I've been attending NAB since the 1970's. In those Good Old Days prior to 2002, every year was always bigger and better, In the years before 9/11, the NAB was almost always able to boast of annual attendance increases and records that made most all attendees and vendors happy. But since 9/11, many of the shows from my vantage point have been much more tentative in numerous ways. The recent recessions along with the burgeoning impact of the internet have made the radio part of this show more anxious and uncertain about the future. NAB 2011 seems to have turned a fair amount of that angst into a little more general optimism for many of the attendees I've been chatting with here.
There is no doubt that the SNR has very much increased this year, especially compared to shows in the last several years. When capital projects are put on hold for too long, aging equipment and older technology has a way of getting even. Stations and groups by necessity cannot put off the inevitable. Many need to be buying replacement transmitters, antennas and studio gear. Many of the folks with the big console and transmission equipment booths as well as the smaller accessory vendors are feeling a welcome change in attitude. Station decision makers are more willing to be writing orders this year. And that's a good thing for the industry and our audiences.
A lot of the radio tech buzz I've been overhearing is centering on HD topics. The asymetircal sideband option is going to help many of those stations with first adjacent channel problems. Owners and CE's that have made commitments to add or improve their HD operations want to take advantage of that, Another big concern is HD transmitter efficiency and more cost effective ways to add -14 and -10 dBc HD power increases. I'm getting the sense from many that if HD is to survive and prosper going forward, the power increase is absolutely essential.
The bad news for HD seems mostly on the AM side. There appear to be just too many obstacles for the venerable senior band to make AM HD a compelling sell. Adjacent channel interference...especially skywave interference, overpass fading and the additional expense to make antennas work could be placing the bar too high for most. Add to that the reality that most all successful AM's program news, talk or sports and rely on the spoken word, The need for high fidelity or even scrolling display data is something consumers just don't care about. But as long as FM HD and car radio penetration keeps growing, AM HD is in the radios and along for the ride for those stations that want to run it.
-- Phil Simon