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National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2018, a media, entertainment, and technology event, took place from April 7 to April 12, 2018 in Las Vegas. The show attracted more than 100,000 visitors from 160 countries to learn about and share key insights within the media and broadcast industry. NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith delivered the annual NAB state of the industry address. Live OTT technologies and the tools that make them possible were the buzz of the NAB 2018 show floor. In addition, plenty was shared and seen about AI and machine learning in a content-creation environment. Also, the move to IP got a long overdue boost with the recent ratification of the SMPTE ST 2110 suite of standards.

The show presented a new half-day program within the next-generation media technologies conference titled Get Ready for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The program included six sessions that highlighted various ways machine intelligence is impacting content creation. The key takeaways from the NAB 2018 include:

IP to transport media. Given the rising popularity of linear OTT services, broadcasters and OTT providers are feeling the pressure to deliver more local station content while maintaining high standards of quality. IP networking has become the go-to strategy to transport video content from local TV affiliates to end-users. The current challenge is finding ways to use IP to enable simpler workflows while delivering the high level of reliability and quality viewers have come to expect. The consensus among leading industry influencers suggests there is room for improvement in this area. Many of the discussions at the show centered on the use of more robust public internet access providers and dedicated IP network solutions providers to transport the most important and highest value local content.

Cloud workflows. Three topic areas dominated the conversation. First, using the cloud for aggregation and live encoding of local, national, and international linear channels as well as to support traditional channel playout automation for local broadcast. Second, the practice of moving applications to the cloud that were traditionally performed locally, such as blackout management, digital rights management, and advertising insertion. Third was establishing proofs of concept and trials to determine if reliability and quality standards can be maintained in cloud environments, which traditionally support multi-tenancy and are not usually tailored to broadcaster requirements.

TV as a service (TVaaS). NAB saw several providers with the capability to not only deliver TVaaS, but also eliminate capital refresh in traditional cable and IPTV headends. These solutions allow broadband ISPs to offer programming bundles to their customers, increasing the average revenue per customer and reducing the likelihood of customer churn. NAB revealed a considerable amount of innovation coming from next-gen TVaaS platforms, particularly their ability to offer true IP-enabled workflows. This includes support for inexpensive and highly popular commercial OTT set-top boxes, movement toward a high degree of operator customization, and roll-out of end-user features that mimic or rival features found on traditional pay TV operator platforms.

NAB was concluded with sessions and exhibits featuring breakthrough technologies and innovations across media, entertainment, and technology. The sessions explored the evolving role of technology in content creation, and how cloud-based workflows and machine learning are altering the ways data is collected and navigated, among others. With 103,000 attendees from 161 countries and more than 1800 exhibitors, NAB is a marketplace for solutions that transcend traditional broadcasting and embrace content delivery to new screens in new ways.

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