Disney Shakes Up Streaming Organization, Puts Paull in Charge

The Walt Disney Co. on Jan. 19 announced a major shakeup of its streaming business, promoting Michael Paull to the new role of president, Disney Streaming, with oversight of  Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and Star+.

Michael Paull

Paull, previously head of Disney+, reports to Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution (DMED) chairman Kareem Daniel.

Joe Earley, previously EVP of marketing and operations for Disney+, has been appointed president of Hulu and reports to Paull. Earley replaces Kelly Campbell, who late last year left Hulu to take the reins of NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service.

A successor to Paull will be named at a later date.

Disney says the moves are being made to support the expansion of its direct-to-consumer business around the world.

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Rebecca Campbell (Photo courtesy of ABC/Bob D’Amico)

The company also has established a new hub for international content creation that will be overseen by Rebecca Campbell.

Campbell’s focus, as chair of the International Content and Operations group, will be on local and regional content production for Disney’s family of streaming services. She remains in charge of Disney’s international media teams and reports directly to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

The International Content and Operations group is Disney’s fourth content creation group and will operate alongside the Studios Content, General Entertainment Content and Sports Content groups.
 
“Disney’s direct-to-consumer efforts have progressed at a tremendous pace in just a few short years, and our organization has continued to grow and evolve in support of our ambitious global streaming strategy,” Chapek said in a statement. “Rebecca has played a vital role in orchestrating our global platform expansion, and I’m excited that she will be leading our new International Content group, bringing her expertise and talent to oversee the growing pipeline of original local and regional content for our streaming services while continuing to lead our international operations. Likewise, with a relentless focus on serving consumers, Kareem has developed an industry-leading team of seasoned executives who are uniquely equipped to take our streaming business into Disney’s next century.”

Paull came to Disney in 2017 from Amazon, where he headed Amazon Channels.

Looking Ahead: Lessons From the Pandemic to Guide 2022 Home Entertainment Strategies

The uncertainty over the COVID-19 surge triggered by the emergence of the Omicron variant has made any and all predictions for the coming year suspect. Life could go back to normal fairly quickly or we will continue to battle surges and adjust our lives accordingly. Most observers don’t see us going back to the draconian shutdowns and lockdowns of the early days of the virus, but studio executives and exhibitors are understandably nervous about the current and any future surges since theatrical attendance could suffer — which ultimately affects everyone down the food chain.

The home entertainment business weathered the initial COVID crisis quite well, with streaming growing stronger and transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) winning a premium first-run window. That said, there are several “givens” as 2022 gets underway.

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Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max and the other high-profile streamers will continue to battle for dominance, with Netflix doing everything in its power to reduce churn and not lose market share. The second tier of SVOD players, including Paramount+ and Peacock, will make as much noise as possible to win a seat at the table — as evidenced by Peacock’s recent announcement that it will be streaming the winter Olympics in their entirety.

On the transactional side, a lot depends on the fate of movie theaters as this pandemic lumbers on. The early pandemic led to an overall shortening of windows and new-release strategies that ultimately benefited both home entertainment divisions and digital retailers such as Vudu by Fandango, Redbox On Demand, Microsoft and Google Play.

Jim Wuthrich

But while TVOD, and physical media, benefit from shorter windows, it is also impacted by studios accelerating, or re-ordering, SVOD windows. A film available as part of an all-you-can-watch subscription streaming service simply isn’t going to sell or rent nearly as well as it would if there was no “free” competition. And that plays into the bigger picture that the more consumers tune in to SVOD services, the less likely they are to purchase or rent something a la carte.

Jim Wuthrich, president of content distribution for WarnerMedia, says he’s “optimistic that we’ll continue to adapt to the changing nature of COVID and learn to live with it.”

“Although there are many challenges, we’ve learned how to be productive with a distributed workforce, productions are largely back and there’s more consumer choice than ever before — both in amount of content and ways to view,” he says. “It’s a great time to be a fan of linear storytelling. We will continue to improve and expand HBO Max to more markets, while providing a la carte options for fans and collectors. SVOD services will continue to dominate viewing time, with transactional supporting a vital role in discovery, sampling and fandom. Physical media (4K/Blu-ray/DVD) continues to be a meaningful market, with approximately $2 billion in U.S. consumer sales, and largely immune to evolving distribution patterns.”

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On the WarnerMedia side, Wuthrich says, “We have a great movie slate, with four DC films coming to theaters and another installment of ‘Fantastic Beasts.’ We also have a number of series releasing, including the new ‘House of the Dragon,’ a ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel. History has shown these franchises to be powerhouses in driving catalog sales so we are looking forward to a great year.”

Michael Bonner

“Similarly to 2021, we expect a very healthy home entertainment market in 2022, with strong consumer engagement across multiple business models,” says Michael Bonner, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “Release patterns will likely continue to fluctuate and vary across studios on a title-by-title basis.   

“With the theatrical marketplace continuing to strengthen, the growth of PVOD and the expansion of various SVOD services, the distribution landscape is stronger than ever. As we look ahead, studios have more options and outlets to create value and reach consumers which strengthens our ability to continue investing in great content.”

Bonner maintains that Universal, with its slate of anticipated new releases including Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru and Downton Abbey: A New Era, “is perfectly positioned to draw audiences back into theaters and fuel further transactional growth across the varying windows and platforms.”

Paramount Home Entertainment president Bob Buchi says that “as the global hub for transactional home entertainment across ViacomCBS, our division is exceedingly fortunate and singularly focused on delivering an extraordinary 2022 line-up of the company’s theatrical and television content, as well as third-party acquisitions through our extensive partnerships.”

Bob Buchi

“Our theatrical slate includes new entries in wildly popular franchises, including ‘Scream,’ ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ and ‘Jackass,’ which are not only highly anticipated, but also provide excellent opportunities to stoke fan interest in the earlier films and television shows available through home entertainment,” he says.

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On the catalog front, Buchi adds, the division’s most ambitious initiatives are the year-long 50th anniversary salute to The Godfather, “for which we anticipate massive consumer excitement for the film’s return to theaters, new 4K home entertainment releases, and licensed merchandise,” and the first-time-on-4K director’s edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, “with fantastic new VFX, which will be released first on Paramount+ and then on home entertainment platforms.”

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment for Fandango, which oversees the Vudu digital retailer, also has high hopes for the new year.

“We expect the TVOD sector to deliver even more value to consumers, as fans sort through a fragmented streaming world, looking for a one-stop-shop entertainment service for movies and TV,” he says. “Because subscription services, by their nature, cater to specific audiences and content offerings, we continue to see consumers utilizing the flexibility, depth and breadth of Vudu’s new release and catalog offering of over 200,000 titles to complement their monthly entertainment needs.”

Cameron Douglas

Douglas says Vudu “is working hard to expand our catalog every day. It’s both a challenge and an opportunity, as we continue to secure new and previously unavailable titles. There’s a variety of titles where digital rights were originally unsecured, but with the demand increasing, there’s more pressure than ever to make these films available for fans to stream at home. We pride ourselves on providing the best quality of experience and we are always working to create a bigger, better home entertainment experience for our customers. We want to be that place where fans can find every beloved movie and show they desire.”

At the top of Vudu’s agenda for the coming year, Douglas says, are plans “to innovate new services for our customers and add new platforms and devices to meet the fan demand in an ever-changing marketplace. We also plan to offer deeper integration with our sister sites, Rotten Tomatoes, for entertainment discovery, recommendation and curated content, and Fandango for crossover promotional opportunities to help enhance the theatrical experience. With our entertainment lifecycle marketing strategy, we look forward to helping new and returning partners more effectively and efficiently reach high-value entertainment audiences at scale.”

The big challenge for home entertainment executives in the coming year is to apply lessons they learned during the pandemic and react quickly to market conditions.

Paramount’s Bob Buchi says that “with two years of experimentation and the expedited evolution of our business, we know we need to remain agile in our windowing and co-promotional strategies as we continue to support the return to theaters and the rapid growth of our streaming service, Paramount+.”

Adam Frank

Adam Frank, SVP of global digital sales and distribution at Lionsgate, says what happens at the box office will trickle down into all aspects of home entertainment.

“Our expectation, given the quality and quantity of the theatrical release slate, is that box office sees significant increase and momentum in 2022 vs. 2021,” Frank said. “The old adage of content is king still rings true, and with more product in the marketplace, consumers will ultimately have more choices and more opportunities in the home entertainment space.”

Jed Grossman, EVP and GM of worldwide sales and distribution at Lionsgate, adds, “We expect all business segments — transactional digital, packaged media, SVOD and AVOD/FAST — to grow year-over-year driven by five key factors:

    • A more robust theatrical release schedule, inclusive of major tentpoles and franchises like ‘Jurassic World,’ ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Black Panther’ that were delayed during the pandemic. Lionsgate has a strong slate that includes Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, starring Nicolas Cage; Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret; and White Bird, among others; 
    • A more viable theatrical marketplace, with theater-going comfort increasing as vaccine/booster shot rates increase and tentpoles drive attendance;
    • The continued unprecedented demand for new release and library product from SVOD and AVOD/FAST platforms. Lionsgate has achieved record library revenue over the past year;
    • The ability to capitalize on home entertainment consumer behavior, consumer content thirst and technology enhancements — across all offer types — as accelerated by the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and early 2021; and 
    • Continued collaboration with our theatrical exhibition partners to release films with dynamic windows to meet demand across all platforms.”
Jed Grossman

For independent film distributors, don’t expect much variance in 2022 from established policies of continuing to take aim at the collector and niche markets, particularly on the physical media side.

“For disc sales, MVD and our label partners are focusing on collectible content in deluxe packaging,” says Ed Seaman, COO of MVD Entertainment Group. “We anticipate a similar trajectory for disc sales, which have steadily grown over the last several years. The pandemic certainly gave them a boost, but the resilience and resurgence of disc sales may have more to do with the frustrating customer experience our industry has created in the OTT space. Finding what you want is now very challenging. How many streaming services do you need to subscribe to only to not find the film you want to watch, when you want to watch it? You can more easily find what you want transactionally, but it is still a search. Why not just pay a bit more and own the deluxe-edition disc?”

On the digital front, Seaman says “AVOD/FAST will continue to grow dramatically as consumers clearly embrace and enjoy that model. TVOD is tricky; considering Amazon’s tight curation of non-fiction, we expect some other platforms to step up and become more dominant in that space. There is a real opportunity for platforms focusing on non-fiction to deliver to fans what they want when they want it.”

At MVD, Seaman notes, “we’ve just added Zach Fischel to our leadership team; Zach is a veteran in the entertainment industry and is leading our label management team and marketing department. We’ve additionally moved longtime MVD staffer Chris Callahan to lead our digital sales and operations team. Chris has been with MVD since 1999 and has served in sales management, label management and international licensing. Both of these leaders are committed to improving their areas of responsibility; they have great ideas particularly in digital marketing, an area of overlapped responsibility. We are really excited about 2022!”

So is Mark Fisher, president and CEO of OTT.X, a streaming industry trade group.

“2022 will be a year that portends the future of our industries — a future that, enabled by OTT distribution, is more egalitarian, more global and more diverse,” Fisher says. “While Hollywood continues to make great movies and TV shows, smaller distributors and independent producers from all over the world are making a lot of great content, too — enabling the consumer to be less reliant and dependent on content from the big studios and on domestic-produced content. And, while the big ‘Pluses’ and ‘Maxes’ continue to grow, consumers are finding plenty of additional content on indie and niche channels, both FAST and on demand.”

CES 2022 Diary, Day 4: Closing Thoughts and Parting Shots

I arrived home from CES 2022 last night and for my fourth and final CES Diary entry thought I would share some general thoughts and observations:

For starters, I believe Gary Shapiro and his team at the Consumer Technology Association made the right decision when they decided to proceed with an in-person show, despite the sudden and unexpected COVID-19 surge triggered by the emergence of the Omicron variant.

As Bill Maher said in a tweet back in the spring of 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, “I worry that the past two months of quarantine have given people the idea that the way for humans to win our million-year war with microbes is to avoid them completely, and I’m here to tell you: you can’t.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that COVID and its various permutations are here to stay, and we need to learn to live with it, to deal with it. We have vaccines that are at least as effective as our annual flu shots on the preventive front and certainly work as therapeutics, minimizing the risk of serious illness in most people. If we can have indoor arena sports games and concerts we should be able to have big trade shows. Everything in life is a tradeoff. If you are at risk, don’t go out. If you feel sick, stay home. But no more shutdowns, lockdowns or other Draconian measures to combat something that will likely be with us forever, like the flu.

Secondly, the show’s rapid shift over the last decade toward technology and away from its legacy consumer electronics makes perfect sense. On the entertainment front, we’ve come about as far as we can go. We have evolved from three networks to hundreds of cable channels, from our first taste of on-demand viewing with VHS to DVD, Blu-ray Disc and streaming — all of which fit the definition of home entertainment as any filmed content available for viewing at the consumer’s discretion.

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Content is no longer just king — it’s everywhere, with an overwhelming choice of great movies, series and miniseries across a multitude of platforms. Our choices have never been greater — or better.

All these new areas that CES has been moving into recently — smart homes, smart cars, food tech, space tech, digital health, even virtual worlds — are designed to make life easier and better and more efficient.

And as life gets easier, doesn’t that leave more time for entertainment?

CES 2022 in Pictures

A scaled-down CES closed Jan. 7, a day earlier than usual, as an added safety measure as COVID-19 cases once again surge worldwide. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) defied calls to cancel the show and implemented strict safety measures, including requiring all attendees to be vaccinated and wear masks at all indoor functions, including the show floor. Despite a rash of high-profile cancellations Christmas week, including Amazon, Meta (Facebook) and Google, the show wound up with more than 2,300 exhibitors, more than expected — and while the final attendee count is not yet in, traffic was fairly heavy throughout the show’s run, which began Jan. 5, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

CES 2022 Gets Underway With Revamped Floor Plan and Masked Attendees

LAS VEGAS — CES 2022 got underway the morning of Jan. 5 with a smaller floor plan, social distancing measures implemented by several large exhibitors, and a surprisingly large crowd of attendees, all of them masked.

And while the show has been shifting away from its legacy consumer electronics and toward innovation in such fields as mobility, digital health and space tech, CE manufacturers at CES 2022 continue to have the biggest booths and most elaborate displays.

LG Electronics commanded the marquee position in the Central Hall, but is using its space this year for a vast corkboard platform with little stations where visitors can get presentations on their iPhones, including a history of the CE giant’s signature OLED Experience exhibits, which in the past have seen screens arranged in waterfall, tunnel and canyon settings. Several visitors, however, reported that the virtual experiences either didn’t work or were too complicated, since they involved downloading and installing an app.

The LG Electronics booth at CES 2022

The Panasonic booth devoted half its space to a socially distant seating area, as did the Sony booth, where the focus this year is on two electric-vehicle prototypes the company hopes to build as it ventures into the automotive sector. Sony says it plans on establishing a car unit to enter the EV market. One of the vehicles the company is displaying at CES is a seven-set sport-utility vehicle with all-wheel drive.

Somewhat inexplicably, Sony also has a big display for the PlayStation 5, even though the device is still in short supply at retail.

Sony’s PS5 display in its booth at CES 2022

Several other big CE exhibitors, including TCL and Hisense, set up booths virtually identical to the ones they fielded in the pre-COVID days. 

The one commonality among CE exhibitors: Touting the advantages of their favored backlight technologies, OLED, QLED, and Mini-LED, the latter being the newest and hottest trend in TV displays.

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All are variations of LED, an acronym for light-emitting diode. LEDs are the tiny elements of a TV screen that light up in order to produce an image on an LED TV. LED technology became commonplace more than a decade ago after improvements in the technology spearheaded by Samsung.

OLED stands for organic LED, with each pixel made of a material that glows when it receives electricity. The electroluminescent materials used in OLED screens are organic compounds of carbon and other ingredients. OLED is emissive, with the pixels emitting their own light.

QLED is a Samsung technology introduced in 2015. The Q stands for “Quantum Dot.” It’s essentially a variation of LED and is transmissive, relying on an LED backlight.

The newest backlight technology is Mini-LED, similar to QLED, just with even smaller backlights. Mini-LED is a bridge between the older QLED technology and the newer OLED tech, with the same deep blacks that OLED promises.

Samsung has updated the Neo QLED technology that it bowed at last year’s virtual CES to improve the picture quality, but the Korean CE giant also is showing off its new line of Micro LED displays, which boast 25-million LED arrays and come in 89-inch, 101-inch, and 110-inch models.

Sony has QD-OLED, which combines OLED and quantum dot technologies for what it purports is the best of both worlds.

Meanwhile, Hisense and TCL both boast some Mini-LED models.

CES 2022 touched down in Las Vegas as the show’s producer, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), projects the consumer technology industry will generate more than $505 billion in retail sales revenue, a record high that’s up nearly 3% from 2021. The CTA attributes much of the gain to growing demand for smartphones, automotive tech, health devices and streaming services will help propel much of the projected revenue.

Despite a rash of last-minute cancellations due to the surge of the Omicron COVID variant, CES 2022 has more than 2,300 exhibitors, including more than 800 startups. Once again, the focus is not on legacy consumer electronics but, rather, on “the latest transformative technologies, including vehicle technology, artificial intelligence, digital health and smart home tech, as well as new categories: NFTs, food tech and space tech,” CTA said in a Jan. 5 press release.
 
The CES exhibit floor will be open through Jan. 7, a shorter run due to COVID concerns.

CES Diary, Day 3: Opening Day, at Last!

Ever since I arrived in Las Vegas on Monday, I’ve been curious as to how CES 2022 would turn out. The COVID curse led to calls for cancellations, but the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which produces the annual show, vowed to press ahead, albeit with strict health protocols. 

I walked to the show from my $32 room at the Sahara, an easy mile-long stroll along Paradise Road. Nearing the venue, everything seemed business as usual. A fast walker, I passed by at least a dozen other show-goers, easily identified by their badges (around their necks) and dark sport coats. I also saw a caravan of taxis heading toward the show. And just before I got to Convention Center Drive, I saw that the Spring Hill Suites by Marriott was charging $30 for “event parking” just as they always do.

Approaching the entrance, the crowd seemed a little light, but not by much. I went through security and entered the concourse. On one side were bins of show dailies; on the other, a rack with free masks and stickers: green, yellow and red. Over the three bins — one for each color — was a sign that read, “Please use a sticker to show others how you prefer to engage.” Green stickers implied “I’m okay with handshakes”; yellow stickers, “I’m okay with elbow and fist bumps”; and red stickers, “No touching. I’m happy just to wave hello.”

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I chose red — not so much because of COVID but because I’ve long felt that handshakes were an antiquated form of greeting (show me your hand so I know you’re not carrying a weapon!), while fist and elbow bumps are just silly. I also grabbed a couple of extra masks, since the one I was wearing smelled a bit like the chorizo chilaquiles I had just had for breakfast at the Sahara.

Entering the Central Hall, I at first thought LG Electronics, whose exhibit was front and center, hadn’t yet set anything up. There before me was a vast corkboard floor, sprinkled with little stations with QVC codes. I soon realized that LG was attempting to bridge the physical and virtual worlds by offering visitors a series of virtual presentations right there on the physical show floor, from a press conference to CES Innovation Award wins to a history of the company’s signature, and immersive, OLED Experiences at past CES shows, including the 2017 tunnel, the 2018 canyon, the 2019 waterfall and the 2020 wave.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me, neither figuratively (come on, corkboards?) nor literally (who’s got time to download an app and then follow a bunch of instructions to get video footage from earlier shows — isn’t that what YouTube is for?).

The rest of the show floor demonstrated CTA’s commitment to health protocols, such as wider aisles, some of them with one-way arrows, and social distancing. The arrows were disregarded by most attendees; social distancing was hit or miss. Some of the biggest exhibitors, including Sony, Panasonic and Samsung, set aside a good-sized chunk of their exhibit space for open areas with wide-apart seating. Others, including Hisense and TCL, had no discernible changes to their booths from prior years.

The big buzz on the home entertainment front was Mini-LED TVs, which everyone seemed to have. I also noticed quite a few CE companies were targeting specific groups with their TVs, including Hisense and TCL, both of which showed off TVs specifically geared toward gamers.

Early in the morning, our editor in chief, Stephanie Prange, challenged me to find a single 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

Fail.

 

Beatles ‘Get Back’ Documentary Gets Feb. 8 DVD, Blu-ray Disc Date

The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson’s acclaimed documentary on the legendary British rock band that became a streaming hit on Disney+ as a three-part miniseries, will be released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on Feb. 8, Disney says.

The release comes nine days after an hour-long concert film of the group’s iconic 1969 rooftop concert will be released at select Imax theaters on Jan. 30, the 53rd anniversary of the performance atop the Apple Corps’ Savile Row headquarters.  The concert film includes a Q&A with director Jackson, who said in a statement, “I’m thrilled that the rooftop concert from The Beatles: Get Back is going to be experienced in Imax, on that huge screen. It’s The Beatles’ last concert, and it’s the absolute perfect way to see and hear it.”

The concert, which is included in the documentary, will be digitally remastered with proprietary Imax DMR (digital remastering) technology.

The Imax event and disc release will be followed by a global theatrical run of the 60-minute concert film Feb. 11-13.

The Beatles: Get Back covers the making of the Beatles’ 1970 album Let It Be, whose working title was Get Back. Originally conceived as a feature film, The Beatles: Get Back was expanded into three episodes with a total runtime of nearly eight hours. The docuseries, which premiered on Disney+ on Nov. 25, was compiled from nearly 60 hours of unseen footage shot over 21 days, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1969, and from more than 150 hours of unheard audio, most of which has been locked in a vault for over half a century, according to a news release.

CES 2022 Opens as Scaled-Down, Shorter Event

LAS VEGAS — CES 2022 officially opens on Jan. 5 with a smaller footprint and a shorter run, three days instead of the usual four.

The culprit: The surge in COVID-19 cases, which the week before Christmas saw 42 exhibitors opt for a virtual rather than a physical presence, including such heavyweights as Amazon, AT&T, Google, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Meta (Facebook) and T-Mobile. 

Speaking on the eve of the show on the Fox Business Network’s “The Claman Countdown,” CTA CEO and president Gary Shapiro provided an update on the exhibitor count, which after a record high of 4,400 in January 2020 was expected to fall by more than half, prompting the closure of the South Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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“I’m pleased to share with you now the new number, which is actually an expanded number,” Shapiro said. “A few weeks ago we were saying 1,700, now we’re over 2,300 exhibitors. They keep signing up; we’ve had lots in November and lots in December. And why is that? Because this is one place a lot of companies rely on each year to get their message out and they really didn’t have that in 2021. You know, there’s been a huge amount of investment in startups lately.”

Shapiro said he and his team decided to proceed with the physical show because “companies rely on it. Last night we had our CES Unveiled, [with] hundreds of startups out there and other companies. And I was overwhelmed by the number of people just thanking me. Saying, look — with tears in their eyes — we wait for this all year. Please go forward.

“Plus we heard from the countries that are sending people and companies for the first time from Eastern Europe, from Asia. Korea has a record number of startups coming, France has a huge number, Netherlands has a record, Italy has a record. All over the world, they’re coming, converging on Las Vegas in a reasonably safe way to see what they could do for the year because that’s what innovation is about.

“Now, this show will be a little messy, we know that. But innovation is messy.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is the show’s increasing focus on technology and innovation instead of its legacy consumer electronics. This shift was affirmed in November 2015 when organizers changed their name to the Consumer Technology Association from the Consumer Electronics Association. 

During the CTA’s 2022 Tech Trends to Watch presentation, one of two media-only events held prior to the show’s opening, CTA VP of research Steve Koenig said the big trends to watch, and the focus of this year’s CES, are transportation (from electric vehicles to micro-mobility); space tech; sustainable technology; and digital health.

Similarly, among the new products on display at CES Unveiled, the annual media preview held right after the tech trends presentation on Jan. 3, were a smart mirror from Baracoda Daily Health that includes personal health data and makeup tutorials; the Megane X virtual reality, from Panasonic subsidiary Shiftall, for metaverse experiences; the VTOL Platform drone from VETAL, with 4G and 5G capability; and a home urine test kit from Vivoo that provides users with personalized nutrition and lifestyle advice.

Speaking on the Fox Business Network, Shapiro noted, “We’re seeing lots of new things and new categories created almost overnight. … In space, we’ve seen some tremendous developments. We’ll see a space plane — it’s a big part of the show — as well as food technology. The metaverse is, obviously, huge.

“There’s over 100 health-related technology exhibitors. And we have the automobile areas — one of the biggest footprints we’ve ever had. Smart homes, robotics, you name it.”

In addition to the two Jan. 3 media-only events, the first CES 2022 keynote was delivered by top Samsung executive Jong-Hee Han, vice chairman, CEO and head of Samsung Electronics’ DX (Device eXperience) Division.

Held under the theme, “Together for Tomorrow,” the keynote showcased sustainability efforts and demonstrated customized and connected experiences Samsung says can enrich people’s lives.

Last week, CTA announced the show will close one day early, “as an additional safety measure to the current  health protocols that have been put in place for CES.”

Those protocols include requiring all attendees to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO), and to provide proof of their vaccination status prior to picking up their badges. 

In addition, masks are required at all indoor CES events, including the show floor, and on shuttle buses. The CTA has “safety ambassadors” stationed throughout the exhibit floor, handing out masks to those who may need one.

In addition, the CTA is encouraging all attendees to take a COVID test prior to arriving in Las Vegas. The CTA is distributing complimentary Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Self Test kits, provided by Abbott, to each attendee upon retrieving their badge. The CTA also will provide testing for those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms while at a CES venue, and will distribute free RT-PCR tests for attendees who are traveling back to their international destination and who require a test to travel. 

‘Texas Killing Fields,’ ‘Free Guy,’ ‘Croods: New Age’ Top Movies at Redbox in 2021

Redbox on Jan. 5 announced the most-watched movies in 2021 across its AVOD channels, Redbox On Demand digital retail store, and nearly 40,000 kiosks offering DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals.

Texas Killing Fields, a crime drama starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, was the top AVOD title; Free Guy, the Ryan Reynolds action comedy, was the top TVOD release; and the animated kids’ movie The Croods: A New Age was the top disc rental of 2021.

Galen Smith

The year 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of Redbox, which went public last October in part to fuel its content spend. The company continues to offer disc rentals at its nearly 40,000 red kiosks outside, or inside, supermarkets, convenience stores, and mass merchants such as Walmart.  But its main focus these days is digital, including Redbox on Demand, where consumers can rent or buy movies and TV shows either through the Redbox website or apps that are now available on Roku, Samsung, VIZIO, LG, Xbox, PlayStation, iOS, Android, and many other platforms. Also available through the Redbox website and app is an AVOD streaming service where consumers can watch thousands of movies for free.

The company says its Redbox Free Live TV service has now surpassed 130 Free Ad Supported Television (FAST) channels offering a wide range of content from The Price is Right: The Barker Era to The Bob Ross channel.

“In 2021, we continued to see growth in our streaming services and our kiosks remain very popular with our customers,” said Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox. “2022 will be a big year for Redbox as we accelerate our digital businesses and celebrate 20 years of bringing the best in entertainment to millions of customers.” 

 

Redbox’s Top 10 Movies of 2021 (Digital sales and rentals, Redbox On Demand)

  1. Free Guy
  2. The Croods: A New Age
  3. F9: The Fast Saga
  4. Venom: Let There Be Carnage        
  5. Wrath of Man
  6. Greenland
  7. A Quiet Place Part II
  8. Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
  9. The Marksman
  10. Nobody

*Based on TVOD transactions between Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2021.                                 

Redbox’s Top 10 Movies of 2021 (DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the kiosk)

  1. The Croods: A New Age
  2. Greenland
  3. The Marksman
  4. Wonder Woman 1984
  5. Wrath of Man
  6. News of the World
  7. F9: The Fast Saga
  8. Nobody
  9. A Quiet Place Part II
  10. Let Him Go

*Based on DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals between Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2021.

CES Diary, Day 2: Preparations Move Ahead for CES 2022

LAS VEGAS — It was a hectic Tuesday here in Las Vegas, where the pace of preparing for a downsized CES 2022 picked up as the day wore on.

Walking around the Las Vegas Convention Center just before 5 p.m., it seemed as though a dress rehearsal for the show was going on. Parking attendants, shuttle bus drivers and security personnel were all at their stations, and even the traditional hot dog and barbecue food trucks were positioned in place, in that L-shaped plaza outside the main show entrance between the North and Central Halls.

Show signage also was up, including a huge vertical billboard — the physical world’s answer to website “skyscraper” ads, you might say — from Roku, proclaiming itself “America’s #1 streaming platform in the U.S.”

Indicative of the show’s increasing tilt toward digital health, just a few feet in front of the Roku banner was one for Abbott, touting its sensor technology, “helping 3.5 million people with diabetes live with greater confidence & freedom.”

It almost seemed a little nostalgic to see two huge building wraps for Sony and Samsung, two consumer electronics heavyweights who have maintained their highly visible CES presence for years and years.

At each entrance, safety protocols are clearly explained, and prominently displayed. Badges must be picked up before entering any of the buildings, and to pick up your badge you need to show proof of your vaccine status. Visitors also are advised that they need to wear face masks, and encouraged to social distance, wash their hands frequently and stay the hell out of Dodge — my words — if they feel sick.

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As for me, after working away during the morning, returning emails and phone calls and jotting down some thoughts for our big 25th anniversary of digital entertainment project later this year, I spent the afternoon writing up news releases pertaining to CES 2022 that bombarded my inbox.

(Actually, now that my memory is cleared after a delicious meal at the Sahara’s marquee restaurant, the Noodle Den, that was editor in chief Stephanie Prange and senior news editor Erik Gruenwedel. But I kept up with what they were posting on my iPhone while on a six-mile hike at Red Rock Canyon.)

I can certainly see Gary Shapiro’s point when he says the show must go on. Shapiro, of course, is the CEO and president of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), producer of CES — and he’s come under fire for allowing the show to proceed despite the surge in COVID-19 cases and fears, by some, that CES could become a super-spreader event.

Speaking yesterday afternoon on the Fox Business Network’s “The Claman Countdown,” he talked of the show’s critically important role in furthering technology and innovation, particularly among startups.

But he also addressed the symbolic importance of CES 2022 proceeding, insisting that he and his team have done everything in their power to keep everyone safe.

“We’ve done everything we’re supposed to,” he said. “We’ve relied on medical experts. We were the first big event to say everyone must be vaccinated. … Now, let me tell you. … Millions of people go to sporting events around the United States every week. They’re not required to be vaccinated. They’re not required to be masked. And they certainly don’t test. So we’re doing all three of those. … We’ve also taken all sorts of other safety protocols, from limiting seats in conference rooms, requiring social distancing, new types of ventilation, much, much wider aisles — one-way aisles, often. So we’ve done everything we possibly can.”

He added, “Look, it’s time to get back to normal. … It’s important that business stay and continue the course and we go forward. We have to stop staying in our homes and start living again.”