NAB 2008: Broadcasting by Any Other Name . . . Is Broadcasting

If it's Monday in Las Vegas, on the first day of the National Association of Broadcaster's show, it must be time for the NAB president's keynote.

"Some people might think that, as head of the National Association of Broadcasters, I might not like that upstart YouTube," said David Rehr, President and CEO of NAB. "The truth is - I am intrigued by YouTube. It's funny. It's offbeat. It's free. I mean, where else would you find things like this?"

Lest his audience think he was being facetious, Rehr went on to explain that YouTube was not different from traditional broadcasting, but that web-based video clips or "episode" raises the bar for broadcasters.

"What you find on YouTube is a different world," said Rehr, "and it raises this question for radio and TV broadcasting. Because of YouTube, because of the internet, because of cell phones and iPods—is our model broken?"

Rehr pointed out that YouTube's Web site uses the tag line "YouTube-Broadcast Yourself.""They use the word 'broadcast'." said Rehr. "They obviously don't think the word is outdated or tired or irrelevant. But the question is, do we?"

An Eye on IPTV
To that end, NAB is looking beyond just the traditional Over the Air (OTA) broadcast models and toward solutions such as IPTV and web video, trying to assess whether those models hold anything new. While the jury is still out on the business aspects, a few announcements at this year's NAB show play toward making the technical feasibility of linking together traditional broadcast and "new" broadcast (computer or an IPTV playback).

IPTV is finally gaining some respect as Microsoft and Sigma Designs announce that they're collaborating on an Advanced IPTV System-on-a-Chip (SoC) for Microsoft Mediaroom. The Microsoft multimedia platform, which Microsoft has rolled out to service providers, is geared toward creating "connected TV services" and is targeted at telcos and other non-traditional broadcasters who want to ramp up their media distribution infrastructures but still provide enhanced benefits to the consumer who is currently on OTA or cable distribution. To that end, Sigma's SMP8654 SoC, which is supposed to provide an overall performance boost of about 50% of its first-generation System on a Chip, isn't just geared toward decoding content to play back.

"The combination of our SoC and Mediaroom will give service providers the ability to offer innovative connected TV services," the Sigma Designs press release stated, "such as PC to TV photo and music sharing and also DVR Anywhere, which gives consumers the flexibility to watch their recorded programs on any TV in their home."

This last piece is a key element for service providers who realize that consumers want IPTV to work like cable TV in one regard: the ability to watch the same content on any or all TVs in their homes. The move to a System-on-a-Chip solution means that chips could also potentially be integrated into the monitors themselves, without requiring an additional set top box.

The blizzard of press releases that get posted on the first day of NAB is often hard to decipher. A few that caught my attention, though, together define a move toward the growth of IPTV and web video in relation to the traditional broadcast space.

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