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NAB returns to Las Vegas Convention Center after 2-year absence

Traditionally one of the city’s largest annual trade shows, the National Association of Broadcasters event is expected to draw more than 50,000 people this week, association officials said.

Participants began arriving Saturday bringing technology, audio and video content and the companies that produce them together under one roof at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“We have confronted a deadly pandemic, civil unrest and attacks on democracy at home and abroad,” NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt said Monday in a state of the industry address Monday. “Our social and professional lives were upended and forever changed. But in spite of these challenges, one thing was a constant, comforting presence – local broadcasters,” he said.

“Through everything, you were – and are – a leading voice in helping communities sort through a multitude of information and emotions, while also striving to find common ground and common good.”

A highlight of Monday’s trade show was a breakout session in which a panel discussed entertainment content on the horizon for the MSG Sphere at The Venetian, a $1.9 billion, 17,500-seat entertainment venue near The Venetian Expo being built by the MSG Entertainment Corp.

During the session, a team from MSG Sphere Studios — the MSG production arm — confirmed that it is talking with Hollywood directors and musical production leaders to develop entertainment content for the massive venue. The project is on target for completion in the latter half of 2023.

The NAB show, which also brings several specialized associations and groups together to discuss program content and how it’s delivered to consumers, was expected to be smaller this year as the Washington-based association gears up after canceling events in 2020 and 2021, a health precaution brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association is requiring proof of full COVID vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result to be admitted to the show.

At its peak in 2016 and 2017, the show drew more than 100,000 participants to the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The show is being sandwiched between two weekends featuring sold-out concerts for the Korean K-pop group BTS at Allegiant Stadium and the three-day NFL Draft, which is expected to occupy several blocks around Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road Thursday through Saturday.

More than 900 companies, including 160 first-time exhibitors, are expected to occupy most of the exhibit halls of the Convention Center. A quarter of the show’s attendees are expected to attend from 38 countries outside the United States.

“We are reimagining NAB Show to more closely mirror today’s media, entertainment and technology ecosystem in a way that is intuitive and makes it easier for attendees to navigate the event,” Chris Brown, executive vice president and managing director, global connections and events, said when the show’s arrival was first confirmed in August. “We are also thrilled to offer new curated experience zones designed to spotlight innovation, stimulate meaningful networking, inspire new ways of thinking and provide premium education, insights and a focus on real-world implementation.”

The April 2020 NAB show was one of the first major trade shows to be shut down by COVID-19. The show also couldn’t return in its usual April 2021 time slot because the city didn’t reopen for large gatherings until June 2021.

NAB organizers had made plans for an Oct. 9-13 show, but abruptly canceled that in mid-September when the delta variant of COVID-19 picked up steam weeks before the scheduled opening.

NAB attendees are getting their first look at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s new West Hall, which will host the “Connect” and “Intelligent Content” exhibits. Companies including Verizon, AT&T, Bitcentral, Sencore, Xperi and RCS will be there as well as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, MediaKind and Veritone.

Television network affiliates for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox also are expected to gather for the show.

Among the Monday highlights were FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel presenting a “fireside chat” with LeGeyt, and actor, director and educator LeVar Burton receiving the first-ever Insight Award from the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation for his contributions to broadcasting, history and American culture at the NAB Show Welcome.

The event’s trade show continues through Wednesday.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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