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Five Takeaways from NAB 2019: The Trends That Shaped South Hall

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NAB 2019 is in the rearview mirror, and we're turning our attention here to Streaming Media East (coming up in just three weeks!), but before Las Vegas completely fades out of view, there are a few trends and takeaways that are worth reflecting on.

It's Still Big, But Not as Big as Before

According to NAB, the show drew 91,460 attendees, including more than 24,000 from outside the U.S. That's down about 1,500 from 2018, but it's still the biggest video-focused event in the world (by comparison, IBC in Amsterdam pulled in just over 55,000 visitors last year. But South Hall—where almost all of the streaming-related exhibitors are—felt busier than ever before, with the corridors between exhibits almost as jam-packed with people as CES. By the way, the whole Las Vegas Convention Center was a ghost town on the last day, so if you're looking to spend quality time with vendors plan on being there on Wednesday next year. Yes, that's right: Wednesday. The exhibit hall in 2020 will be open Sunday through Wednesday, rather than the traditional Monday through Thursday.

BlogBroadcasters Are Finally Embracing the Cloud

That sounds strange to those of us in the online video industry, but whether out of a resistance to leaving their on-prem comfort zone or due to security worries, traditional broadcasters have been relatively slow to move to the cloud. The cloud’s time has clearly come, and its impact is being felt everywhere in the video ecosystem: producers and editors are using it (see Avid’s NEXIS Cloudspaces on Micosoft Azure), broadcasters are moving requests off the CDN origin with Akamai’s Cloud wrapper, and service providers are using offerings like Synamedia’s Infinite Platform to build OTT services fully in the cloud, on-prem, or using a hybrid approach. The cloud has even had an impact on how services are built on-prem, said Dan Murray from Tektronix, which introduced Sentry CX, a cloud-native video monitoring solution. "Even if they're installing workflows on-prem, they're doing so with a cloud mentality," taking a containerized approach.

It's All About Partnerships

"Patrnerships" has been a buzzword for years, but the booths at NAB were dominated by partner logos like never before. Companies are realizing that if they simply outsource a project, it will take longer than they want and likely won't meet their needs, said Verizon Digital Media Services' Mary Kay Evans. "And if you build it yourself, the rate of innovation you have to deliver on on a daily basis is insane," she said. "If somebody's ahead of you, why would you waste the time? Choosing the right partners is what it's really about, and I would say the word I would use is 'integration.' If they're not integrated, the technologies can't work seamlessly." Judging from the press releases and booth logos, the big winner this year is Microsoft Azure, which announced partnerships with everyone from VDMS to Akamai to Telestream to…well, you get the idea. (And yes, many of those companies also partner with Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services. Perhaps next year we'll see press releases touting "partner agnostic" solutions.)

A Wider View of Security

As OTT audiences grow, so do the number of pirates in their midst. At this year's NAB, security was a top concern, and now that DRM is a given service providers and OTT platforms are looking at other ways of protecting their content. Akamai doubled down on its security offerings, which now include VPN and DNS proxy detection, standard and enhanced TLS, and token authentication. "I feel like this is the first [NAB] where I'm seeing people react really strongly about security because they're losing money," said Akamai senior PR manager Chris Nicholson. "I saw a recent estimate that $52 billion are going to be lost in potential revenues because of content piracy, and that's everything from actually stealing files to pirating streams and illegally rebroadcasting them." SHIFT, IBM Security, Eurofins Digital Testing, and NAGRA all had well-attended exhibits under the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance umbrella at NAB, with each focusing on security at a different stage of the video ecosystem.

Selling Solutions, Not Products

Unlike exhibitors in Central and North Hall that had products attendees could get their hands on, many of the booths in South Hall were built around software and services that aren't exactly tangible. This year, more companies focused on how their offerings solve problems rather than simply explaining what they do. That seems obvious, but it's taken time for even industry veterans like Primestream (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary) to embrace it. Primestream is working on a new website, one that will start by asking visitors what market they're in, rather than hoping they can figure out what product they want to research. "The idea is that 100% of the people that land there will know what market they're in, so they'll click on their market," said Primestream director of marketing Robert Lisman. "We won't even have a product section. We don't want them to have to reverse engineer what it is they're looking for." What a novel idea.

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