The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) held their annual conference this week in Las Vegas. Some 68,000 attendees from broadcasters to screenwriters, advertisers and streamers, to producers and filmmakers were eager to learn about the latest in media and entertainment technology. Some 1,200 exhibitors set up shop in the Las Vegas convention center, including FUJIFILM with our FUJINON lenses, and Recording Media in the form of LTO tape technology.
NAB Celebrates 100 Years
The National Association of Broadcasters held its very first edition of their now well-established trade show and conference in New York City in 1923 at the Commodore Hotel with just two dozen people from 16 radio broadcasters in attendance. But times have changed. Today, traditional radio broadcasters are in a fierce fight for dashboard real estate in modern automobiles as they compete with so many new entertainment options. In general, traditional broadcasters are facing increasing ad revenue competition from the entertainment tech giants like Apple, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Netflix, Spotify, and the growing popularity of things like podcasts.
Fast forward to 2023 where this year’s show tagline was “Where Content Comes to Life”. While I liked the tagline, I couldn’t help adding in my head the extra phrase, “and Lives Forever”. So many customers we met with expressed the pain points of growing volumes of digital content and how to store it long term. Needless to say, nobody wants to delete anything. After all, in this market, we’re not talking about preserving spreadsheets, accounting records or emails. We’re talking about audio and visual art that often gets better with age like a fine wine. And the artists are passionate about their work and its preservation and protection.
One encounter we had with a pro videographer, who I must admit was a bit eccentric, stopped by our booth to tell the story of how he had uncovered some Fujifilm VHS tape in his basement that he recorded back in 1989 some 34 years ago. He had no problem playing back the video and even managed to transfer some footage to his cell phone which he gleefully shared with us.
It was video from a backyard social gathering of family and friends. Some kind of a party or barbecue. Maybe 4th of July? “Look how crisp the colors are…” he exclaimed. “…check out the outfits and hair-dos!” But his crowning revelation was: “Can you believe no one in the video has a cell phone?”
Wow, how times have changed. On second thought, maybe they haven’t that much after all…
Hooray for Tape
In addition to the many exhibits, NAB featured a series of speaker panels to discuss current trends and market issues, and outlooks. I attended a number of these for my own edification. Each session was preceded by an introductory video paying tribute to the 100 years of NAB. Lots of great footage from the early days, right on through the decades and milestones of so many great companies and individuals that have built this awesome entertainment industry.
One shot in the video particularly caught my eye which was of the cover of Variety magazine from April 18, 1956 with the headline: “Hooray for Tape”. It was a story of how Ampex debuted “new magnetic videotape” and dominated the NAB convention spotlight that year. Fast forward 67 years later and tape is still going strong, maybe not capturing footage anymore, but crucially preserving and protecting it.
Tape’s Enduring Value Prop in M & E
Today, Linear Tape Open such as LTO Gen 9 with 18TB capacity supports M&E content workflow from production and post-production to distribution and archiving, delivering the lowest TCO of any storage medium, the lowest power consumption, with the longest archival life, and the ability to safely remove and secure content from networks that are constantly being hacked and held for ransom. And a robust technology roadmap out to Gen 14 with 576 TB of native capacity promises a path forward for many years and decades to come.
Sustainability of Tape
New this year at NAB was a session on sustainability entitled, “Why Sustainability in Media Matters” moderated by M&E sustainability expert Barbara Lange of Kibo121. Like every trade show I attended since the start of 2022, sustainability is taking center stage and NAB was no exception. M&E executives are taking cues from the COVID pandemic where they learned to be more efficient and reduce their carbon footprint. They figured out they don’t need to send 26 people to a remote video shoot location or 12 trucks to a sports event. Much fewer can get the job done with a little bit of innovative technology.
Barbara’s session also featured a first-time Excellence in Sustainability Award sponsored by AWS. While tape got an honorable mention via a nomination submitted by IBM, it was the likes of SMART FM, Appear, cableOS by Harmonic, Mrs. Greenfilm, Amino, media.monks, and Greening of Streaming that took the category awards. But that’s okay, tape may not be the new shiny thing, but it sure is green with 87% less energy consumption and 97% less CO2e than equivalent amounts of energy-intensive, 24/7 spinning HDDs.
Cost Advantage of Tape
One of the major complaints we heard from many NAB attendees had to do with the cost of data storage. They thought cloud was the answer. While cloud has its pros and cons, most complained of the out-of- control costs and are coming back to on-prem tape libraries as a solution. We agreed and can point to TCO tools that show automated tape libraries cost 73% less than deep archival cold storage in the cloud.
Cyber Secure Tape Air Gap
Another concern for this market like so many others is cyber security. Ever since Sony Pictures got hacked, folks have been nervous. Right on cue, the story of Western Digital getting hacked, which compromised their cloud services network, was breaking at NAB. Yet another reason to take back control of your own content with on-prem tape systems and its natural air gap capabilities.
Long Archival Life and Best in Reliability
Finally, this passionate audience understands the intrinsic value of the content they are creating and that it often needs to be preserved and protected forever. Tape’s long archival rating of at least 50 years and maybe even 100 years as revealed in a joint Fujifilm, Library of Congress study, is not far-fetched or unrealistic. Tape also leads with a best-in-class bit-error rate making it the most reliable storage medium today.
There was plenty of food for thought at NAB. Like the 34 year old VHS from 1989, there is a delight and value to be had in content from decades ago that needs a strategic data preservation and protection plan. NAB had a great first century and will see a second, even greater century with the enduring value of tape playing its many strategic roles.