NAB Show Preview: Live Event Rolls Back Into Las Vegas

Attendees check out show-floor exhibits during the last in-person NAB Show held in 2019.
Attendees check out show-floor exhibits during the last in-person NAB Show held in 2019. (Image credit: Al Powers/Powers Imagery)

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, broadcasters will finally be able to return to the National Association of Broadcasters’ NAB Show in person April 23-27 in Las Vegas. The organization has been working hard over the past several months to make it one to remember, splitting the event into three pillars — Create, Connect and Capitalize — along with the usual roundup of compelling keynote speakers and seminars.

The NAB Show was canceled in 2020 and went virtual in 2021 because of COVID-19. The return to an in-person event comes months after another big industry conference in Las Vegas, CES, did the same in January and hosted perhaps 45,000 attendees. While that was considerably lower than previous CES shows that boasted attendance of more than 100,000, NAB president and CEO Curtis LeGeyt is optimistic that the NAB Show can do better for two reasons: the omicron variant, still rising at the time of CES, appears to have peaked; and the new structure for the show is geared to optimize the time of virtually every attendee. (Future US Inc., parent company of B+C Multichannel News, publishes the NAB Show Daily under contract with NAB.) 

Also: NAB Show 2022: Graham Media Group CEO Emily Barr Sets Convention Expectations

LeGeyt said that as of mid-February, attendance for the show was looking strong.

“We’re on a trajectory for a very, very strong show.” LeGeyt said. “We’re very, very optimistic,” adding that he was encouraged by the CES numbers. CES was affected most by omicron, which kept home the throngs of consumers that usually populate that show. But those that did attend were hard-core business attendees, which could bode well for NAB. 

“There’s nothing that quite replicates face-to-face business interaction,” LeGeyt said. “Ours is a commerce-driven show, it’s a B2B event. For those who are looking to do commerce, which is primarily what our show is driven by, there is a real want for what the NAB Show offers.”  

Other industry executives said they’re equally excited.

Graham Media Group president and CEO Emily Barr said she is sending a full complement of people to the show, including general managers, Graham Media’s director of technology, IT directors and several attorneys. The number of attendees from Graham Media is about the same as it was pre-COVID-19, she said.

“We’ve always sent a pretty good-sized contingent of people to NAB, because we’ve always believed it was a great venue for us not only to attend and see what’s going on in the industry, in terms of equipment and other things going on, but it’s also great for us to get together there,” Barr said.

Hearst Television president Jordan Wertlieb said that his company is sending its biggest contingent ever to this year’s NAB Show.

“We’re going to be bringing all of our chief engineers from each of our stations, our corporate engineering staff and a lot of our corporate executive team,” Wertlieb said. “We’re going to be bolting group meetings onto the back side of the show, but we are going to bring all of our chief engineers to the show.”    

The biggest benefit is being able to meet again in person, Barr added. After two years of COVID-19-induced quarantines, it will be good to get to see old and new colleagues again. 

“I do think there’s a kind of energy and creativity that comes from everyone being in the same physical space,” she said. “Frankly, I think it’s going to be exciting.”

Zoned for Experiences

The new event design is built around real-world applications and workflows that, according to NAB Show senior VP of business development Eric Trabb, allows attendees to easily navigate the show floor and visit experience zones that bring products and technologies to life. 

The zones, focusing on the concepts of inspiration, innovation and implementation, are designed to give attendees a clearer sense of the larger picture, new directions and opportunities in broadcasting, as well as the tools and technologies to get ahead. 

Inspiration, Innovation and Experience zones are contained within each of the three pillars of the content life cycle — Create, Connect and Capitalize — with complementary activities and resources aligned with each pillar, to make it easier for attendees to learn more about specific areas of interest, network with like-minded people and find products. 

Also: NAB Announces Recipients of 2022 Engineering Achievement Award

For example, within the Create pillar, attendees will see that the focus no longer is on broadcast, film or radio, nor on any other narrow category like podcasting or webcasting. Instead, the Create pillar will function as a single place where attendees can find all the tools needed to do their work, whether they are broadcasters, videographers, streamers or other industry professionals. If, for example, an attendee is more focused on content distribution and delivery, those tools can be found in Connect. For a focus on content monetization, Capitalize is the place to be.

“Rather than having to run all over the place based on where particular companies are, we feel this is really going to match the needs of attendees,” LeGeyt said. “And the feedback has been nothing but positive.”

Barr said the new structure is a sign of the changing times in the broadcast business. 

“I think the show has morphed into a much more sophisticated, nuanced kind of show that allows a variety of people from across the spectrum to come together and get something out of it,” Barr said. “In the old days, it was really about going to see the trucks and the antennas — that’s all still there to some extent — but now we’re really looking at content development, we’re looking at a lot of digital technology and we’re understanding how different parts of the industry can work together. To your point about there is some deal-making that goes on, whether it’s looking at new entrants into the business and saying I’d like to do a deal with this company or I would like to maybe invest in this company, there’s a lot of different layers and I think that’s what makes the show really valuable.” 

Content Takes the Floor

Content is being produced for the show by NAB as well as by curated sponsors, featuring industry leaders and other individuals making their marks on the media landscape. But rather than having to look for this content in a meeting or conference room, NAB said attendees will see it come to life on the show floor, although there will be conference programs for those seeking more depth or technical content. 

LeGeyt also pointed out that the show’s intelligent content area, which is focused on data and analytics, should be a place of interest to attendees.

Curtis LeGeyt of NAB

NAB president and CEO Curtis LeGeyt (Image credit: Jay Mallin)

“This is a bit of a new experience for businesses that have historically built around advertising and carriage fees,” LeGeyt said. “There’s so much focus right now on data and analytics and how to incorporate that into our businesses. I think that’s going to be a really exciting part of the show this April. When you think about the companies involved — AWS, Microsoft, MediaKind, Veritone —  I think that’s going to be really interesting to see how our attendees respond to those offerings.”  

Actor and TV host Nick Cannon officially kicks off the conference on Sunday, April 24, with a conversation about his career, his talk show and his thoughts on how the industry has evolved over the past two tumultuous years. On Monday, LeGeyt officially welcomes attendees to the conference, later presenting former NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith with the NAB Distinguished Service Award followed by entertainment from nationally-known comedian Jim Gaffigan. 

On Tuesday, TikTok global head of B2B marketing Carly Zipp will participate in a Q&A with the NAB’s Jonathan Toomey, discussing the social media phenomenon’s history as well as sharing tips for NAB members on how to connect with their audiences on a deeper level.

On April 27 Smith will join Allen Media Group & Entertainment Studios founder, chairman and CEO Byron Allen for a conversation discussing their unique career paths, respective roles as advocates and leaders, and speaking on the value of local television.

LeGeyt said although there are many factors outside of the NAB’s control, he firmly believes that the April event is “going to be a compelling, well-attended show.”

“We feel the pent-up demand from the exhibitor side,” he continued. “The companies who are really our flagships are all back in the fold for this April show. We just feel like the right ingredients are there for a really successful show both on the attendee and exhibitor side come April.” ■ 

Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.