Unpacking NAB Show Tech With Benztown’s Dave ‘Chachi’ Denes


    With 61,000 broadcasters now (mostly) caught up on sleep from NAB Show 2024 in Las Vegas, Radio Ink is taking one last look at the technology that defined this year’s convention in a conversation with Benztown President Dave “Chachi” Denes.

    Dave “Chachi” Denes: You know, I walked out of NAB Show 2023 with a fair amount of anxiety, specifically around AI. It just all kind of culminated at that moment. I know that ChatGPT had just emerged in November 2022, and something about NAB Show 2023 hammered in that AI is here. My team all went out to dinner and all tried to predict where AI would be a year later.

    And it was really interesting to see where AI is a year later. I am much more comfortable about AI in 2024 than where I was in 2023. It feels a lot less dystopian, if that makes sense. I came out of there with some optimism this year and some excitement about the future.

    Radio Ink: Of course, you’ve worked more with AI through Benztown’s partnership with ENCO, right?

    Dave “Chachi” Denes: Yeah. We’ve got a partnership with ENCO and Compass [Media Networks] on SpecAI. It’s a spec spot commercial production tool. And we partnered together on that several months ago and just launched it a couple months ago. And it’s gotten off to a really good start.

    Radio Ink: And, like you, a lot more executives have spent the last year exploring, using, and investing in AI, so there’s more familiarity. How much do you think that has affected the general mood?

    Dave “Chachi” Denes: It felt to me that at the ENCO booth, where we spent a lot of our time, and at Cocktails and Conversation there was certainly some optimism about what AI is going to bring – great ways to create new content and to help so many in the industry that are overworked, if you will.

    So, I felt that the mood was relatively positive. The Curtis LeGeyt keynote highlighted the big win on AM radio and what’s happening in Congress. I think there’s some positive things overall happening for the industry under his stewardship at the NAB.

    Radio Ink: Where you are with Benztown must give you a really interesting bird’s eye view of radio. You work with large and small groups in all market sizes. What did you observe about kind of how each went into NAB Show 2024?

    Dave “Chachi” Denes: As a company that creates a lot of content, we see NAB Show as a great opportunity to be able to share with radio executives what we have. It’s our Super Bowl when it comes to being able to meet with all of the executives and mingle with them as well at Cocktails and Conversation. From an executive standpoint, I think a lot of them are there to see what’s out there, what vendors such as ourselves have in terms of new products and services and specifically technology.

    Obviously on the gear front, it’s so well-represented at NAB Show, whether you’re looking for a microphone, a new board, or a new play-out system. I felt in terms of the executives and the companies that are out there, that it was a good show. There seemed to be a lot of transactional business going on.

    Radio Ink: You had a great Broadcast Education Association panel with Sona Movsesian from Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, as well as Beasley Media’s Justin Chase and Compass Media Networks’ Hiram Lazar for the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation. What did you see in the way of a young and future radio broadcasters?

    Dave “Chachi” Denes: This was my first time attending BEA and I was so incredibly impressed with what Heather Birks and the entire BEA team put together. There are hundreds of panels all across the spectrum from sports broadcasting to music radio programming to personalities. You name it, there’s a panel for it.

    According to Heather, I think they had a bigger turnout for that than they’ve ever had before or more students apply to go. I think that was a real nice breath of fresh air. I think as an industry, the more we can do to embrace young people getting into our business, the better. I think the BEA does a great job of helping accelerate students’ careers. In fact, we’re actually interviewing someone that was part of the BEA last year. She’s graduating in the spring and she stayed in touch with me for over a year. I met her at NAB Show in 2023, and I think there’s a good chance we’ll be hiring here over the summer.

    Radio Ink: Jumping back to a larger level – outside of AI, what was something that really caught your eye at the show?

    Dave “Chachi” Denes: You know, Veritone has a fascinating technology that allows you to ingest all of your material sitting on the shelf over the year, and then you can access it very quickly by certain keywords and metadata that they then code all of the content with. I saw several companies with different services like that, which I found very interesting.

    Being on the board of the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation, all the content that has been such a huge part of our culture is sitting around un-utilized. There’s really a place for a lot of this great broadcasting history. Hopefully these engines can repurpose that for the future.

    Radio Ink: One more note on your time in Vegas – you got to sit down with incoming RAB CEO Mike Hulvey out there for your podcast Chachi Loves Everybody. How was that?

    Dave “Chachi” Denes: It was really great to meet him. I’d never met him before. I’d obviously heard about his career and watched him from afar over at Neuhoff, but what a fascinating broadcaster. 15 years old and was really just, really as a child knew very early on this is what he wanted to do. And he’s done every aspect virtually of the business.

    He’s been on air, he’s been a producer, he’s been a general manager, he’s been the CEO of Neuhoff Communications. He’s been part of the RAB for over 20 years. And so just a highly qualified, very dynamic person. I was very excited to get to know him more. Filling [outgoing RAB CEO] Erica [Farber]’s shoes is probably one of the most difficult jobs you could possibly be given, but I think he is really well equipped for it and I think he’s gonna be a phenomenal leader and I’m excited to work closer with him.


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