Consumer Electronics Show Draws Full House

140,000 Swarm Sin City to Ogle ... Content, Not Just Gadgets and Gizmos

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Some 140,000 geeks, Greeks, techies and marketers from around the world-roughly the population of Bridgeport, Conn.-descended on Las Vegas last week to ogle the latest and greatest the electronics industry has to offer at the Consumer Electronics Show. Ad Age Digital was there.

Size matters: The buzz ranged from innovations on the small screens of mobile phones to a shocking spectacle said to be the world's largest LCD TV, a 108-inch Sharp.

Content matters more: Most conference keynotes focused on the evolution of the content that goes on those screens. In an extensive strategy outline, CBS President-CEO Les Moonves ticked off a number of deals with hot, young companies from YouTube to Second Life aimed to allow the media giant to "give to and learn from our fans." The goal, he said, "is clear: to evolve from a one-way content-distribution and content company into being a sort of new thing-an audience company."

Most obvious play for geek cred: The CBS chief said media has noted the lessons learned by the music business, which "suffered a lot for just not listening" to what consumers wanted. "There's no such thing anymore as old media. We're just media. Whether programming means 'CSI' or C++ (a computer language), we're all playing on the same big digital field."

'Um, what?' analogy: Perhaps tired of being considered a Luddite, Mr. Moonves took a good-natured jab at rival Fox: "Some of you out here today may think that 'American Idol' is the first example of an audience voting on the outcome of an important event." But in ancient Rome, he said, "the stakes were even higher."

Biggest understatement: In a glitzy presentation to more than 2,000 in a ballroom at the Venetian Convention Center, Walt Disney Co. President-CEO Robert Iger showed how the new love affair with the internet and new media might help snag some of the dollars moving from traditional media to the web. The revamped will have video and perhaps "a commercial or two," he said.

'Lost' spoiler alert: Guessing wisely that "Lost" fans were starved for a dose of show news after a two-month midseason hiatus, Mr. Iger invited two of the show's stars, Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly-better known as Jack and Kate-onstage during his keynote. They talked about how their show is all over every device-and whether they'll hook up soon. (Don't hold your breath.)

Me-too-ism: If media companies are trying to become "sort of new things," telecom giants Verizon Communications and AT&T are trying to become media companies. At the conference, Verizon launched live TV programming for mobile phones, and AT&T said it had signed Chase Card Services for its first three-screen content deal.

Top CES advertisers: There was advertising galore all over Las Vegas, with a big presence from Microsoft's Vista and Office, LG's Chocolate, and (fittingly) Samsung's Blackjack phone. But the most in-your-face advertiser turned out to be Airborne, whose sponsored escalators urged convention goers not to let colds get them down.

contributing: abbey klaassen
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