Herewith, the State of the Industry address delivered by NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith during the NAB Show:
Thank you. It’s wonderful to see all of you here. I so appreciate your attendance at this great show. We welcome thousands of people from all corners of the globe joining us this week as we celebrate the exciting evolutions taking place in media and entertainment.
As I look into your faces, I am optimistic about the future that lies ahead for broadcasters. Now, some may disagree… Some may not feel optimistic about broadcasting’s future. As president and CEO of NAB, I feel differently.
Every morning, I find a new challenge and a new opportunity awaiting me. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” I like that, and I believe that broadcasters are also a naturally optimistic bunch.
And that stems from broadcasting’s ability to endure and adapt to consumers’ changing habits since the very first broadcasts were aired. Even in a world of tablets, smartphones and digital dashboards, broadcast radio and television are as relevant today as ever. And some might say more relevant…as Americans become dependent on new technologies, radio and television continue to thrive and prove time and again their dependability when all else fails.
Not too long ago some within our own industry raised the question of whether radio, specifically, was on the verge of being pushed out of the automobile. I think consumers and the leaders in Detroit said it best with a resounding no! But it is a good reminder that broadcasters can’t take their place in the dashboard for granted…we must continue to innovate and provide the content listeners want on many different platforms.
We must keep our eyes focused on the new doors that open before us. The danger for any business that becomes complacent is its being left behind.
Today, I want to talk about the future of radio and television – both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead – and how we must take control of our destinies to thrive in a digital age.
Before I begin, I am reminded of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speechmaking advice, “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” Ladies and gentlemen, that is my intention today.
Now, I wish to share some truthful – but I hope tactful – thoughts with you about the future.
Again, Churchill reminds me that “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” While I will try to be tactful, the journey I wish for broadcasters will lead this industry to the “sunny uplands” of future days, as Churchill envisioned them.
In the past year, we’ve seen great success in our advocacy strategy. Working in unity with America’s broadcasters, NAB has led the charge on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission, stopping legislation that we deemed harmful to our listeners and viewers, and shaping other legislation to advance and protect the interests of broadcasters.
Radio and television stations have united to remind lawmakers of broadcasting’s integral role in every local community through our “We Are Broadcasters” ad campaign. Stations across the country are running radio and TV spots highlighting the many valuable ways stations serve the public.
Though we have successfully unified in our advocacy, our work in securing broadcasting’s important place in American life continues. Our future lies in innovating and spurring technology that will deliver our highly valued content to any platform for generations to come.
The time has come for us to unite in our embrace of new technology and to realize the consequences if we don’t. We must ask ourselves, “What is our vision for the future of radio and television?”… and “How do we grow our businesses?”
For television, our future lies in our willingness to embrace new platforms, and to go where our viewers want to go. Emerging technology presents a great opportunity for broadcasters to provide viewers with our highly valued content anywhere, on any device, anytime they want it. For example, many stations that have embraced mobile TV are delivering broadcast television signals to consumers wherever they are – in their homes, cars or at a baseball game.
Just today, we heard a new announcement about more markets coming on board with mobile TV. Coupled with an announcement last week, 25 new stations will be lighting up mobile TV in some of our biggest cities. If you haven’t yet seen mobile TV, you’re in the right place. Not only can you see the technology at the show, but we have these devices available in the NAB Store this week.
Our one-to-many architecture allows us to deliver a product where there is no streaming necessary, so there’s no signal congestion. 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. 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 reliably.
As consumers’ appetite for local TV on-the-go continues to grow, broadcasters must continue to rise up to meet consumers’ desire for more live, local TV content. We must seize the opportunities that new technology platforms present to broadcasters, otherwise, we are essentially handing our competitors the keys to our future. And we must also continue to examine our own architecture and whether we have the tools necessary to move our business forward, to provide new revenue streams, and to lay the groundwork for future growth. The possibilities are limitless, but we must first make sure that our technology allows us the flexibility to develop new tools, perhaps even micro targeted advertising, to compete in a field crowded with competitors who are doing these things.
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. NAB will continue to take a leadership role in examining the best ways to expand the value of broadcasting to emerging platforms.
Let’s now talk about radio.
Recent events have proven that radio is an indispensable lifeline to every local community. We were reminded of this when Hurricane Sandy struck the Eastern seaboard last October. It was also a reminder that built-in radio in mobile phones is an effective way to inform people of pending danger. Up and down the Eastern seaboard, we heard stories of cell networks and broadband connections being down for days, even weeks. But radio was always on… always there for its listeners.
My former Senate colleague, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, said of broadcasters’ response during Hurricane Sandy, “Local radio, especially, was a lifeline for those without power, and I applaud everyone who worked around the clock to make sure that residents received timely and accurate information.”
This technology provides many benefits to consumers, broadcasters and manufacturers alike. Future radios in smartphones will combine over-the-air and online content for a rich, “hybrid radio” experience that provides interactive enhancements, along with potential new revenue opportunities. NAB Labs – our innovation team – has been working on this technology along with many radio broadcasters. There is so much potential for this service.
We just need to continue educating, and also incentivizing, our friends in the wireless industry about the benefits of voluntarily providing their customers with the instant emergency information broadcasters provide. Thanks to many leaders in the radio business, like Jeff Smulyan of Emmis, Sprint customers will soon have a wide variety of smartphone options that receive local radio stations without using a data plan – this is great news for radio listeners.
There is no better or more reliable resource for information during times of crisis than broadcast stations. But as consumers’ media consumption habits change, how will you keep one step ahead of them? In radio, is the future streaming, or is it over the air, or both? Consumers, ultimately, will answer this question.
I have no doubt we will we continue to retain our rightful place in the automobile, and that we’ll be offering not just AM, not just FM, not just HD, but an interactive hybrid experience that gives our listeners more options than ever before, all for free.
And we all know, it’s very hard for paid services to compete with free.
How will TV stations continue to adapt and innovate to better serve their viewers?
Consumers want TV where and when they want it, but they also want it to be live and reliable when the game is on or during times of emergency.
Will broadcasters be willing to embrace new technology standards in order to improve mobile capabilities and move their businesses forward, even though it requires taking a risk?
Of course, consumers can 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.” [At this point, Smith busted a Macarena move. And not badly.—Ed.]
But when it comes right down to it, viewers and listeners know they can depend on their local radio and television stations to always be there when it matters most.
Finally, and in closing, as we talk about the future, and the day-to-day details of broadcasting, it is well not to forget the past and our highest purposes. I was reminded of this last year when I accepted an invitation to deliver a keynote address to the International Association of Broadcasting, our colleagues in South America. They asked me to speak to the issue of the broadcaster’s role in preserving freedom of speech. I was surprised by the suggested topic, because like many in the United States, I assumed it was a given, a fundamental human right everywhere.
But some nations in our Southern Hemisphere, I was reminded, are one election away from losing this precious freedom.
How to address this topic was made clear to me when I was given a tour of old Montevideo, Uruguay. The ancient stone gateway to that city still stands after some 400 years. It does so because of the keystone at the top of the structure that holds it all in place. Take the keystone out and it all comes tumbling down.
Such is the role of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of speech and press contained in it. The highest calling of broadcasting is to keep the keystone of freedom securely in place – the freedom of speech and of the press.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Let the people know the facts and the country will be safe.” 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.
I feel grateful and honored to defend this keystone as the head of NAB. And it is my hope that all of you also approach your mission as broadcasters with a greater comprehension and appreciation for our highest purposes as public servants and as defenders of freedom.
I thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you today. And thank you again for being at the NAB Show, where we have the opportunity to learn from each other and to remember the past and talk about the future.
I look forward to working closely with you as we continue down our path to success – meeting our challenges head on, and embracing the opportunities before us. Thank you.