Chris Brown Discusses The Themes Of The 2024 NAB Show

The Broadcast Bridge sat down with Chris Brown, executive vice president and managing director, NAB Global Connections and Events to discuss this year’s gathering April 13-17 (show floor open April 14-17) and how the industry looks to the show each year for the latest in technology and business models.

Chris Brown, executive vice president and managing director, NAB Global Connections and Events.

Chris Brown, executive vice president and managing director, NAB Global Connections and Events.

For more than a century, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual trade show, NAB Show, has been a mainstay of the broadcast and professional video production and post industries.

It started in 1923, when 23 all-male attendees met at the Commodore Hotel in New York City to discuss “The Future of Broadcasting.” Of course, this was before the invention of television and consisted solely of National Association of Radio Broadcasters members.

Today—with AI, 8K, cloud computing and remote production all in play—that future is drastically different from what those original attendees could have envisioned, but the convention itself continues to provide invaluable technical and business information, as well as a welcome gathering of friends and colleagues for the thousands that now come every year from across the U.S. and a myriad of countries overseas.

This year’s show will feature over 1200 exhibiting companies exhibiting on the show floor and literally hundreds of keynote speakers, tech sessions and panel discussions.

He said this is a fascinating time to be in the Media & Entertainment industry a “be there” moment for attendees looking to get “plugged in.”

The Broadcast Bridge: Would you say the mission for the convention in general terms is still the same, or how has it changed?

Chris Brown: Our goal with the show is always to bring like-minded professionals together to discuss ideas and challenge each other in a myriad of ways. And it’s always changing because technology changes and moves forward. You know, 30 years or more ago , we saw the emergence of a thing called the internet that sort of changed the world and certainly changed the face of media.

Then came the end of the 90s and that's when the internet was sort of supercharging everything. That's also when there was so much interest in this new media that we had to use two venues to house it all: the LVCC and The Sands. If you remember, it was like two different worlds. The convention center was focused on the traditional member broadcaster (television and radio side of the world) and people wearing suits and ties, and then over at the Sands you had companies like Microsoft and HP and other players that we really hadn't seen in the mix before. Attendees there were wearing T-shirts and jeans and the occasional ponytail.

But then you really started to see this blending of things and changing of things, and we saw the impact that the internet really had on the industry as a whole. This was also around the time [1994] when we introduced something called Multimedia World over at the Hilton hotel (next to the main convention center).

Since then what's happened is that the scope of the show has expanded to become much more than its broadcast-centric beginnings. And we’ve built this passionate community of people that enjoy coming year after year to learn what’s new in technology and reconnect with their colleagues and friends. That’s something I've always loved about the shows.

So, that’s a long-winded way of saying that while the times and technology have advanced at an astounding pace, NAB Show’s general mission and service to the industry has not changed in over 100 years.

The Broadcast Bridge: How has the relationship between technology and TV station staff changed in recent years and how is this reflected at this year’s show?

Brown: Well the first obvious difference is that most products and services are now offered as software solutions. That means a station’s IT department might be the ones walking around the show floor, along with its chief engineer and technical staff.

We’ve organized this year’s program around three main pillars: “Create, Connect, and Capitalize”.  Within each one of those pillars, we're breaking it down to focus on those different subject areas, depending on which view you are most interested in. Whether you're coming in from a distribution view or the actual production creation side of the equation, or if you're just trying to figure out your ad model, there’s something valuable for everyone.

The Broadcast Bridge: Who is attending NAB Show these days? Has the type of professional that attends changed?

Brown: We’re seeing more IT-centric professionals and less people who are purely focused on video, although that’s a very simplistic way of looking at it. That’s why you will see a lot of educational themes in our program, with many sessions that are much more focused on the software side of the equation.

I think the old broadcast television engineer role has morphed into something that is so different. Like a chief engineer is now the station’s chief network engineer or their CIO/CTO. It’s become clear that today technical staff have to wear multiple hats.

The Broadcast Bridge: Under the umbrella of “Create, Connect, and Capitalize”, what are some of the main themes of this year’s show and why are they important to showcase?

Brown: In our world that the there's always the issue of quality and quality control. If I'm going to start putting things on the internet, in the cloud and all that kind of stuff, how am I going to guarantee that it gets on air when I want it to and at the quality level that I want it at and all that good stuff. And we’re seeing that workflow strategy used in live production environments, news environments and really in every environment you can imagine. So that's how we've kind of shaped the program.

The sessions will also explain how you can make money doing what you're doing. We've really worked hard to lay those key technology themes out and make sure we've got them kind of interwoven throughout those program sessions. And these sessions will occur both off the floor and on the floor, with some staged in our three “community” zones.

So, for each of the pillars we will have a couple of different theaters that are digging into all of these topics.

The Broadcast Bridge: There will be several sessions targeting the “Creator Economy”. Explain what this is and why NAB Show sees it as important to address.

Brown: This is an area that people are just waking up to, but it's become a massive community of folks on social media that are creating content at an amazing pace. We're talking about people who are considered Influencers. And this goes from eight-year-old kids doing it all the way up to production outlets like MrBeast, which has become the poster child for what you can do or what you can become working in this space. Jimmy Donaldson and team have created this insane machine now that has moved upstream and is starting to create content at very high level studios.

Goldman Sachs recently put out a report that said this Creator Economy world is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million people who are creating this type of content and actually making money from it. And the money is in the neighborhood of around $250 billion and could double within a few years. So it's not insignificant.

And some social media outlets, like MrBeast, have become a brand and a company unto itself. They’ve now got a whole team of people creating content. So that’s why we’ve created a home for those people on the floor called “Creator Lab,” and we’re working with two people who we’re excited to work with. There’s Robin Raskin, who is a tech expert that's been out there and done a lot of things with CES and other events. And then Jim Lauterbach, who was running VidCon for a number of years and has lots of knowledge in this area.

[Author’s note: As part of the “Creator Lab Theater, a session entitled “Expanding the Creator Economy with MrBeast” features a conversation with MrBeast's president, Marc Hustvedt, that explores the current state of the creator economy.” Tuesday, April 16 at 10:00 am pacific time.]

But the reality is, when these influencers start attracting brands and they start attracting advertising money, they are now part of this industry, that is really the next generation of video professionals.

The Broadcast Bridge: “Sustainability” has been a common topic of discussion. How is NAB Show helping stations address this issue at the event? Why is it important for the industry to get it right?

Brown: I'll be honest with you; I think we've taken a step but there’s a whole lot more we and others can and probably should do. We introduced our “sustainability awards” last year and will continue this year as well on the main stage.

So we definitely want to give it a spotlight and make sure people are aware of it and thinking about it. What we've tried to do here is draw awareness to this issue and to try to build momentum behind this program to get people thinking about how they can do a better job of reducing their carbon footprint. In 2023 we had good participation in the awards, but we'd love to see that participation double and triple. For this year it’s a bit early to know exactly what the entries are going to look like, but I am excited to see what the industry is doing to address sustainability.

The Broadcast Bridge: What’s NAB’s stance on AI and how it has/will affect the industry. NAB president and CEO Curtis LeGeyt has testified before congress on this. What perspective will this year’s show offer in this area?

Brown: This issue is top of mind for virtually everyone in our industry right now. There's no way we're going to be able to not talk about AI. We have more than 100 sessions built into the program that will have some focus on AI. So pretty much every nook and cranny of our program will touch AI in one way or the other.

No matter where you sit or wherever you go, you're probably going to hear talk about AI at this year’s NAB Show. And then certainly on the floor, you're going to have a lot of exhibitors that are bringing new AI solutions to the party.

The best we can do is provide the opportunity for the debate, to bring the right people together to talk about it and bring perspective to the industry.

I think what we've tried to build this discussion into the overall show program, just trying to get every possible perspective on it—both the tech perspective and the ethical perspective. So I think you'll see the promise and all the potential opportunity that exists with AI. But on the other side, there'll be enough there that people will also understand the risks that exist and the areas where they really need to be careful.

The Broadcast Bridge: Attendance numbers are slowly rising for the show. What do you expect this year, in terms of who will attend the 2024 NAB Show and what would you say to those that haven’t since the pandemic.

Brown: We've actually been growing a little better than slowly. Last year attendance grew over 20%. So that was exciting. And in reality that was probably the strongest growth we've seen in attendance in ten or 15 years. The best part is that people are coming back after staying away due to the pandemic.

We registered more than 65,000 attendees last year. I would anticipate we'll get another 20% bump this year. That would be great. But I'm thinking it will probably be more in the 10 to 15% range. So we should jump over 70,000 registrants in 2024, which is starting to get us back into the pre-COVID territory that we had been in where we saw 90,000 plus people coming to Vegas for NAB Show.

But the industry has changed, right? I mean, all the jobs have changed, the structure of the industry has changed. A lot of things are different. So it's just a different, different world. The one thing that I think the pandemic did for us is it reinforced the power of face-to-face meetings. Right? It just reinforced how valuable, how important it is for people to be able to get together and learn from each other.

I would encourage people to go with a plan. It's a big event. And you got to be able to know what you're after, and go with objectives in mind. But at the same time, you do want to be able to just sort of let things happen, wander around a bit. You’ll find stuff that you were never expecting and that's the magic of NAB Show.

At the end of the day NAB Show is all about trying to get people back together. The other thing is pace of change now. You've got to be plugged in, and this is the best way to be plugged in. 

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