NAB Show 2016 preview

Steve Plunkett

Steve Plunkett

As the NAB Show kicks off in Las Vegas, Steve Plunkett, chief technology officer, Ericsson Broadcast and Media Services, looks at the trends and topics that are likely to dominate this year’s event.

It’s NAB time again, and the great and the good from the global broadcast industry descend on Las Vegas to showcase their wares and discuss the future of the industry. There are always a few key themes at each year’s event and here are the ones to look out for in 2016:


There seems to be considerable excitement and debate around Virtual Reality (VR), 360 degree content capture and what it all means for the industry. The recent launches of the Oculus Rift VR headset and the Vive from HTC/Valve, along with the announced Sony PlayStation VR, have brought a new sense of reality and optimism to a proposition that has been tried unsuccessfully in the past. The focus of those vendors is primarily on gaming, but can it play a significant role in broadcasting?

The key question is whether VR can be employed in a way that enhances rather than distracts from the story being told. VR essentially hands over camera control to the viewer and is likely to suit some genres much better than others. Sports will likely be the focus initially as we already provide multi-camera viewing options today and VR would seem a natural, although more radical, extension of that model. There is much more debate, however, around the use of VR in linear storytelling as creative, not just camera, control is being ceded. It will be interesting to see how the industry positions VR at NAB.


Another contender for theme of the show is high dynamic range (HDR) and its sibling wider colour gamut (WCG). The Consumer Electronics Show has created momentum around these Ultra HD enhancements and now the industry needs to consider the practical implications of shooting, producing and distributing rich UHD content. With capable TV sets coming into the market this year and interoperability being addressed through standards, there are still a number of questions to be considered such as HDR media workflows, compatibility and the creative benefits of this new medium. Expect to see some stunning visuals and lots of discussion on this topic.

IP/ Software/ Virtualisation

While VR and HDR are more consumer-facing developments, there is still a great deal of work being done behind the scenes to make our technology and operations more flexible and affordable in a changing media landscape. Last year’s show saw some major announcements in the areas of software-defined broadcasting and during the past 12 months, considerable engineering effort has taken place by both the vendor community and those who wish to take advantage of this new tech stack.

We can expect to see more announcements and more complete demonstrations of how the IT-ification of broadcasting is taking shape. Much of the discussion will move from ‘can we do it’ to why and when should we do it.


We are moving from an era of mass audience reach to mass viewer personalisation and this will also be reflected at this year’s show. The increasing impact of data-driven media companies such as Netflix and Amazon, and changing audience expectation, is compelling broadcasters large and small to become data savvy, bringing in new skills in data science and becoming much more targeted in how they address their viewers. This is sure to be a topic of debate at the show.


Of course NAB is more than about a few key trends. We will wonder at the latest drones, discuss the promise of e-sports broadcasting and weary legs will explore the vast exhibit space to find something else that is new and interesting. I hope to see many of you there.

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