The National Association of Broadcasters recently became the second association in the CIMS member roster, the American Coatings Association being the other.
At first glance, the NAB, like the ACA, seems an unlikely match for CIMS—after all, most members in our 31-year history have been industrial companies who live or die by innovation. But when you realize that radio, and then television, are two of the biggest innovations of the past century, it makes perfect sense. Since time and technology don’t stand still, broadcasters understand that they, too, must bring new and improved products and services to market to stay relevant.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the NAB’s new Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Sam Matheny—formerly of Raleigh’s own Capitol Broadcasting Corp.—to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities radio and TV stations are facing, and what the NAB hopes to gain its partnership with CIMS.
Q: What are some of the latest technological innovations in TV and radio?
A: A lot of what we’re working on in TV is high dynamic range (HDR), which makes for a picture that is much brighter with a wider color range that provides an improved viewing experience. On the radio front, we’re very focused on developing a hybrid approach that uses both FM towers for the audio signal plus the Internet to deliver related content such as artist information and album art. This would primarily benefit mobile device users who want to have access to all local radio stations but don’t want to use a lot of data.
Q: Besides joining CIMS, what is the NAB doing to help its members proactively embrace innovation?
A: The NAB is a founding member of the Advanced Television
Committee (ATSC), which is a non-profit that develops voluntary standards for digital television. We’re developing technical standards and recommended practices for next-generation digital TV. Recently, we’ve formed a new committee made up of member stations’ digital officers as a way to respond to and anticipate changes and advances in Internet, Web, mobile and social media technologies. We also have NAB Labs, which provides a home for innovation, a way to create partnerships and test new technology, and also offers educational events. The NAB Labs’ motto is “Innovate, Incubate and Educate.”
Q: What kind of work are you doing with us?
A: CIMS has helped us undertake a mission/visioning exercise. As part of this, our staff and some members participated in a couple of assessments, including the Innovation Management Maturity Assessment (IMMA). Going forward, CIMS will be helping us with a Big Data project to analyze the effects of local media on a national scale. By definition, local radio and TV are very fragmented, but despite the rise of the Internet, social media, mobile devices, local TV is still the No. 1 way people get the news in the U.S. We’ll be looking to see trends and similarities as this plays out across different platforms such as on the Web and mobile apps. Broadcasters aren’t sitting on their hands—they’re some of the most aggressive at building new platforms.
Q: I understand you missed our recent meeting because you were attending the Emmy Awards?
A: That was fun. The ATSC received a Technology & Engineering Emmy for introducing loudness standards following the national conversion to digital TV. I was lucky enough to help represent all the great engineers who did the real work.
Q: What’s your impression of the industry now that you’re seeing a bigger picture of it than you did while working for a station group?
A: I’ve worked in the industry for 19 years, so I thought I knew a lot. Now I’m surrounded by such a diversity of voices and learning many different perspectives. One thing that’s common, though, is a real commitment to community service and providing a great product. I am l lucky to work for and learn from some of the best in the business. I have a new respect for advocacy in Washington, D.C., and I’m grateful for the opportunity Sen. Gordon Smith, our CEO, gave me. Broadcasting is a super industry that contributes so much to our democracy, and I’m happy to work in it.