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Stars, technology meld at National Association of Broadcasters show

2011 NAB Show

Steve Marcus

Geoff Grant, left, of CTV News in Toronto, Canada checks out a Panasonic television with interactive U-Touch technology and HEGO graphics software during the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Over 92,000 people registered for the 2011 NAB Show which runs through Thursday. The 2010 NAB Show attendance was 88,044.

2011 NAB Show

Brian Larter, managing director of Autoscript, poses behind a Autoscript Executive systems prompter during the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Over 92,000 people registered for the 2011 NAB Show which runs through Thursday. The 2010 NAB Show attendance was 88,044. Launch slideshow »

The National Association of Broadcasters convention is part entertainment, part engineering.

It involves celebrities in front of cameras and microphones and unidentified technicians who bring content into our homes.

It’s also for policymakers, regulators and experts filled with ideas about how they can deliver TV shows and radio programs to media rooms with theater-sized screens or portable devices that fit in our pockets.

This week, they’re all coming to Las Vegas.

An estimated 100,000 people are expected to jam the Las Vegas Convention Center beginning today when technical conferences begin. The meat of the show will be served Monday through Thursday when the trade-show floor opens and speakers and panels discuss top industry issues.

Show organizers initially indicated 85,000 people would attend the event — the third-largest convention on the city’s 2012 calendar and the world’s largest electronic media show — but strong advance registrations are expected to push attendance to more than 100,000.

An improving economy and the election year appear to be responsible for the surprising increase in show attendance.

Chris Meyer, vice president of sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the election year has brought a number of legislative issues to the forefront.

“I think between the improving economy and the election year, everybody in the broadcast industry wants to be educated and are coming to this show,” he said.

The sudden attendance spike is similar to the late increases seen in last year’s Specialty Equipment Marketing Association show and this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and World of Concrete convention.

“It could be late approvals of budgets and last-minute decisions, but we’ve seen a lot of shows that see a flood of registrations in the last 30 to 45 days,” Meyer said.

Chris Brown, NAB executive vice president for conventions and business operations, said improvements in the economic outlook also helped drive growth in attendance. Brown said broadcast companies have benefited from a rebound in the advertising business, and are expecting ad revenue to remain strong through the year because of the Summer Olympics and the election.

“While the recovery has been somewhat anemic, there has been at least enough stability to keep the momentum positive,” he said in an email. “As a result, companies are spending again or are looking to spend again. There was likely some pent-up demand as companies sat on major capital expenditures during and immediately after the recession.”

More than 1,500 exhibitors are expected to participate in the trade show, and attendees will come from more than 150 countries.

Based on attendance of 96,000, the LVCVA says the show is expected to produce non-gaming economic impact of $122.2 million.

The theme for this year’s show, held annually in Las Vegas, is “Making Sense of the Great Content Shift,” with speakers addressing how the telecommunications industry will change in coming years.

Among the speakers and panelists scheduled to participate:

Stephen Dubner, award-winning co-author of “Freakonomics” and “SuperFreakonomics,” will deliver the opening keynote on the massive changes in strategies, players, technologies and expectations in the industry.

• NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith will deliver the show’s “state of the industry” address.

• Las Vegas resident Jeff Jonas, chief scientist at IBM’s Entity Analytics Group who recently was named an IBM Fellow — the highest technical honor in the company, will talk about how his facial recognition technology enabled the casino industry to slow down card counters like the ones featured in the film “21.” Jonas is participating in NAB’s Military and Government Summit.

• “Titanic” and “Avatar” director James Cameron will speak on advancements in three-dimensional technology in the film-making industry.

• Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future, will outline trends in digital content demand and take questions during her presentation via social media.

• Sound design technicians and the director of “The Hunger Games,” Gary Ross, will speak as part of the “Creative Masters Series” conference.

The NAB also will recognize television and radio icons by inducting them into the industry’s Hall of Fame.

Actress Betty White, currently starring in “Hot in Cleveland”; TV and film icon Garry Marshall; and play-by-play announcer Bob Uecker will be inducted to the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Strip headliner Donny Osmond, who hosts two internationally syndicated radio shows, will keynote the show’s radio industry luncheon.

Industry regulators also will participate in the show. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will address a session on regulatory issues, as will commissioners Robert McDowell and Mignon Clyburn.

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