NAB 05
What’s On in 2006? (E,D)

NAB 2005: A High Profile Event in Las Vegas, as the organisers claim, with over 100.000 registered visitors, almost a quarter from outside the USA [1].

The hot topic of gossip at the NAB was the "revelation" to journalists by NAB Director Eddie Fritz that in the coming year responsibility for running the biggest trade show in television will be in new hands. Although his contract runs to 2008, Fritz says he sees his future as being ‘in the neighbourhood’, rather than as a hands-on manager.

What is likely to change? Without giving anything away, despite the thick dossiers of suggestions and proposals from consultancies and advisors, some idea of the direction that things will go, already seem to be clear:

- number of visitors would no longer be seen as the single main criteria for success;

- quality of contact among participants will in the future be given a higher priority;

- average age of participants will be more youthful;
new opportunities for media distribution will be brought centre stage;

- generational change is seen as a key to addressing the full potential of digital media, without negating the dialogue with representatives of the ‚analogue world’;

- range of new opportunities will draw on wider perspectives than the US industry and its regulatory framework;

- examples of „best practice“ will be sought and their value demonstrated beyond the exhibition hall;

- international visitors will be given more opportunity to demonstrate their interests, no longer perceived as a fringe group to the US Association;

- a dialogue will be encouraged with target groups and qualified individuals throughout the year and no longer be restricted to event planning.

For many exhibitors and visitors, in particular journalists, photographers and representatives of print, online and broadcast media would welcome a wider dialogue in the context of well defined target groups.

Anticipated initiatives include the following perspectives:

- Currently, the whole industry is concentrating on the introduction of new technologies based around digital systems and emerging standards. Other industrial groups and countries are far ahead of the US system of broadcasting. This year, for the first time, a representative of one of the major ‚Telcos’ was invited as a key speaker, which not only a significant step in terms of content, but also a symbolic change for the NAB.

- A decisive issue for the NAB is to identify long term developments, which will follow the current phase of digitalisation. Once the creation and consolidation of fully integrated digital systems and processes is in place, we will begin to see the continual development and implementation of applications and application scenarios including the legacy of communications- and mediation-techniques developed within the analogue era.

- The new generation, who have grown up within a digital environment, will make use forms and metaphors that are the work of preceding generations.

To illustrate this awareness we need look no further than the well known example of the wristwatch. When a numerical display, rather than a pair of hands, could be incorporated in wristwatches for the first time, many people saw that as a sign of the times and bought them with enthusiasm. Now, the workings of our watches remains ‘electrified’, but we have returned to a clock-face with hour, minute and second hands, even when these are part of a graphic digital display.

In the medium term, the perspective of the NAB will need to choose whether to encourage a debate between the digital world and its analogue antecendents, as the technical milestones for digitalisation are passed and the adoption of digital technologies has become entrenched. Of necessity, this debate can neither be restricted to issues of technology, nor limited to the geographical boundaries of the USA.

WS.

[1The exact figures for 2005 are 104.427 registered participants, among them 23.401 foreigners - in the previous year there were 197.544 participants, including 22.320 from abroad. Both sets of figures include accredited journalists. In contrast to the accepted opinion of success by the organisers and marketing and opinion research organisations based on a ‚headcount’ of participants, which has been the basis for judging the success of the NAB in Las Vegas since the beginning, it should be expected in the future that success will be evaluated according to the quality of the participants.