How Digital Distribution Has Impacted NAB

Mar 28, 2019  |  by Andrew Ryback

The National Association of Broadcasters Convention is quickly approaching for those of us who make the annual migration.

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The National Association of Broadcasters Convention is quickly approaching for those of us who make the annual migration. If anything, NAB provides us a reminder that “change” is always present and seemingly the only constant in the media industry. Compared to the first 70 years, the last twenty years in the broadcast, and now digital media, has seen changes that are almost mind numbing for broadcasters and businesses alike looking to advance their brand through content creation. This push towards digital distribution has also had an impact on NAB. 

The Impact of Digital Distribution

There is one change that stands out from the rest for being impactful and disruptive to the media industry. When the broadcast industry transitioned from SD to HD, it created a cataclysmic change to the landscape. Not for the reason of going from a 4×3 picture format to 16×9 and higher resolution image, but rather going from analogue to digital. This transition to digital signal processing has led us to the world we now have of multiple streaming platforms competing with traditional broadcasting and cable channels, all of them servicing the “content consumer” via a myriad of viewing devices utilizing multiple transmission methods. The recent milestone event of U.S. homes utilizing streaming platforms now exceeding traditional broadcast/satellite/cable homes is further evidence of the digital impact.

Direct-to-Consumer Workflow

For content producers, the old business paradigm of creating content for broadcast distribution and then selling the commercial time has been irrevocably impacted by the many industry disruptors who have made the decision to take their business direct-to-consumer. The early direct-to-consumer disruptors made expensive capital investments to support this new way to reach their consumers. The belief was that it was more advantageous to distribute their unique content their way. As time went on they found that it was also more profitable to use their capital resources in this way to increase product sales, create trade lift, and enhance brand awareness, rather than through traditional marketing methods.

Make no mistake, broadcast, cable and satellite will be here for a while and are still garnering the largest audiences. However, that will change as young consumers who don’t utilize traditional content consumption methods today become the dominate audience of tomorrow.  In some areas (gaming) these numbers are already dramatically in favor of the streaming platforms.

Affordable Content

With the seemingly constant technology advancements happening in digital production workflows, the cost of creating content, which can be available across multiple distribution platforms simultaneously, is becoming much more affordable. Even small niche businesses can find the right price point to get into the content creation business, often within traditional marketing budgets.

The traditional large broadcast product manufactures understand the desire for scalability in their offerings. Not all productions are Super Bowls. They are now competing for the niche business workflow as aggressively as they go after the big box broadcasters. Similarly, the digital workflow paradigm has also allowed smaller, nimble and niche product manufactures a level playing field with the big boys. Very creative solutions are being developed each year impacting such things as automation, multi-camera streaming, content storage, simultaneous multi-version content creation, AI, AR, VR and image capture to name a few.

As an industry veteran, I have been coming to NAB since the early 1980’s. Over that time, I have worked at local network affiliated stations, networks such as ESPN, and consulted for others such as CBS, and recently, businesses who wish to reach their consumers through their own content creation. Many, like myself, make this trek to Las Vegas to understand the next wave of technology to impact our industry. As in years past, I am once again looking forward to seeing what new technologies will be on display to enhance our client’s goal to better connect with their consumers.

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