Attending the 100th NAB convention, I can only imagine how it compares to the first version. Now, the show expands to fill the massive Las Vegas convention hall with a range of production tech, software, and internet-enabled distribution technologies. I focused on delivery systems, video platforms, and related tech/providers. This meant I spent most of my time in the West Hall, visiting companies under the NAB-appointed topics of Connect (content distribution and delivery), Capitalize (the interface of content and commerce), and Intelligent Content (customization, personalization, and automation tools). I found that much of the talk revolved around a few main themes- the creator economy, monetization, and of course AI.

Considering the current economic instability, executives are pressured to make the organization more cost-efficient. Service providers are positioning themselves as a solution for broadcasters and content owners to do more with less. I heard from many companies pitching how they help find more innovative and granular ways to monetize content. A kaleidoscope of tools is coming onto the market to target and serve customers with personalized experiences, content, and advertising. Many service providers are currently touting their FAST (Free, ad-supported television) channel capabilities. FAST channels have gained a lot of momentum as a way to repurpose dormant content, also creating opportunities for viewers and advertisers. But this return to a kind of linear viewing has a limit on the number of channels that viewers would accept and contributes little towards new content. It has the ceiling of old-style linear broadcasting and few future-facing benefits. It feels that for some FAST channels are a stopgap idea, and some companies are working to make this delivery more customizable and scalable for the future.

A major growth engine service providers seek to harness is the expanding universe of content creators. Ranging from an individual running a vlog to a massive retailer spinning up a video-first digital marketing and retention strategy, content creators are more than traditional broadcasters or production houses. These potential customers need help, whether they have resources and knowledge to draw from or are looking to build beyond YouTube. I heard that many conversations begin with “Well, my boss told me I have to figure out how to do X.” Prospects need easy-to-use tools, basically to stand up a new media division with few resources. It feels like we are seeing a shift between cycles, where content owners might have wanted everything in-house but now seek outside service providers to take over complexity. In one sense, the pendulum is swinging toward consolidation where fewer providers offer more features in one package. However, at the same time much of the experimentation is at the margins—with new companies focusing on a narrow function or feature and then integrating with the larger platforms.

Seemingly all the software or platform providers have added some sort of AI. Some of this talk is surely inflated branding. I wager that many instances of machine learning are now being recast as AI. This grey area may see AI used for dynamic advertising, dynamic traffic balancing, and for object/face recognition. Some providers are working with true AI and the buzzy Generative AI, and while at present those are few the potential is tantalizing. AI could soon be seamlessly localizing content, bringing new characters or dead celebrities to life, and speeding up creative workflows. However, these use cases are all basically in the future tense. Talk about the potential, and potential disruptions, associated with generative AI soaking the dining rooms on The Strip.

Service providers are driving innovation to help content owners (and their marketers) both broaden their reach and drill down to ever more specific targets. At the 2023 show, inflated expectations of ‘the metaverse’ have subsided, and the mood seemed cautious of a recession and the challenges that will pose to subscription or ad-supported business models. The complexity of content delivery is such right now that a skills shortage exists, holding back wider and more rapid adoption of cloud-based technologies. However, at this moment, operators, broadcasters, and content owners have some exciting technologies to choose from to enable a galaxy of experiences.

About Nicholas Baugh

Nick Baugh works in Frost & Sullivan’s Digital Content Services team covering content delivery, media workflows, and emerging content formats.

Nicholas Baugh

Nick Baugh works in Frost & Sullivan’s Digital Content Services team covering content delivery, media workflows, and emerging content formats.

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