Reflections on NAB 2011

by Brett Sappington | Apr. 15, 2011

My past few days have been spent navigating the taxi lines and show floors at the NAB 2011 event in Las Vegas, Nevada. While last year’s event seemed to be all about 3D TV, this year appeared to be all about multiscreen delivery (at least in the South hall where I spent most of my time). Many of the exhibitors displayed their solutions for getting video content, live and on-demand, to TVs, PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and anything else that had a screen, browser, and an IP connection. While there was much to see, here are a few trends that I noted.

The Tablet and the TV: BFFs. Apparently, what the TV was missing all along was the tablet. Many in the industry believe that the tablet will become an important complementary device to the television. Exhibitors at the show promoted convergence services and technologies for content discovery, remote control features, social interaction, e-commerce, and other functions on the tablet. For example, Motorola Mobility demonstrated a tablet app that lets you interact with friends or vote for the next American Idol favorite, all synced to what you are watching on TV. While tablet penetration in the US is less than 10% at the moment, Parks Associates (via my colleague Harry Wang) believes that penetration will grow to over 50% by 2015. As such, operators are grappling with what and how to deliver to the newest screen in the digital home.

Everyone is Gunning for Akamai: At least two dozen times over the past three days, companies showed me how I can wean myself from all or part of my traditional CDN service (Akamai, Limelight, Level 3) by either building my own CDN or using their CDN-like service. Ingest and content management? Check. Encoding or file format changes for multiscreen delivery? You bet. Subscriber management and conditional access? Not a problem. Verizon announced their own service (Verizon Digital Media Services) that will handle all aspects of your CDN and will ultimately deliver the content, from content owner to consumer, over its own or partner networks - without the video ever touching the Internet proper. As operators increasingly add their own CDNs it will be interesting to watch this space to see how the content delivery space will evolve, both for the traditional CDN players and for the new kids on the content delivery playground.

Brett Sappington, Senior Analyst

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