NAB Show at 100

Through the Years: Locations & Milestones

One hundred years ago NAB Show was a much (much) smaller affair. The headcount for the very first event was less than two dozen.

Over the course of the next century NAB Show evolved into an unparalleled global event. Now the premier industry destination for innovation and an unrivaled marketplace of bleeding-edge products, services and ideas, NAB Show drives the future across the entire industry workflow of creation, distribution, management and monetization.

As we celebrate the centennial anniversary here’s a look back at some of the locations and milestones that helped shape where we are today.


The Early Years

The 1920s & 1930s

The National Association of Broadcasters was founded in 1923 and the first NAB Show was held that same year. Originally, NAB was known as the National Association of Radio Broadcasters since television had yet to be invented. It wasn’t a big, fancy gala; 23 attendees met at the Commodore Hotel in New York City to discuss ‘The Future of Broadcasting’.

Over the following decade NAB Show grew in scope and stature. Host cities included Washington, D.C., Atlantic City, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Francisco, and St. Louis. Rural venues in West Virginia and Indiana were also thrown into the mix as NAB Show travelled around the country.

1932 NAB Show in St. Louis, Missouri.

The 1940s & 1950s

After withstanding the Great Depression era, NAB Show faced another significant challenge during World War II. This included a year without the event, as resources, equipment and personnel were required elsewhere. A unique federal restriction had also been implemented as part of the war effort. Then NAB President J. Harold Ryan explained the cancellation of NAB Show in 1945:

“In compliance with the expressed wishes of the Government to limit the amount of travel, and to avoid any conventions or meetings which would bring together from outside the city in which the meeting is scheduled more than 50 persons, the National Association of Broadcasters has cancelled its annual convention, which would normally be held in the late spring. The NAB convention usually has an attendance of more than 1,000.”

NAB Show returned in 1946 and by its 25th anniversary the advent of mainstream commercial television helped deliver record numbers. The 1947 event registered the highest attendance ever, with nearly 2,600 attendees.

Starting in the early 1950s, Washington, D.C. and Chicago became the primary NAB Show locations. Los Angeles also joined the host city rotation during the decade. In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower became the first of nine presidents to address the convention.

NAB Show: Through the Years Photo Gallery

1947 NAB Show in Atlantic City, New Jersey

The Golden Years


An industry born from innovation reached new heights during a spectacular twenty-five year run. NAB Show became the yearly launching pad for astounding breakthroughs in technology and fantastic new inventions, including FM radio (in Stereo!), color television and TV cameras, consumer videotape equipment, the home computer and satellite broadcasting.

Yearly attendance continued to climb as well and new host cities were added to the mix. In 1974 Houston was the choice, with Las Vegas hosting for the first time in 1975. By 1977 the event had grown so large it needed to be co-located in several different hotels throughout Washington, D.C. Westward expansion soon followed, as NAB Show moved back to Nevada in 1978, then alternated between Las Vegas and Dallas for the next decade.

Dallas, Texas hosted several NAB Shows in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The 1990s

Technological advances continued to push boundaries and redefine the industry. Digital Streaming video was introduced in 1995, High-Definition Television (HDTV) broadcasting the following year, and non-linear editing software (Apple’s Final Cut Pro in 1998) helped propel record crowds into the new millennium.

Attendance topped 50,000 in 1991 and went over 100,000 for the first time at the 75th anniversary event. By the end of the century exhibit space reached over a million net square feet and Las Vegas became the permanent home of NAB Show.