Last week, we posted our look at some of the key trends that emerged from the biggest consumer electronics show on earth. But this year’s CES was a special one for us because we organized a tour of broadcast radio executives who experienced this bigger-than-life event for the first time.
It's notable this convention was the 50th annual CES – truly a banner year. And it was also a milestone because more radio senior managers attended CES than ever before. When it comes to innovation, there's nothing like CES, so it’s significant that radio showed up in a big way.
Our tour was in two parts – the Consumer Technology Association (CES’ parent) provided a great guide, Steve Koenig, who took our group through the massively crowded Central and North Halls, including Samsung, Intel, NVIDIA, Toyota, and Daimler-Benz. We were greeted by the CTA's own President and CEO, Gary Shapiro, who set the stage for a busy afternoon.
And then Paul and I followed up with our own “Jacobs Tour” that included DTS (HD Radio), Ford, Visteon (a Tier One that builds dashboard and autonomous technology), and the Gibson Guitar exhibit located right outside the Las Vegas Convention Center.
That last stop is a favorite of mine – a chance to wind down, pick up a beautiful guitar, hang out, and recharge During the time we were there, Gibson was featuring a great live band and an open bar in the VIP room. It was the perfect place to end the tour.
We were buoyed by this great turnout of broadcast executives. As regular readers of this blog know, we have been beating the CES drum for some time now. This megawatt event is how media leaders throughout the world learn about technology and how it will impact their businesses and their bottom lines. The fact this many key players in radio’s leadership took the plunge for our debut CES tour was gratifying to us.
For those who say that radio doesn’t care enough to show up at an event like CES, think again. Participating companies included Beasley Broadcast Group, Commonwealth Broadcasting, Connoisseur Media, Cox Media Group, Entercom, Hubbard Radio, Neuhoff Media, Times-Shamrock, and Westwood One – and we had senior executives from all of them traipsing around the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Like many spectacular events, it’s impossible to describe CES to someone who’s never been before. You can watch videos or news coverage about the show, but until you’re on the floor, navigating this outsized gathering of innovation and technology, you just can’t convey the spirit, the crowds, or the magnitude of CES.
Fortunately, we now have an impressive group of CES veterans who made the investment. To capture some of their up-close reactions to CES, Erica Farber and her team interviewed a number of our attendees in between tours, and here's the RAB's fast-moving video of their first impressions:
After everyone was back home, we sent our C-suiters a list of questions about the tour. Here are some of the responses to our post-CES evaluation:
How will you communicate your impressions of CES to your management team?
Beth Neuhoff: “CES was an affirmation that we must get serious about making sure we are agnostic of platform but ubiquitous to our customers. In world of infinite entertainment choice and delivery systems, we better make sure we do what we are supposed to do well. And, apps, apps, apps!”
Jeff Warshaw: “I found it to be humbling, informative, thought-provoking, and stimulating.
Caroline Beasley: “CES was invaluable. It provides an opportunity to see what the future may be in terms of technology, and as a result, how we can continue to adapt and change in order to be relevant.”
Tim Murphy: “I would describe my CES experience as a great big entrée of inspiration and excitement, with a side serving of fear and intimidation.”
Bill Hendrich: “Cars, cars, cars. Everyone is focused on the in-car experience. Beyond the self-driving car, the technology going into cars for entertainment, safety, and connectivity is enormous.”
The biggest takeaway from CES?
Dave Bestler: “How to continue to make sure radio wins the auto even in a new connected configuration.”
Caroline Beasley: “It was very eye-opening to see and understand how the Internet of Things will connect the car and the home, and the potential opportunities we have as an industry.”
Beth Neuhoff: “There were NO ‘radios' anywhere. None. Just apps, streams, audio platforms. Our delivery system has and WILL be changed. For good.”
Bill Hendrich: “People will talk to their cars to make almost everything happen. That was my biggest ‘aha moment.'”
What is the benefit of attending CES from a company standpoint?
Pierre Bouvard: “Seeing is believing. Being able to have Jacobs Media walk us into the various booths allowed me to see, touch and feel the new technology that our industry needs to absorb and leverage on behalf of our advertisers and our listeners. (Radio people) rarely venture out of our stations to go to events where advertisers and agencies are. Radio needs to ‘show up.' Going to CES take you outside the radio bubble into the world of innovation and new thinking.”
Mitch Dolan: “We gained an incredible, almost overwhelming amount of first-person information and real world context in terms of ‘what is' and ‘what's next' which powerfully serves to more brightly illuminate a broadcaster's digital paths moving forward.”
Weezie Kramer: “It was a great opportunity to learn, be inspired, and share the experience and dialogue with colleagues about the future of radio. Plus, personally, it's really cool to see how connected the whole world is becoming.”
Dave Bestler: (It was about) knowledge of what is going on out there, I think particularly in the connected car space for us radio broadcasters.”
Should other radio execs attend CES?
Mitch Dolan: “Anyone responsible for guiding an audience-driven consumer business where success will continue to be measured by how successfully we are able to connect our content to our communities, attendance should be mandatory.”
Jeff Warshaw: “Executives that are willing to be shaken out of denial should be attending.”
Beth Neuhoff: “Other exes should attend – if for no other reason to get their minds around the massive disruption we can no longer choose to deny or ignore.”
Pierre Bouvard: “Everyone must attend to breath the air of innovation. Every radio executive I was with was EXHILIRATED. Literally. they were euphoric over the new thinking, the innovation, and the possibilities.”
It was gratifying for Paul, Seth, and me to get to watch how our executive attendees thoughtfully reacted and responded to what they saw on the floor of the LVCC. We're all back to business a week later, but clearly impacted by the scope and innovation we witnessed at CES 2017.
And to answer your inevitable question…
Yes, we will most definitely be heading up another CES tour in 2018.
CES Podcast Series
Check out Seth Resler's new podcast, “CES For Radio Broadcasters,” insights and interviews about how this convention impact the radio broadcasting business. The debut episode features an interview with CES's “Digital Answer Man,” Jim Barry.
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Clark Smidt says
Outstanding Erica RAB Interview! Thank you, Fred. Great take-aways from Radio Leaders: Program Grabbers & New Receivers. “CES 2018, Wow!” I’m in. http://www.broadcastideas.com
Fred Jacobs says
Thanks, Clark. Appreciate the thumb up.
Lee Cornell says
Great that Jacobs Media took the initiative to lead some industry people into this enormously informative, innovative, and prescient event. “Radio” has been mostly nowhere in sight over its more than 13 years, and mostly a spectator in the digital landscape and the “internet of things” as the space has exponentially evolved over this last decade. iHeart and NPR are the significant, and notable exceptions where broadcast radio is concerned.
The radio report card as the industry enters 2017 generally reads “…can do better. Lacks commitment to innovate and follow through.”
Again… Kudos Fred.
You can lead a horse to water…but if you can get him to float on his back, you’ve really got something.
Let’s hope 2017 is the year the commercial radio industry actually re-imagines, impresses, leads, and innovates in this space… it means a lot more than “12 songs an hour, 6 minute spot-sets, average and at best “personable” people on-air, uninspired formulaic websites, and churning recycled chunks of content on Social”…
Fred Jacobs says
Lee, we appreciate the kind words. We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to act as CES tour guides. As you know, we have long believed in the value of getting out of one’s comfort zone in order to learn and thrive. This event proved the point. It was an eye-opener for our attendees, and we’re excited to be in this position. Thanks for the comment.