I admire a confident, assured point of view. And that's what we're feeling at the precipice of a new week in a new year where we need to see better things.
Today, we start what's known as “CES Week,” and at Jacobs Media, there is much excitement in the air.
The Consumer Technology Association – the organization that puts CES on – officially announced it will not be held in Las Vegas late last July. That seems like a long time ago, but given the magnitude of this conference in a normal year – 180,000 attendees, 4,500 exhibitors – it's been a frenetic few months as the CTA team prepares to pull off something they've never done before:
Creating a virtual version of CES.
How will it work with virtual keynotes, on-demand content, appointment setting for the more than 1,200 hardy companies who will be “on hand” at CES 2021? We're about to find out.
And because we're always up for a good challenge, Jacobs Media will join in the festivities with our virtual tour for radio people, set for Wednesday, 1-4pm. Are we “CES Ready?” While we'll be preparing until the last minute, we will be.
Since 2017, we have put on tours at CES for radio execs – a fun but challenging endeavor, designed to help expose our industry to the world of technology and innovation – and what it means to broadcasters. Last year, we ran four tours at CES 2020 – accommodating 70 or so folks.
But of course, things are different now. The virtual nature of this year's show allows us to “expand the tent,” so to speak. More than 250 attendees are already registered for our virtual tour – and we expect that number to grow as we get closer to Wednesday.
Tradition is important, and for the past several years, my friend and cohort, Buzz Knight, and I have interviewed CTA President and CEO, Gary Shapiro, to get a preview of CES from the very top. And this year is no exception. Gary was kind enough to answer our questions, and he also will be kicking off our tour Wednesday as he's done in past years.
Buzz Knight/Fred Jacobs: Can you describe the immense challenges involved with the necessity to move the show to a virtual event?
Gary Shapiro: This year’s CES is a totally reimagined experience – both for us as producers and for our attendees. Our goal is to create an experience that lets exhibitors, media, thought leaders, and executives connect in ways that are both safe and meaningful.
The biggest challenge was finding a platform that would let us accomplish this. We teamed up with Microsoft for its technical expertise, global scale and experience in creating compelling digital content. Microsoft is a global innovation leader and longtime supporter of CES. They understand what makes CES special and unique. And they’re working side-by-side with our team to capture that experience digitally.
CES 2021 attendees will be able to build profiles and select areas of interest so that we can tailor their experience and offer content recommendations.
BK/FJ: COVID has forced most people to stay home more this year. How do you foresee video content and delivery changing as a result?
GS: Despite a slowdown in television sales, we’re seeing growth in content streaming and continued interest by consumers in smarter TVs. According to CTA’s 2020 Sales and Forecast report, over 70% of displays shipping this year are smart TVs that enable access to hundreds of streaming services.
And consumers continue to upgrade their sets to smarter and higher-resolution displays. In fact, 76% of TVs shipped this year will be 4K displays.
Augmented and virtual reality headsets are also expanding the horizon for entertainment, as content creators develop new all-encompassing video experiences. CTA predicts 7% revenue growth for AR/ VR headsets this year.
But it’s not just how consumers are streaming content that’s changing – it’s what they’re streaming. We have an entire vertical of CES dedicated to covering this transformation. C Space at CES brings together leaders from marketing, entertainment and media to discover disruptive tech trends affecting content consumption, advertising mediums and consumer behavior.
I’m excited to hear from Warner Bros. Entertainment Chairman Ann Sarnoff about her company's decision to stream its 2021 slate of releases online during our C Space Keynote address, which takes place Wednesday morning.
BK/FJ: And where does radio fit in? “Regular radios” are disappearing from homes and offices, but more people than ever are listening to favorite stations and personalities on mobile devices and smart speakers. Do you see that accelerating?
GS: Consumer adoption of streaming platforms is moving at lightning speed through this pandemic. According to CTA research, U.S. consumers spent $42 billion on music and video streaming services in 2020, up more than four-fold from 2016.
And our home entertainment is getting more immersive and sophisticated as digital assistants in smart speakers, soundbars and TVs are opening opportunities for voice-based applications.
Radio stations need to support various mediums – including smart speakers. Smart speakers are our portal to the world, connecting us with our favorite radio personalities, news sources and music genres, across time zones, across borders, and across languages.
And with 5G, radio can reach new markets around the world. Streaming and radio stations remain an important component of our fully connected content future. (Note: Jacobs Media's virtual tour will include a presentation + Q&A with Amazon Alexa's Arianne Walker, pictured right.)
Gary Shapiro: “These days, every company is a tech company.”
BK/FJ: Many companies like Delta had ambitious plans at last year’s show that had to be disrupted or put on pause. Which companies are you looking forward to “seeing” at CES 2021?
GS: We have leaders from some of the most cutting-edge companies joining us on stage this year – Amazon, Best Buy, Google, IBM, Twitter and Walmart, just to name a few. We’re also pleased to be joined again this year by leaders from non-traditional tech companies, such as the WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and WW International CEO Mindy Grossman – because these days, every company is a tech company.
BK/FJ: Healthcare has become a big focus at the show in recent years. Will we see new medical technologies spurred by the pandemic?
GS: Digital Health is a key focus area of CES 2021. We’re seeing amazing technological innovations borne out of this pandemic, many of which will be on display and part of the conversations at CES.
Robots and drones are forging ground in automated, contactless home delivery. Smart city technology helps monitor our public spaces for signs of ill health, using air sensors and temperature checks. The next generation of wearables will monitor our vitals and alert us to any irregularities before they become larger issues. And artificial intelligence can lead to improved health outcomes and lower costs.
BK/FJ: 2020 has been off the charts. What leadership lessons have you observed by business, government, or civic leaders this year that have stood out to you?
GS: One lesson about American innovation that has stood out to me in 2020 is that when faced with adversity, nothing is impossible thanks to our melting pot country of bright minds from around the world.
Less than 12 months after a devastating pandemic swept the globe, scientists banded together to create multiple effective vaccines that are already being distributed. The big takeaway for me, seeing Pfizer partner with Germany’s BioNTech to create the first FDA-approved COVID vaccine, is that innovators are all around us. We need policies that allow the best and brightest to come to the United States.
But U.S. immigration policy needs work. While large parts of our economy still rely on crucial high-skilled immigration programs, such as the H-1B visa, many of these programs are outdated and need to be improved for our new competitive world.
American innovators – regardless of where they were born – help drive our global competitiveness. Policymakers must enact policies that attract – not deter – immigrants who want to succeed in America.
BK/FJ: Radio has been scrappy this year, doubling down on local community connection and coverage. Any thoughts on how broadcasters can stand out in 2021 in an increasingly crowded media landscape.
GS: It’s true – the media landscape is more crowded than ever. But that’s a great thing! Content creators have more avenues than at any time in history to share their art and inspiration. And as new revenue models emerge, both ad-free and ad-supported, there are more opportunities for consumers to choose the models that make sense for them. I can’t wait to see what we create in 2021 and beyond!
There is still time to register for Jacobs Media's virtual tour of CES 2021. Scheduled guests and exhibitors include Gary Shapiro, Gordon Smith, Amazon Auto, Ford, LG, Xperi, Triton Digital, and more.
The cost is just $99 – no bad seats, no sore feet.