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High-tech equipment rules the slots at NAB

Sony, Panasonic, Canal+ to announce long-term strategies

LAS VEGAS – The 105,000 industryites converging on Las Vegas for this week’s National Assn. of Broadcasters confab, which ends Thursday, didn’t come to hear Wayne Newton or hit a 21.

No, they’re there for the tech again — specifically for the tools that will help them conquer the digital- and Internet-dominated landscape.

High-profile announcements are expected from Sony, Panasonic and Canal Plus Technologies, among others, which will highlight both the tech toys (film cameras, editing and datacasting equipment) and long range Internet broadcasting and development plans.

NAB 2000 keynoters aree Viacom chairman and CEO Sumner Redstone; Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!; Mitchell Kertzman, prexy and CEO of Liberate Technologies; Steve Canepa, vice president of marketing for IBM global media and entertainment; and Edward Fritts, CEO and prexy of the NAB.

The five FCC commissioners are also expected to attend the show.

However, several players won’t be roaming the 21 football fields of technology on display at the Sands or Las Vegas convention center show floors — at least not officially.

NBC formally resigned from the NAB in March after accusing the trade org of refusing to push for deregulation of an industry that faces competitive threats from cablers, satellites and the Internet.

Fox resigned from the org over similar public policy differences last summer.

The central issue between the networks and the NAB is the former’s push for deregulation of national station ownership caps. The affils want to keep the current cap, which limits broadcast companies to a 35% of national audience reach through their owned stations.

The affils argue that the networks are already too powerful, and granting them the right to own more stations will make it tougher to negotiate compensation and scheduling.

The networks insist that the current rules hamper their ability to compete with pay TV services, including cable and satellite.

The issue should continue to prove a topic of heated discussion at the confab.

Elsewhere, “Saturday Night Live” cast members and exec producers Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol will be inducted into NAB’s TV Hall of Fame, while Tom Joyner of ABC Radio Networks will be the hall’s radio inductee.

The formation of the advocacy group, the Internet Broadcasting Assn., “to preserve, protect and promote the rights, privileges and quality experience of the Internet citizen” is also on the sked.

And for the first time, this year’s show will utilize its connection to the Venetian Hotel and Casino for events. Several companies are hosting luncheons or other events in the Venetian’s ballrooms.

Also among the 1,391 booths spread out over nearly 913,000 square feet (up from last year’s 880,000 square foot presence) at the Sands and Vegas Convention Center will be displays by Avid and SoftImage showcasing their visual f/x and animation tools. Barco will show off its digital projection technology.

Interactive TV companies and digital video recorder makers TiVo and ReplayTV are also expected to continue their push for industry acceptance.

New exhibits include eTV World, which showcases advancements in digital television, video streaming and satellite and wireless Internet distribution through an e-living room, e-studio and e-cinema demo.

Similar displays will be broadcast at Internet.Theater@NAB2000, another venue sponsored by Microsoft, which is also get-ting its feet wet at the confab with its Microsoft Partner Pavilion, showing off its Windows Media Player and other broadcast tools.

And with Congress’ call to roll out digital TV signals and HDTV, broadcasters will be checking out the tools required for them to comply. These include $1 million telecine systems from machine builders such as ITK, whose “millennium machine” handles digital transfers of all film formats — from 70mm to Super 8 and Vista Vision — to any video or data format from standard definition to HDTV, 2K and 4K data output.

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