NAB Show ‘22: LIVE from the LIVE conference about LIVE streaming

Axioms can be comforting in their inevitable truth. If you dig a deep hole, you will find water. There’s no crying in baseball. If you work in tech PR long enough, you will eventually find yourself in a sprawling Las Vegas convention center for a trade show.

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, 50,000 professionals flocked to the desert for the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference after a 2-year hiatus. While the numbers are off from the over 90,000 that attended the final pre-COVID NAB, it was a welcome return to a full trade show experience, and we got an interesting look at an industry in flux:

Measure what matters

NAB Show 2022 just happened to land the week after CNN+ was abruptly shuttered, and Netflix’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, where the company shed 25% of its value on news that it lost 200,000 subscribers. While investors were surprised, the experts on panels and main stages at NAB had been waiting for this shoe to drop for quite some time, because Wall Street is watching the wrong numbers. As NAB chair Dan Rayburn explained, “Netflix’s revenue increased 10% and its numbers improved in [Asia-Pacific], yet Wall Street was stuck on its subscriptions. Netflix should stop reporting those, as Apple stopped reporting iPhone unit shipments.” Instead, streaming players should focus more communications effort around celebrating reductions in churn, newly acquired global audiences (won through M&A or service expansion), and concentrated viewership around new content releases. So expect less binging and more episodic rollouts.

We’ll do it live

Seemingly every conversation at every NAB party eventually got to the topic of streaming live events. Content catalogues among the major US players are too similar, and expensive original programming like The Mandalorian is not stopping the streaming industry’s problematic churn rate, even when it wins Oscars. Instead, experts at the show see a move to unscripted live programming, including sports content, as a lifesaver for streaming players with deep enough pockets to afford the rights and a quality broadcast experience.

Let’s get physical

Peloton star Cody Rigsby’s keynote on the main stage showed just how expansive the term ‘broadcaster’ has become. Rigsby became a household name with Peloton’s 5.9 million members, through paid smartphone apps or their connected bike screens. That’s a fraction of the audience of last year’s Super Bowl broadcast, but the relationship users have with their favorite instructors goes deep, and is renewed daily. While Rigsby thinks screens in nontraditional places, like exercise machines, will become more common in the years ahead, he stressed the importance of an authentic, engaging personality that can greet users with empathy and vulnerability to keep them coming back again and again.

We’re gonna need more K’s… someday

All three convention halls were filled with 8K streaming codecs, 8K-capable cameras, and equipment to carry the much higher capacity 8K streams to users. But many at the show acknowledged that ongoing chip shortages will likely delay widespread adoption of 8K TV’s for years, while 4K adoption in the US still lingers below 50% of homes. We’ll likely see streaming giants offer prestige shows, movies, and live sports in 8K soon, even though it will only satisfy early adopters. They won’t have to re-encode that content into 8K in the near future, like we’re seeing with SD-to-4K transfers now.