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NAB's Smith: Broadcasters Must Seize Future or Concede It to Competitors

Complete Coverage:NAB Show 2013

TV's future lies in "our willingness to embrace new
platforms, and to go where our viewers want to go."

That is according to National Association of Broadcasters president
Gordon Smith, who addressed attendees at the opening session of the NAB's
annual trade show in Las Vegas. It may have been overcast and rainy outside,
but Smith saw sunshine in broadcasters' future. "As I look into your faces, I
am optimistic about the future that lies ahead for broadcasters," he said. But
that will require work and vision from the industry.

"We must seize the opportunities that new technology
platforms present to broadcasters, otherwise, we are essentially handing our
competitors the keys to our future," Smith said.

Where those viewers are going is top mobile platforms, and
broadcasters can provide mobility via mobile DTV without the congestion caused
by online streaming, he said.

Smith said that reliability is their trump card when it
comes to competing with wireless companies to deliver content to consumers.
"Our competitors in the wireless industry want to be part of the mobile TV
business... and they are investing a lot of money in this endeavor," he
said. "They are even branding their service mobile TV. But our competitors
will never have what we have -- the ability to deliver our high-quality content

And that includes for viewers who want to stay put, he said,
suggesting that it was no wiser to put all ones eggs in any single basket than
it would be to assume a dance craze would last.

"Consumers want TV where and when they want it,"
he said, "but they also want it to be live and reliable when the game is
on or during times of emergency." He reminded his audience that their
audience could be fickle. "Jon Stewart once noted, 'You have to remember
one thing about the will of the people: it wasn't that long ago that we were
swept away by the Macarena.'

While not committing to pushing for a new TV transmission
standard, Smith suggested it was worth some serious tire-kicking. "It is
my opinion that television broadcasting should seriously consider the
challenges and opportunities of moving to a new standard, allowing stations the
flexibility they need to better serve their viewers, compete in a mobile world,
and find new revenue streams."

In February, Cunningham Broadcasting's WNUV-TV Baltimore got
permission from the FCC to conduct a six-month  test of a
"next-generation" broadcast standard that the station argues could
help broadcasters be a player in the mobile, multiplatform and ultra-high
definition of the video future. That station is operated by under a Local
Marketing Agreement by Sinclair, which said other broadcasters would join in
the test.  

Smith talked about preserving free speech and the press,
saying that it was the keystone for other freedoms. "Whether it's news
about a local election, providing critical information during a storm, or
uncovering government corruption, broadcasters around the world are united in
their mission to inform the public, no matter the cost," he said.

Smith stuck with broad themes and did not get
into the weeds of broadcasters' issues with the incentive auctions, arguably
the industry's most challenging Washington issue. But he did say that,
generally, NAB has "led the charge on Capitol Hill and at the Federal
Communications Commission," arguing it has stopped harmful legislation and
shaped legislation to advance and protect broadcasting. He did not specify, but
the latter includes broadcasters shaping of the incentive auction legislation
to make sure it guaranteed the FCC would work to preserve the coverage area and
interference protections of broadcasters who do not participate.