Why the National Association of Broadcasters Is Investing in Startups

The country’s main radio and television broadcasting association is taking giant steps to support innovation in the sector—both by highlighting startups at its events and investing in them.

The National Association of Broadcasters is taking a look around the corner to see what vehicles are coming in the world of broadcast—and possibly to pilot them. NAB has been exploring broadcasting startups, and now it plans to expand its innovator initiative.

NAB Labs is in the midst of a transition—complete with a name change to PILOT—after investing with three early-stage companies. One is Haystack TV, in which users can set up personalized video news streams. Another is Antenna, which allows publishers and retailers to create simple, customized audience-feedback tools on mobile and web content. And the third is Yet Analytics, a platform built to connect data for decision makers.

PILOT is “a new initiative for technology innovators, educators and advocates working to strengthen current broadcaster services and to foster new media opportunities,” the landing page states.

The new initiative is exciting, but one question remains: Why was it created?

It’s simple.  Sam Matheny, NAB’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, explained to Poynter that the program’s mission is to “see further into the future sooner.”

The association wants to be ahead of the curve and to help build the future in broadcasting and communication, be it data, media, education, or whatever else is out there. NAB typically is investing less than $1 million in these early-stage startups, Matheny said.

“As the definition of what it means to be a broadcaster broadens, it is critical to work with traditional and new media partners on innovations to better meet the needs of future generations of consumers,” he said in a news release.

“PILOT will build these partnerships among visionaries who share the goal of tackling the challenges and opportunities facing the broadcast industry in the 21st century.”

PILOT Takes Flight

This is a big year for the broadcast group and its work with startups. The association is bringing on John Clark, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as PILOT’s executive director.

PILOT also currently has seven major charter members, including Google, Nielsen, and Yahoo. They “will help define key areas for development of innovative technologies and services for media companies with a focus on multiplatform digital distribution,” the group said in a news release.

Meanwhile, the NAB Show, the association’s annual conference that is being held in Las Vegas April 16-21, will host the fourth edition of its annual SPROCKIT program, which will highlight a fresh batch of startups showcased for possible backing.

Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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