For Broadcasters And Their Vendors, AI And IP Delivery Are Top Of Mind At CES

Organizers expect a larger turnout of attendees and exhibitors to CES in Las Vegas next week, where generative AI, IP delivery and new developments in NextGen TV are likely to draw broadcasters’ focus.

CES will once again draw consumer technology companies from around the world to Las Vegas next week, and broadcasters will also make the trip to keep pace with rapid developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and explore new ways to deliver content to consumers.

This year’s show, which runs Jan. 9-12, should be bigger than the 2023 edition. That show drew 117,000 attendees and 3,200 exhibitors and represented a significant bounce-back from the 45,000 attendees and 2,300 exhibitors that came in 2022, the first show after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which owns and produces CES and is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2024, is projecting attendance to be 130,000 with more than 3,500 exhibitors.

“We are seeing huge momentum for CES 2024,” says Kinsey Fabrizio, CTA senior vice president of CES and membership.

A Bigger Footprint

As of early December, CTA had already booked 2.4 million net square feet of exhibit space, Fabrizio says, which is over a 10% jump from CES 2023. The CES 2024 exhibition and conference will be spread across the North, Central and West Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center as well as several Las Vegas hotels, including 1,000 startup companies exhibiting in “Eureka Park” at the Venetian. Over half of Fortune 500 companies will be in attendance, including Amazon, Google, Intel, Qualcomm, LG, Samsung and Sony.

AI’s Big Year


AI is the “hottest topic in the tech industry right now,” says John Kelley, VP and show director, CES. AI will be “pervasive” across the show floor and conference sessions, Kelley says, including a keynote from Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger discussing the critical role that chips and software play in making AI more accessible.

“What’s changed in the last year is generative AI has taken the world by storm, and every company is thinking about how to use it,” says CTA President-CEO Gary Shapiro. “And I know many, many, many companies are going to be talking about AI and introducing and showing products that take advantage of that.”

Another growth area for CES is automotive and mobility, Kelley says, with more than 300 companies exhibiting in an at-capacity West Hall including Honda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Kia. The “C Space” Entertainment and Content conference at the Aria, which features brands like Amazon Ads, Netflix, NBC Universal, Roku and Snap, has also expanded with additional space in the Cosmopolitan hotel this year including new exhibitors Disney, NVIDIA, Paramount and Reddit.

Noteworthy “C Space” panels for broadcasters include “2024: The AI Inflection Point — Entertainment, Internet & Media” featuring Steve Canepa, GM, Global Industries, IBM and Richard Kerris, VP/GM, media and entertainment, NVIDIA; “Future of TV & Streaming: Cable, Internet TV & FAST Strategies,” with executives from Tubi, Disney, PBS and Nielsen; “Monetizing the TV/Streaming, Programming Platforms: The Strategies” with executives from Uber, Amazon Ads, Vizio, Disney and Estrella Media; and “Transforming An All-American Brand: Technology Inside The Weather Channel,” with Tom O’Brien, EVP, Allen Media Group; Nora Zimmett, president, news and original series, Allen Media Group; and Alexandra Wilson, meteorologist, The Weather Company.

‘A Good Way To Kick Off The Year’

With many top network and station group executives at CES, many media technology vendors will also be there, if not to exhibit but to simply meet with their customers and partners. One of them is IP transport provider Zixi, which has been experiencing big growth in its live event business due to the explosion in streaming sports coverage. Zixi won’t have a booth or suite at CES but is still sending a team of six, including members of its executive team as well as technical support personnel. That is double the number of people it sent in 2023.

“The number of companies that is going is starting to grow again,” says John Wastcoat, Zixi SVP business development and marketing. “We’re not going to be able to handle it with just a handful of people this year, so that’s why we’re doubling our team that’s going to go out and meet with everybody. And it’s an easy hop from L.A., so people can make a day trip if they need to … they’ll be in and have three or four meetings and be out, without a significant investment.”

Zixi has two motivations to attend CES that are interconnected.

“One is that our customers and our partners are looking for different ways to monetize their content,” Wastcoat says. “That could be sending it directly to a new smart TV, we do that with Bloomberg around the world. We have conversations with the automobile manufacturers about sending content directly to their screens as well. So, we’ve got that angle.

“And then our customers and partners are still looking at what’s going to be new and interesting for them over the next few years,” he adds. “So, we’re there to talk with them about what we need to do together in 2024, whether that aligns with anything that’s found at CES or not. But it’s a good way to kick off the year.”

While over time the overall focus at CES has shifted away from television sets and Blu-ray players to a range of different consumer technology products, Zixi is still very interested in how its IP transport technology integrates with TV sets to deliver programming to the living room.

“We are seeing a tremendous increase in our business because of the reallocation of sports rights to digital-first platforms that didn’t have infrastructure for it before,” Wastcoat says. “We’re forecasting a million live sports events in 2024 that will use Zixi, and two years ago we probably would have said we’re not very interested in occasional use business like that, we’re looking for the 24/7 constant traffic. But it has become such a volume pay that it has got our attention. So, companies like Amazon Prime [Video] are coming to us and asking us for new features and functionality, like scheduling tools to be able to manage these thousands of events that they’re doing.”

Another broadcast vendor making the trip is robotic camera specialist Mark Roberts Motion Control (MRMC), which will be exhibiting in the booth of its parent company Nikon. MRMC will once again collaborate with virtual production specialist Vu Studios to deliver the “Unreal Ride.” For CES 2024 the Unreal Ride environment will take place in a virtual jungle, where participants will get to experience the thrill of riding through it in a futuristic Jeep and once again be able to take away a video of themselves travelling through the virtual world.

MRMC’s technology can also be seen elsewhere on the show floor as several companies rent MRMC’s robotic arms just to draw attention to their booths.

“One of them has a light wand on it, and it attracts people because they see it doing funny patterns,” says Paddy Taylor, MRMC head of broadcast.

While MRMC does makes some products that it is actively marketing at CES, such as automatic tracking software and low-cost sliders for PTZ cameras, Taylor doesn’t expect to get many new customers for the company’s high-end specialized robotics at CES.

“It’s more of a positioning exercise,” Taylor says.

One of the messages that MRMC is looking to get across is that Nikon is serious about video, as more broadcasters and other professional videographers start to use DSLR-style cameras for content capture.

“With the Z 9 Nikon probably has the best DSLR-style mirrorless camera for video, and Nikon’s starting to make a really big thing about that,” Taylor says. “And we’re doing some things to move that camera and make it do interesting things.”

The other message that Taylor wants to emphasize is that MRMC expects full-frame cameras like the Sony HDC-F5500, which use the same type of large sensors as digital cinema cameras, will start to be used en masse in broadcast production in 2024 to provide a different look for live sports and news. And MRMC sees an opportunity there for its robotic systems.

“We have a few customers using Sony Venice [digital cinema cameras] with our robotics, but in live current affairs and sports studios,” Taylor says. “And I think with the Olympics and a few other events next year you’ve got more full-frame system cameras coming onto the market. You’re going to see a marry-up, where people are trying to mix different types of full-frame cameras in different workflows for sporting events, festivals, concerts — anything with a creative edge people are trying to strive for.”

New Services For NextGen TV

Broadcasters will also use CES 2024 to promote the continued rollout of the ATSC 3.0, or NextGen TV, digital television standard through demonstrations put on by ATSC and the Pearl TV coalition of station groups.

“There’s going to be a focus on the consumer, both on the services side and device side,” says ATSC President Madeleine Noland. “You’re going to see a proliferation of devices, more set-top boxes, more television models and a few extras.”

NextGen launched in 12 more markets in 2023, including top 10 markets Philadelphia and New York, and CTA says that 10 million NextGen TV sets have been sold in the U.S. to date. With planned launches in Chicago, San Diego and Tucson coming next month, 3.0 signals should be lit up in 75 markets covering 75% of U.S. TV households by the end of January, Noland says. She notes that 3.0 is also making significant progress internationally, with Brazil having chosen 3.0 technology for most of its new mandated digital TV standard and a final decision on the physical, or RF transmission, layer due next year.

Big Four networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are all sponsors of the ATSC booth in Central Hall, which will have 13 different TV models, four different set-tops and one prototype mobile phone. The booth will also feature various demonstrations of high dynamic range (HDR) and enhanced audio content, including an “immersive entertainment room” sponsored by Dolby and major-league sports programming. There will also be a mosaic of various interactive applications enabled by 3.0’s broadband backchannel including “Start Over” capability developed by E.W. Scripps; an interactive music service from Sinclair; and sports statistics, gaming and news applications.

“What you’ll see at CES are almost fully-baked services that will hit the consumer this year, the gaming applications, the sports interactivity, the Start Over application,” says Mark Aitken, president, ONE Media and SVP of advanced technology for Sinclair. “There are a number of broadcasters, beyond us, who are now beyond the planning phase of adding HDR to their programming. Some of these become more and more relevant in respect to sports coming back to local broadcasting.”

Another new capability that ATSC and Pearl TV will be demonstrating is “broadcast IP,” which is a way to deliver a local station’s enhanced 3.0 programming to a 3.0 TV set as a “virtual channel” over broadband. This is a capability that is particularly important given the current spectrum landscape for 3.0, where often there is not enough capacity for every station that wants to offer 3.0 to be supported in a market.

Pearl TV first tested broadcast IP in Phoenix several years ago, says Pearl TV Managing Director Anne Schelle, working with set makers LG, Sony and Samsung, and successfully deployed it last spring for South Florida PBS’s stations in Miami.

The way that broadcast IP works is that a host 3.0 station transmits tiny bits of metadata within its over-the-air stream that can be picked up by a NextGen TV set and point to an internet server carrying the “virtual channel” of another station in the market that isn’t actually broadcasting in 3.0 due to capacity constraints. The virtual channel is displayed like a 3.0 channel in the over-the-air electronic program guide (EPG) on the NextGen TV set. When a viewer clicks on it that station’s 3.0 programming is then streamed to the set via the broadband connection.

However, the broadcast IP “virtual channel” shouldn’t be thought of as simply another FAST or streaming channel because it’s only available through the OTA guide, Schelle says. And it does require an agreement between two stations to enable transmission of the “tiny bits” of data necessary for the guide info.

“Our first goal was to bring up the PBS stations in South Florida to ensure that TVs can see it,” Schelle says. “It’s geofenced, you’re transmitting the URL in your stream, and it goes out and grabs the content from a server and puts it up in the OTA EPG. But you can only get it if you have antenna, you can’t get it otherwise.”

In Las Vegas, Sinclair is working with Gray Television and Fox to enable the broadcast IP transmission of KVVU, Gray’s Fox affiliate in the market, which couldn’t find traditional RF capacity for 3.0 programming.

“They want to offer their Fox station in 3.0 so they can enhance it with the same capabilities as if they were on-air in 3.0, to do 1080p and HDR, or even do 4K,” Schelle says. “They can also do [interactive] applications, the RUN3TV app works in the IP channel as well. They can basically do everything they can do in 3.0.”

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