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NAB 2024 Show Review & the Future of Streaming

NAB 2024 Show Review & the Future of Streaming A lively NAB once again underscored that progress in media and entertainment shows no signs of slowing, with AI and cloud integration, tech innovation and personalization taking center stage.

Toronto, Canada(30 Apr 2024)

A lively NAB once again underscored that progress in media and entertainment shows no signs of slowing, with AI and cloud integration, tech innovation and personalization taking center stage.

The AI Age
Given the massive potential of generative artificial intelligence in media and content creation, it is no surprise that AI dominated at this year’s NAB. It was everywhere. Along with a healthy air of scepticism and pragmatism from crowds.

Pixelscope Co., Ltd demonstrated its AI-powered broadcast sports solution and AOTO's AI+ visual products featuring cross-modal generative AI by Cuebric, showed how the technology can revolutionize the efficiency of virtual production, reduce production costs, and make AI+XR virtual production more widespread.

While Cioni and AI tools developers like Pinar Seyhan Demirdag, Co-Founder and CEO of Cuebric, shrink away from the notion that AI will replace the human collaboration that makes film art, Cinematographer Roberto Schaefer (Quantum of Solace) heeded caution in his masterclass, warning that we will eventually lose control.

Despite impressive capabilities, the use of AI in entertainment has been the source of several controversies in recent weeks. Netflix has come under fire over alleged altered images used in true crime doc What Jennifer Did, and promotional posters for A24’s new film Civil War have led to concern over the growing use of artificial intelligence on screen. There was also a small social media flare-up over AI-generated band posters in the new season of True Detective, following some viewer concern over similarly small AI-generated interstitials in the indie horror film Late Night with the Devil.

This begs the question, where do we draw the line? There’s been pushback from cinephiles over the use of AI enhancement, but generative AI offers an expansive range of possibilities at stages throughout the production value chain. As the technology advances – and with it moving so fast – it will be interesting to see how the industry chooses (or not) to implement AI-generated content across entertainment domains and how vendors start to differentiate themselves through the actual application of AI in their solutions.

Cloud Solutions

The integration of cloud technology was showcased as increasingly integral to live remote production, post-production workflows, and everyday operations.

In March, the National Hockey League (NHL) became the first professional league to produce a live-to-air cloud broadcast, a demo that was replicated at NAB, which involved camera feeds sent over Verizon’s 5G network to be processed by Amazon Web Services (AWS) at the cloud edge “with the speed from content capture on ice to broadcast going from seconds to milliseconds.”

AWS further demonstrated its cloud capabilities for powering live news broadcasts with a visual and audio mixing presentation with graphics overlay, editing, and other tasks performed remotely.

The AWS exhibit displayed a cloud-based newsroom developed in collaboration with NVIDIA, allowing attendees to observe live cloud production in action. Visitors could also engage with stations addressing critical industry topics from content production to monetization and participate in interactive experiences like the Generative AI Playground and AWS Builder Zone.

Personalization

Another trend at the forefront of NAB was the growing demand for increased diversity of content and tailored experiences. Personalization and hyperlocalization are becoming ever more important, particularly among younger audiences, echoing Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends study where half of respondents said they would spend more time on streaming video services if it was easier to find content.

With the proliferation of streaming platforms and digital channels, the takeaway was that curating unique lineups and utilizing real-time data analytics beats against algorithm-picked recommendations that deliver content that resonates with viewers' preferences and current trends will come out on top.

Life in the FAST Lane

One theme that dominated at this year’s show is the rapid rise and growing importance of streaming, particularly the rise of free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels.

2024 has been tipped as the year FAST content moves from the sideline to primetime, with greater choice, depth, and discoverability available. This shift highlights a rising demand for premium channels featuring diverse content genres, blurring the lines between FAST channels, traditional TV, and subscription streaming services.

In a session that examined the opportunities and challenges of free ad-supported streaming leading, a panel from the FAST space scrutinized content curation, personalization, discovery, loyalty, optimization, localization, and monetization. The panel also discussed the role and responsibility of platforms and publishers in delivering value to viewers and advertisers, and in fostering a healthy and diverse FAST ecosystem.

One of the standout points was how streaming platforms can curtail marketing expenses through strategic investment. By securing exclusive content rights, platform providers can significantly boost existing audience engagement and broaden their user base. Leveraging its established audience, exclusive content allows the platform to focus on both promoting and creating new content, all the while effortlessly attracting new users in the process. 

Looking ahead, the future of FAST will likely focus on optimization, particularly around issues of discoverability and user experience. Innovative advertising formats, such as interactive ads and sponsorships, will also be essential for engaging viewers and effectively monetizing content.