April 8, 2002 7:10 AM PDT

Broadcasters conference digs into digital

update Internet and digital TV streaming technology is poised to take center stage at events held during the National Association of Broadcasters 2002 conference, which opens Monday in Las Vegas.

The 79th annual conference, which highlights the convergence of Internet, cable, satellite and traditional broadcasting, will showcase a variety of emerging technologies for digital set-top boxes, video on demand, personal video recorders, and Internet audio and video streaming.

This year, more than ever, attendees will see the fruition of advancements in digital streaming technologies. Interactive content and digital and Web broadcasting will take precedence, according to industry veterans.

"Before, there was much talk about interactive digital television, but you really didn't have the tools to be able to create compelling interactive television or video-on-demand programs," said Peggy Miles, president of Intervox Communications and chairman of the International Webcasting Association.

"But now, we see a lot of the software manufacturers, from Adobe to Apple to RealNetworks, creating easy-to-use tools to produce the content for interactive TV easily--not only to produce it for the TV set, but also to produce it for the Internet."

Advancement in this arena has been hindered by high development costs for the technology, slow adoption of broadband and other high-speed services to improve delivery qualities, and a lack of standards among developers and manufacturers to create interoperable systems.

More broadly, the conference will feature new technologies and products that let broadcasters move easily from analog to digital broadcasting--a transition mandated for 2006 by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. So far, the migration has been slow because of costly upgrades to equipment for broadcasters.

Highlights of the conference include a new-media opening keynote speech Monday by Marc Andreessen, co-founder and chairman of Loudcloud and founder of Netscape Communications. Richard Parsons, AOL Time Warner co-chief operating officer and soon-to-be chief executive, will also deliver a keynote address at the opening ceremony.

Software makers expect more nods from traditional broadcasters and product manufacturers for Internet-based technologies.

"You're going to see a lot of these technologies that were considered fringe Internet technologies maturing to the point where the quality levels (help start to get them) integrated in mainstream ways," said Michael Aldridge, lead product manager of Microsoft's Windows Digital Media division.

Microsoft will be trying to garner interest for its next-generation Windows Media platform, code-named "Corona." Adobe Systems, Avid and Creative Labs are among the companies Microsoft has initially lined up to support Corona. Adobe plans to add Corona support to its Premiere video editing and production application and After Effects tool.

Conference-goers will also see practical applications of new video-compression technology such as MPEG-4, a recently released standard that backers say improves fourfold on the established format for the delivery of video and audio files. MPEG-4 also allows for creating interactive content within digital set-top boxes, video on demand and Net broadcasting.

"It'll be interesting to track MPEG-4's progress," said Kristine Kneib, president of KNK Seminars and Strategies, which specializes in MPEG video-compression technology.

"We may start to see a little bit of interactivity and personalization of TV devices at the NAB, and we'll start to see a lot more of it deployed in the year to come," she said.

The conference, which drew more than 110,000 attendees last year, started out covering radio and then moved to television. In 1998, its theme moved to convergence between multiple media, including cable, satellite, Net and terrestrial broadcasting.

"All these industries have been considered separate industries in the past, but now, what affects one could certainly affect the other," said Stacy Perrus, media relations manager for the NAB.

 

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