

All in all, it was an interesting and enjoyable hour, if for no other reason than it was an
opportunity to see how the commissioners interacted with each other in public.  Nevertheless, there was no blockbuster news that left the audience surprised or amazed. In the end, it was more "dog-and- pony show," but an enjoyable one. Now the question is whether or not we will see any actions on the topics they discussed, especially the 5G rollout. Time will tell.

4/20/2017

4/7/2018

1/23/2018

1/20/2018

4/27/2017

South Korea is WAYYYYY ahead of the U.S. when it comes to deploying ATSC 3.0, a new system designed to make it possible for broadcasters to deliver the internet over their bandwidths to consumers' home TVs, tablets, and smartphones. In a Saturday afternoon session at the 2017 NAB convention, representatives from Korean broadcasting announced that on May 31st, the ATSC 3.0 system would be available for the citizens of South Korea's capital city, Seoul. Further, by the end of 2017, all the major urban areas in South Korea would have ATSC 3.0 available to the citizens, and by 2020, all citizens of the country would have ATSC 3.0 available to them.

The system would be available through the use of home receivers and specialized external antennas that will be able to be purchased to allow smartphones to receive programming delivered over ATSC 3.0. To help with the changeover, the home receivers will have connections for both the current ATSC system (1.0) and the new 3.0 system, so that homes without ATSC 3.0 capable television sets will still be able to receive the current 1.0 signals during a transition period leading to an ATSC 1.0 switchoff in 2027. Both the home receivers as well as the smartphone antennas are already available for purchase in stores in neighborhoods throughout Seoul.

South Korean ATSC 3.0 will allow not only the current generation of television plus TVEverywhere, but also a variety of new and exciting possibilities in the future. Already, South Korea is looking beyond 4K television to providing 8K television through its ATSC 3.0 service by sometime in 2020, just three years from now, while 4K is still in its infancy in terms of content in the U.S. Additionally, the new system will reach all forms of fixed and mobile media, make possible addressable, personalized advertising to consumers (through the use of ATMA,* programmatic, and DAI**), complete interactivity, and smart emergency alert warnings.

Finally, what is most exciting is the development of new forms of delivery, including screen segmentation, ultra wide vision, virtual reality and augmented reality, and what the Koreans are calling Tera-Media. Let's look at each of these separately:

Screen Segmentation - as television sets, and even smartphones and tablets, become larger, these devices have more room for a variety of different items to be available on the screen simultaneously. ATSC 3.0 will make it possible for South Korean TV viewers to watch a program, while surfing the web, checking social media, and other forms of multitasking all on the device screen without the need for several different devices to accomplish the same things.
Ultra Wide Vision - provides the ability for the viewer to watch television in panoramic mode (>120 degrees) which is designed to enhance the immersive user experience in a variety of configurations and in combination with a variety of different screens.
VR/AR - South Korean ATSC 3.0 make possible both 360 VR broadcasting as well as 360 VR broadband streaming. This feature will be tested extensively at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea (not to be confused wih the capital of North Korea which has a different, but very similar spelling!). Poor visual quality and slower response times are the key challenges at this time.
Tera-Media - quite possibly the most exciting of the coming media services of ATSC 3.0, Tera-Media is a new media for ultrarealistic services requiring at least one-terabyte-per-second speeds, and therefore, huge amounts of bandwidth. Tera-Media will make possible true "lean-forward" television experiences, holographic television, and complete immersion into the television world - should the viewer choose that option. For this capability, the South Korean industry is developing a new MPEG standard called MPEG-I. for MPEG Immersive. MPEG-I will provide 2 to 4 times more compression over HEVC and 3D audio standards, and will make possible 6 degree of freedom support for navigation through the 3D holographic space. Expect the new standard to be available by 2021.

It will be interesting to see just how quickly and how well U.S. work on its ATSC 3.0 will develop as it follows and adapts the South Korean model.

*stands for Aggregated Targeted Microadvertising - the method by which addressable advertising is segmented for delivery to various streams of IPTV. (for an in-depth look at ATMA, see Chapter 15 - Advertising, in 21st Century Television: The Players, The Viewers, The Money.

**stands for Dynamic Ad Insertion - the method by which addessable ads are placed into the streams

During the next several days, approximately 100,000 broadcasters and electronic media professionals will be descending on Las Vegas for the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention. All of them, in some form, will hope to "meet the M.E.T. Effect." This year's slogan derives from the confluence of Media, Entertainment, and Technology - M.E.T.

It's likely to be an exciting time for the broadcasters, especially, as they will be taking a serious look to the future of their industries for - in my opinion - the first time. It will start with ATSC 3.0, the "maybe-it-will work/maybe-it-won't" latest attempt by the broadcasters to compete with the MVPDs and the many new media industries on a level playing field. The broadcasters point to the anticipated success of ATSC 3.0 in South Korea as a nationwide standard, apparently forgetting that South Korea (100,000km) is somewhere between the size of Indiana (94,000km) and Kentucky (104,000km), while the U.S. as a whole is - well, let's say "way bigger." But, as has been mentioned in a number of different articles, blogs, and at least one book (21st Century Television: The Players, The Viewers, The Money), covering the country is the least of the ATSC 3.0 worries.

Tying in with ATSC 3.0 this year will be All-Things IP - otherwise known as Internet Protocol Television or IPTV. Anyone attending this year's convention can expect to hear "IP," IP infrastructure," "IPTV," or some other derivative in practically every panel that will be presented. Given the excitement of ATSC 3.0 and the importance of IP to the future of television especially - in all its forms - it is exciting to see the broadcasters finally getting on board (about time!). Even the most ardent of supporters of traditional broadcasters from speakers to bloggers to traditional media commentators seem to be in overall agreement that the future of the broadcast industries is over IP, hence the push for ATSC 3.0.

Finally, it appears that virtual reality (VR) is moving ever more so from gaming to becoming the next competitor or partner(?) in television. The VR demonstration area at the convention continues to grow, the cameras that will be demonstrated will be smaller while the quality improves, and the potential audiences and advertisers continue to increase - at least that's the thought. While Oculus and the other headset makers may not be the way viewers watch TV later this year, it will be interesting to see how VR Television will have developed by, say, 2020. That's not that far off, folks!

NAB 2017 should be a fascinating convention, and I am hoping that, looking back, this will be the pivotal year in the development of the next generation of broadcasting. Look for articles from me on a regular basis as I report on the timely topics and exciting news to come throughout the convention.

ATSC 3.0 Still Has a Way to Go

South Korea to Roll Out ATSC 3.0 Next Month

NAB 2017 - SATURDAY, 4/22 - DAY 1

CES 2018 is just around the corner and, once again, is promising to be a fantastic
affair. Close to 200,000 participants will descend on Las Vegas January 9-12,
populating hotels, restaurants, ride-sharing automobiles – much everything. All the
convention centers around the Strip are in full use as well, which means snarled
traffic as well. It is an exciting, chaotic, amazing experience, and, once again, I’ll
be writing about what is going on each day. I hope you enjoy the articles.


One of the most exciting aspects of CES 2018 is the number of new areas that will
have companies demonstrating their products. What makes this so exciting is that
you can see just how much technology is impacting seemingly almost every facet
of daily life. Here is a list of just the “new” areas that are being introduced at CES
2018: Sports Zone, Smart Cities, Design and Source, High-Tech Retailing, and the
AI (Artificial Intelligence) Marketplace.


Additionally, CES is spotlighting a number of celebrities, from movies and
television, music, and sports. Even royalty, a His Royal Highness will be in
attendance to support his country’s achievements.


Speaking earlier of AI, the topic seems to be “the” term on everyone’s lips – how
artificial intelligence will be impacting every aspect of daily living. A quick look at
some of the exhibitors suggests that we are heading toward – if not Data from the
Star Trek: TNG series – at least toward robots for everyone, as well as AI in
medicine, work, educational toys, even our cars.


For me, though, where television is heading is my main focus – and the
possibilities are exciting. Unlike last year, it appears that 8K television will take
front and center, ATSC 3.0 will be a buzz term for the legacy media types, OTT
will be big (surprisingly so – it’ll be interesting to see what’s new there), VR and
AR will generate new ways to wow, and 5G will hit the stage in a big way with
much fanfare and promise.


All in all, it should be a great convention and I’ll be writing about the days as they
go by.


1/9/2018

This year's NAB convention has, in my mind, the chance to be a truly pivotal event. For the second year in a row, the theme of the convention is the M.E.T. Effect - the marriage of media, entertainment, and technology. The fact that this is a second consecutive year where the broadcasters are fully acknowledging the role that new technologies play and will play in their future is momentous. In the past, each time the NAB has tried to focus on new media technologies, the next year it has had to retrench and step back from its forward motion.


This time, though, it's different. New and updated technologies are front and center throughout the show. Some 40 different companies will be exhibiting various aspects of ATSC 3.0, the broadcast industry's latest version of "Mobile DTV." (I refer to ATSC 3.0 that way because I am still skeptical that it will ever be successful.) Nevertheless, attendees will have the opportunity to hear about how well ATSC 3.0 is progressing in South Korea - although, to be honest, fully covering South Korea with ATSC 3.0 and fully covering the U.S. are two very different things.  Hope spring eternal, it seems, so ATSC 3.0 talk will abound.


Virtual Reality - coming on the heels of NBC's experiment at the Olympic Winter Games and CBS/TBS's use of VR during the most recent NCAA "March Madness" Basketball
Championship - seems poised to become something more than a gamer's delight and everyone else's curiosity. This year there will be a variety of panels and exhibits discussing the different uses of VR in everything from live sporting events to the news room. It's good to see VR being taken seriously.


Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence will also be a major focus of this year's show. AI is a hot commodity leading to the Internet of Things which, if embraced by the broadcasters, could move the industry to the forefront of IoT. It will be interesting to see what will be the position of the broadcasters to machine learning and AI.


We are also seeing major discussions on the future of advertising, with a whole track devoted to advertising in the 21st Century Television universe. Programmatic advertising and dynamic ad insertion will be topics of discussion throughout as broadcasters and all other content providers attempt to come to grips with the need for finding ways to fully monetize OTT and IPTV television.


I'll be reporting from the convention each day with the latest from both the conference panels and all the innovations in hardware and software. It should be a great (possibly historic) NABShow.

NAB 2018 got underway this morning (Saturday 4/7) with a special Global UHD Conference. The morning sessions included a keynote from Dong June Lee of the South Korean national broadcaster KBS. South Korea is the first country to provide regular broadcasts through the ATSC 3.0 set of standards. During 2016 and the first part of 2017, KBS conducted experimental broadcasts using ATSC 3.0. Beginning May 31, 2017, KBS began regular broadcasts using ATSC 3.0 to the Seoul metropolitan area. (For comparison, the U.S. is still in the experimental stage of ATSC 3.0.) By the beginning of this year, KBS had begun regular broadcasts to five major metropolitan areas around Korea - Seoul, Gwangju, Daegu, Daejeong, Busan, Wonju, and Illsan (near Busan). In the next few years, every area of South Korea will be covered by ATSC 3.0. (This is quite a feat, because, despite is small size, South Korea is extremely mountainous.)

At the current time, KBS is focusing on home TV platform delivery of ATSC 3.0. However, it is planning to move to more mobile technologies, first using dongles, then embedded chips in smartphones, tablets, and laptops/notebook computers. (For those of you who remember the broadcasters' failed attempt at Mobile DTV, the dongles and the specialized mobile phones needed to receive the Mobile DTV signal were the kiss of death for the delivery system.) One of the more interesting uses of the early ATSC 3.0 system in Korea was a specialized shuttle bus during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games that had a large television set in the bus playing the ATSC 3.0 signal for riders. The decision showed the possibilities for mobile delivery of ATSC 3.0 to out-of-home devices.

By 2027, KBS plans to have 100% of its programming being delivered using ATSC 3.0 in a UHD format. The company anticipates it will broadcast 1,260 minutes a day (up from 5% and 63 minutes a day last year) and a total of 462,280 minutes a year by 2027 to all platforms, and will provide protection for content producers from intellectual property theft using its UHD CP (UHD Content Protection) software.All in all, Korea is once again showing its abilities to lead the world in technology. The rest of the world will have to catch up.


REFLECTIONS ON CES 2018

In my last article I talked about innovations coming from two well-known companies, Westinghouse and Dell. In this article I want to focus of two companies you may not have heard of - Looxid and MirraViz. While both companies' products are interesting, both products have specialized uses and focus on different areas of the television world.

MirraViz has introduced an interesting display innovation for television and gaming. MirraViz is a projection system designed to allow two or more people to view different programs on a single screen. Using multiple small projectors set at different angles off the perpendicular each person sitting next to, or behind, the small projector can see his/her own program without seeing the other person's program. MirraViz is selling the system for gamers to allow multiple gamers in a single room looking at a single screen, but playing each game (or avatar, or first person) without others seeing what (s)he is doing. It's an interesting concept for the gaming industry, especially for multiplayer games where each gamer can play the game without telegraphing his/her moves. However, MirraViz also has television capabilities. Each projector comes with HDMI connections installed, allowing for different viewers to watch different programs at the same time without having to fight over a remote. One person could watch a ball game which the other person watches a movie on the same screen, sitting reasonably close to each other, without interfering with the other's viewing. Given that television is heading to on-demand all the time, the system offers distinct advantages for multiple simultaneous viewing.


Looxid demonstrated its LooxidVR headset, a VR headset that integrates eye-tracking and brain sensors into the headset. The two eye-tracking cameras show where on the VR screen the person is looking, how long the person looked at the location, and how many times the viewer returned to that location. The six brain sensors provide a readout of the brain-wave activity occuring during viewing, including emotional reactions to what's occuring on the screen. While not necessarily a product for the home, the LooxidVR headset system will be an excellent tool for content creators, content providers, and advertisers to get direct reactions and information about their programs or advertisements before making them available to the viewing public. With personalization of advertising and on-demand programming being the future of television, the ability to understand how different target groups respond to ads or programs becomes crucial as an antecedent tool for programmatic advertising and dynamic ad insertion for advertising and promotion of on-demand programs to the viewer. The LooxidVR headset makes that understanding possible.

UHD Display Progress in the U.S.

REFLECTIONS ON CES 2018

New York Festivals World's Best TV and Films

NOKIA: From Cell Phones to Virtual Reality

CES2018 - CONVENTION OPENS

1/9/2018

4/23/2017

4/26/2017

CES Unveiled - Part 2

1/8/2018

1/8/2018

4/7/2018

AT&T and Spectrum To Merge??

NAB 2017 is coming to a close, and with it, a convention heralding as a complete transformation of television as broadcasters embrace IPTV and OTT - or not.

Don't get me wrong - it's been an amazing convention, dominated by ATSC 3.0 otherwise known as NextGen TV, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and all the different elements that are needed for addressable, targeted, personalized (take your pick on the term of choice) advertising. Drones, while still exciting, did not command as much attention as in the past - or at least as much floor space. For the more than 103,000 attendees, NAB 2017 was a real look into the near and fairly near future.

OR NOT! I remember so well at the 2013 NAB Show, Gordon Smith, CEO of the NAB, thrilling me with his call for broadcasters to embrace new platforms and new ways of doing business. I remember thinking that he finally "got it," that maybe he had actually read my book and took it to heart (not likely). The slogan for 2013 was "Metamorphosis" and I remember thinking what a great choice and a statement of where the NAB was heading. I couldn't wait to see the progress during the coming year.

THEN came the 2014 Show - the "Channel Opportunity" convention. Instead of seeing the continuation of movement forward, suddenly Smith pretty much repudiated the progress he so eloquently spoke of the year before. No longer was there a call for new platforms and leading the way; now, it was why isn't there a "National Broadcast Plan" instead of the National Broadband Plan under development by the FCC. Why were broadcasters always disadvantaged in favor of the wireless, cable, and satellite industries, was Smith's message. It was a complete retrenchment from the previous year.

So how should we view this year's convention - as a clarion call to the future, or just one more temporary excitement to be dashed by another retrenchment in 2018? Fortunately, there appear to be signs of hope for the future of the broadcast industry, that this year could truly be the beginning of the transformation from a weight trying to hold back progress, to the beginnings of the broadcasters assuming a leadership role they should have taken a decade or more ago.

             1.  Everyone is talking IPTV/OTT. Vendor stands touting everything from modular elements to end-to-end solutions were everywhere. Sessions discussing/explaining/ encouraging IPTV/OTT solutions/use/advantages/importance dominated virtually every conference track throughout every day of the convention. The consensus seems to be that IPTV/OTT as a primary or at least secondary delivery system is inevitable. That, in itself, is positive news.


             2.  Just like IPTV/OTT, ATSC 3.0 dominated the convention. For broadcasters, ATSC 3.0 seems to be the next savior of the industry, and it was a topic for everyone at this year's convention. ATSC 3.0 dominated the central lobby and was in definite evidence in each of the convention center halls. ATSC 3.0 may have a chance at least to be rolled out and made available. Success may be something different - we'll have to wait and see. There are still numerous questions to be answered, but South Korea's rollout of ATSC 3.0 at the end of May could give a boost to ATSC 3.0 in the U.S.

            3.  Addressable advertising is the future of television advertising, of that there is no doubt. How it will develop, at this point, seems to be anybody's guess, although everyone agrees it's the future. At this point no one company has put together an all-in-one solution that covers every step of the process - that will likely take the acquisition of smaller companies by larger companies. There does seem to be a certain reticense among the addressable advertising professionals to be too vocal about the ultimate demise of traditional broadcast television advertising, and that's a shame. Addressable advertising may be the next area where broadcasters, advertising professionals, and the developers of addressable advertising clash.
            4.  Virtual reality appears to be more than just a novelty this year. VR/AR occupied significantly more floor space than last year with its own pavilion and presentations each day of the convention. Nokia dominated the space as expected (see my previous post on Nokia), but there were a number of companies providing competition.


So the convention ends - the excitement winds downs - and everyone heads home. Now the work begins. How will this convention be remembered? I guess only NAB Show 2018 will provide the answer. Stay hopeful, my friends.

While CES 2018 doesn't open officially until Tuesday, members of the media and industry analysts (including yours truly) were treated to "CES Unveiled" - a chance to see and talk with more than 100 different companies who were exhibiting their products. While many of the companies were start-ups, there were several well-established companies whose names the average person would recognize. While there were a number of companies demonstrating new lifestyle technological innovations, I want to focus on four companies over the next two articles - two well known and two not - that were demonstrating their television-oriented products. This article will look at the two better known companies and the next will look at the newcomers.

Westinghouse - the company that - along with three others - brought radio into existence, demonstrated home appliances on earliest television, and was a big name in television when U.S. television companies were the only ones worth purchasing, is back with a new television set for the consumer. While, evidently, Westinghouse has been in the television set business, you may or may not have realized it. I know I didn't. Westinghouse has a nice 65" UHD smart television set that is nice, but really doesn't look much different from any other. What is different is that the smart TV software is a form of Android TV, and it offers a variety of options that makes the television closer to the brilliant sets of the near future. The home page has all the apps you could want, along with Google Play Store to add any app you need. Further, the set also allows you to "cast" pictures and videos from any smartphone or tablet with no additional equipment (such as Chromecast). At $800 (what I was told anyway) for the 65" model, it may be a good deal if you are a heavy app user and want it on your TV set.

Dell - Yes, Dell is getting into television - sort of. They are demonstrating a projection system for television. It's UHD, and can project an image pretty much as large as you want. The projection comes from below the screen and is laser delivered. The picture is very nice - good color saturation and nice contrast, If I remember correctly, the cost was in the neighborhood of $2000, but then you have to buy the screen separately which they don't appear to be selling. The projection will look very nice on a high quality screen, but I became rather concerned when the person I was speaking with said that people could project the signal onto their walls at home, or paint a wall to serve as a screen. I have written about other projection sets during previous CES conventions and I don't see why a consumer would buy this system unless (s)he has a really large number of children or entertained a number of people on a regular basis. Maybe those would be a good use. I'll be interested to see if it takes off - I rather doubt it will, but we'll see.


Next article I'll cover Looxid and MirraViz, two newcomers with interesting products.

NAB 2018 IS UNDERWAY!

Last night I had the honor and privilege to attend the New York Festivals World's Best TV and Films gala at the Westgate Hotel as a part of the NAB convention. It was honestly, most likely, the closest I will ever come to attending an Academy or Emmy Awards celebration. In some ways, last night's awards gala could be my preferred one because it was truly an international event.

Awards were presented in a number of categories, including documentaries, sports, entertainment, and promotions, just to name a few. Winners came from around the world, including from Japan, South Korea, Canada, Romania, Great Britain, Sweden, Australia, and the U.S., among others. The U.S. was represented among the grand award winners for its production of Super Bowl 50, while ESPN won awards for its "30 for 30" and "Outside The Lines" series.

The documentary category was especially outstanding, in my opinion, as the winning entries focused on critical issues and concerns that exist around the world, with several of the winners focusing on the crisis in Syria and other such tragedies. It was wonderful to see the work by the different journalists, producers, and videographers who risk their lives and also their freedom to cover the stories about which the world needs to know.

For many of the smaller or less well known media organizations around the world doing outstanding and important work, the New York Festivals awards gala provides important recognition of their work as well as encouragement to continue telling their stories.

In addition to the awards for individual entries, the Festival also presented its Lifetime Achievement award to Tony Petitti, the Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball. Previously, Petitti had served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the MLB Network, where he was responsible for all of the day-to-day operations, from its record-setting debut in 2009 until he formally joined the Office of the Commissioner in 2014.  Petitti also served as Executive Vice President and Executive Producer for CBS Sports, Senior Vice President, Negotiations for NBC Sports and as Vice President, Programming for ABC Sports, and he was responsible, along with then-SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, for the first football conference championship game which changed to entire college football industry.

It was an amazing evening with fantastic representatives of the best of the world's television and film journalists, videographers, producers, and stories. As I said at the beginning it was truly an honor to be a part of such an amazing evening.

1/20/2018

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