SUMMER CES: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE INTERACTIVE FOCUS TAKES CENTER STAGE

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The Summer Consumer Electronics Show, fighting stagnant attendance and lackluster exhibitor interest, is going interactive.

Starting in 1995, the CES midyear event will focus almost exclusively on new-media technologies, leaving the winter show in Las Vegas for traditional consumer electronics.

CES joins a crowded market of conferences going the interactive route.

"What has happened is that we're going from a traditional audio-visual show, which it was a number of years ago, and moving into groups of companies that need to show new technologies at this time of year," said a spokeswoman for the Electronic Industries Association, sponsor of the CES conferences. "There's a possibility we may be making some changes," she said, adding that announcements may be made at the show.

"They have been working on the idea of transforming the summer show into a consumer technology show, which then became CES Interactive," said Alan Brody, director of the CreaTech interactive advertising conference running simultaneously with CES.

The change in focus coincides with a change of venue.

Summer CES makes its final bow in Chicago June 23-25 (see story on this page). Starting next year, the conference will be held in May in Philadelphia to compete more directly with Comdex/Spring in Atlanta.

Attendance at this year's summer CES is expected to reach 50,000, half that of the spring Comdex event. Exhibitors are expected to total 630, down from 849 last summer.

And where electronics marketers like Sony Corp., Panasonic Co. and others once ruled the roost, now there are software developers and videogame companies.

Underscoring the shift in focus, Nintendo of America Chairman Howard Lincoln will deliver the keynote address June 23.

Only 15% of the exhibitors represent traditional consumer electronic categories, the show's spokeswoman said.

One sign of the times: Sony's consumer electronics group won't host a booth at CES, but its electronic publishing division will.

CES this year is making a concerted effort to align its conference program with new media as well.

CES will host CreaTech, a conference targeting agency executives that runs June 22-23, and Infohighway '94, a show targeting marketers of interactive hardware running June 22-24.

CreaTech will give agency executives hands-on experience creating interactive media, said conference director Mr. Brody.

"In many cases, [multimedia developers] have been eating their lunch," he said. "I don't see any reason why agencies can't become interactive, but they have to deal with this culture change."

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