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4 Key Takeaways from NAB

Last week, our team had the pleasure of attending the NAB Show in Las Vegas where we heard from and met with some of the most innovative minds in the media, broadcast, and entertainment industry.

While the industry has changed a lot since 1923 when NAB first began, these changes have accelerated over the past few years. The pandemic has driven transformation in media and entertainment, turning technology into an urgent priority. Studios, production teams, broadcasters, creatives, and networks alike have quickly learned that the technologies they adopted during the pandemic have staying power beyond lockdowns.

Here are the four common themes our team observed during our time at NAB.

1. Storytelling remains central but is enhanced by technology

Stories are undoubtedly the cornerstone of media and entertainment. They have been since the industry’s beginnings and that likely won’t change. However, technology is changing and enhancing the way these stories are told and how these stories reach their audiences.

Podcasting, for one, enhances storytelling by giving a voice to a wider variety of creators. While breaking into entertainment traditionally requires capital and the right connections, podcasting is relatively accessible – podcasters need very few resources to begin. As comedian and podcaster Flame Monroe mentioned during a session about podcast networks, “your voice is your power,” and luckily, podcasting is enabling more people to find their voice. Over a third of Americans have now listened to podcasts, making now a golden era for podcasting.

Traditional media, too, is privy to the power of technology. The Weather Channel mixes technology and important storytelling with a feature they call “immersive mixed reality,” or IMR for short.  With IMR, the Weather Channel visualizes things like storm surges, tornadoes, and other weather events to show its audience the dangers weather can pose, especially in the face of global warming. As the Weather Channel panel explained at NAB, this kind of technology, while entertaining, is more than just a gimmick – it helps to tell a critical story especially as weather events become more extreme in the face of climate change.

2. Technology helps overcome industry obstacles

Aside from enhancing the stories creatives tell, technology also helps industry players overcome obstacles and increase efficiency. Virtual production provides a great example of how technology increases efficiency and accessibility for producers. Using high-quality virtual production environments to record, Vū Studios can mimic nearly any real-world environment for shoots.

This enables their clients to shoot in four different places in four different areas of the world – or more – in a single session. With virtual production, shoots aren’t contingent on weather or time of day – it can be sunrise and slightly overcast all day if that’s what you’re looking for. Essentially, virtual production eliminates the limitations of traditional filming. What began as a substitute for on-location filming during the pandemic has blossomed into one of the hottest innovations in the production industry.

3. Consumers are embracing new entertainment formats

Once upon a time, consumers could choose between books, linear television, movies, or games for entertainment. Now, there’s a whole world of options available to entertain consumers that couldn’t have been dreamed of 20 years ago. Consumers are increasingly choosing more interactive options for entertainment that allow them to engage instead of traditional “lean-back” experiences.

One of the earlier and most widely publicized forms of interactive entertainment was Black Mirror: Bandersnatch which allowed viewers to make choices for the film’s characters, affecting the outcome. Still, Bandersnatch offered a linear storyline in a sense with only 5 possible outcomes, all written before the user had the chance to “decide” the ending.

Now, other studios and platforms leverage this interactive format in new and exciting ways and blend technology like AI into their offerings. For example, Rival Peak from Facebook Watch allowed viewers to interact with AI contestants and determine who survived elimination, and help solve a mystery. There was no predetermined storyline or storylines, viewers were essentially writing the story as it played out. In total, the interactive experience amassed more than 200 million engagements and provides a framework for future entertainment experiences.

The metaverse is yet another emerging format that we dove into during a NAB session. We heard from Bjorn Book-Larsson, VP of Product at Roblox, a multiverse-type gaming and social platform akin to a 2D metaverse. Roblox is increasingly capturing the younger crowd’s share of time and brands are starting to pay attention.

Gucci, for example, launched a brand activation in Roblox during which they sold virtual purses for more than a real-life Gucci handbag. Additionally, a virtual Lil Nas X concert in Roblox garnered 33 million viewers – that’s more than 1,500 times the capacity of the iconic Madison Square Garden. While this platform may have adults scratching their heads, kids are spending a lot of time on Roblox, indicating that they’re ready for the kind of interactive, encompassing experience the metaverse has to offer.

4. Technology needs to catch up to our ideas to make them a reality

While all of the new and emerging ideas discussed during this year’s NAB Show are intriguing, technology still has a way to go to bring these ideas to fruition. Throughout sessions and conversations, we continued to hear the same message – the right connectivity and technology will enable what’s next in media, broadcast, and entertainment.

Here are a few technologies and features that will help the next generation of entertainment offerings take off:

  • 5G will help increase bandwidth and decrease latency for all kinds of applications with less hardware involved. Low latency is key to enabling technology-driven advancements in entertainment and real-time virtual interactions in the metaverse, for example, can’t happen without a low latency connection. New formats and technologies require higher bandwidth to operate, too and better bandwidth in more places to increase accessibility.
  • Edge solutions are central to enabling the next generation of ideas everyone in the media and entertainment industry is talking about. In the exhibit hall at NAB, it was clear edge was the buzzword of choice – a lot of the technology booths we passed by mentioned something about the edge.
  • The cloud is essential in bringing to life many of the concepts mentioned in this blog. Cloud gaming will need to precede the metaverse, and as alluded to in our media and entertainment trends blog, we’re just not there yet. The metaverse must be seamless and interoperable,
  • Security must be a top priority for industry players. Larger organizations have been getting attacked recently, including NVIDIA in March of this year. The broadcasting industry has little to no rules when it comes to cybersecurity, so it’s up to companies themselves to implement healthy practices and multiple layers of products to stay secure.

It’s clear that the future of the media and entertainment industry is technology-driven. While the content itself is perhaps most compelling, the solutions that drive this content forward are foundational.

Zayo is enabling what’s next in media and entertainment

Luckily, Zayo is working hard to make the future of the entertainment industry’s minds are dreaming up a reality. Our comprehensive suite of technology solutions backed by the largest independently owned fiber network is expanding the map of high bandwidth, and low latency connectivity needed to make things like the metaverse, seamless hybrid events, and interactive entertainment experiences possible.

We’re at the cutting edge of what’s next. Get our pulse on the latest trends in media and entertainment here.