Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination Required to Attend CES 2022

The Consumer Technology Association has announced that CES 2022  will require in-person attendees to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

CES 2022 will take place in Las Vegas Jan. 5-8, 2022, with media days Jan. 3-4.

CTA will again create a digital event that will run in parallel with the in-person program.

“Based on today’s science, we understand vaccines offer us the best hope for stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, said in a statement. “We all play a part in ending the pandemic through encouraging vaccinations and implementing the right safety protocols. We are taking on our responsibility by requiring proof of vaccination to attend CES 2022 in Las Vegas.”

The CTA is also assessing the acceptance of proof of a positive antibody test as an alternative requirement and will share more details on this later, according to a CTA press release.

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“Safety, security and health are always a priority at CES, and we will follow state and local guidelines and recommendations by the CDC,” read the press release. “CTA will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation and will announce additional protocols closer to the show.”

Some 2,000 companies including major brands and start-ups will be in Las Vegas, according to the CTA. CES 2022 will feature new categories showcasing how the industry is evolving, including space tech, food tech and NFTs. The show will highlight advancements in AI, AR/VR, gaming and computing, digital health, automotive and transportation, home entertainment, smart home, and more, according to the CTA. Audiences will hear from industry leaders during live keynotes, including General Motors chair and CEO Mary Barra and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert.

Visit CES.tech for CES 2022 updates.

T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert to Deliver Keynote at CES 2022

The Consumer Technology Association has announced that T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert will deliver a keynote address during CES 2022 taking place Jan. 5-8, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Sievert’s keynote will discuss 5G innovations for consumers, businesses and thought leadership — and spotlight a look into the future of how these advancements are enabling people to work, communicate and learn more efficiently, according to the CTA.

“As we return to in-person events, we look forward to convening innovators and business leaders from around the world who will showcase how technology impacts and improves every facet of our daily lives,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA, said in a statement. “The pace of innovation has accelerated over the last 18 months, and the rapid roll-out of 5G will only increase the momentum. There’s so much excitement in this space and for the first time, we welcome Mike Sievert to our keynote stage to share more about T-Mobile’s vision for fueling 5G innovation.”

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CES 2022 will showcase 5G technologies and bring together industry advocates, including Sievert, to share insights on the where 5G is headed, according to the CTA.

“The last year has shown us the critical role connectivity plays in our lives — for consumers, businesses and society as a whole,” Sievert said in a statement. “As the nation’s 5G leader, T-Mobile is driving a transformation in wireless communications. I can’t wait to keynote CES 2022 and showcase new ways this 5G network is unleashing game-changing innovations both now and in the future.”

The keynotes at CES 2022 will be viewed in-person in Las Vegas and accessed across the globe through the digital experience.

Looking Back: 2011, Slow Recovery From the Recession

Ten years ago, home entertainment executives were more upbeat than they had been in years. The business posted its first positive quarter since the start of the 2008 global economic meltdown. With a 20% year-over-year sales gain, Blu-ray Disc was rejuvenating the physical disc business, while 3D Blu-ray was the talk of CES. And studio marketers were enthralled with the prospect of digital distribution, with a consortium of studios and other companies launching UltraViolet, a cloud-based “digital locker” that lets consumers stream and download purchased content to multiple platforms and devices. David Bishop, at the time president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, called UltraViolet “a major game changer.” The nascent streaming business, meanwhile, stumbled when Starz Entertainment ended content license renegotiations with Netflix, which meant the service would soon lose access to Disney and Sony Pictures movies.

CTA’s Gary Shapiro Cautions Against Curbing Online Free Speech Rights

Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association and CES in Las Vegas, in a recent address cautioned against proposed regulatory moves to curb online speech.

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Speaking on the recent Media Institute’s Virtual Communications Forum, Shapiro discussed how limiting freedom of expression online will affect user-generated comments and reviews, small businesses and startups.

Gary Shapiro

The Media Institute is a non-partisan organization focusing on the First Amendment and communications policy.

“Members of both political parties want to make Internet platforms responsible for user generated comments and reviews,” Shapiro said. “This is akin to making hotel owners responsible for guest behavior. Creating this liability given the huge amount of postings would severely crimp the value of these services and lead to an onslaught of opportunistic trial lawyer lawsuits.”

Instead, Shapiro called on government to provide “clear and reasonable” guardrails that give American companies legal certainty. The executive said tech and social media companies must be willing to “correct, accept and avoid infringing on IP, and defaming and slandering others.”

“This means having a process in place to correct or remove postings once platforms learn of legitimate and clear challenges,” Shapiro said. “We should encourage U.S. internet platforms  to be more transparent about their content moderation decisions and give people more control over what they see on their feeds.”

The CEO called for collaboration between policymakers and innovators.

“We must move from less productive debates on shutting-off speech to more productive discussions,” Shapiro said.

CES to Return to Las Vegas for Live Event in January

The Consumer Technology Association April 28 announced that CES 2022 will return to Las Vegas next year.

CES heads back to Las Vegas Jan. 5-8, 2022, with Media Days taking place Jan. 3-4, 2022.

After an all-digital CES 2021, CTA will convene the tech industry in-person and digitally, giving a global audience access to major brands and startups, as well as leaders and industry advocates.

Some 1,000 companies have committed to showcasing their technologies in Las Vegas, and more are continuing to sign up, according to the CTA. Attendees can expect to see global brands including Amazon, AMD, AT&T, Daimler AG, Dell, Google, Hyundai, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Sony. Companies including Caterpillar, Indy Autonomous Challenge and Sierra Space are planning to make a Las Vegas debut in 2022. Eureka Park will return with startups representing countries around the world, including delegations from France, Italy, the Netherlands and South Korea.

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“We’re thrilled to return to Las Vegas — home to CES for more than 40 years — and look forward to seeing many new and returning faces,” CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro said in a statement. “Hundreds of executives have told us how much they need CES to meet new and existing customers, find partners, reach media and discover innovation.”

The CES anchor desk, which debuted at CES 2021, will travel to Las Vegas and connect the digital audience with exhibitors, conference sessions, keynotes and product announcements from the live event. New content will also be added once CES departs Las Vegas.

“Our customers are enthusiastic about returning to a live event in Las Vegas,” Karen Chupka, EVP of CES for CTA, said in a statement. “Global brands and startups have shared that plans are already well underway and are committed to sharing the magic of an in-person CES with even more people from around the world.”

The CTA will be reviewing guidelines for coronavirus safety measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in addition to state and local guidelines. The CTA will be following applicable federal, state and local laws, adapting CES plans accordingly and sharing updates with its audiences, according to the organization.

CES: Walmart CEO Talks Accelerated Change

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, a 30-year veteran at the company, talked about changes at the retailer accelerated by the pandemic during a keynote at the virtual CES Jan. 13.

“There’s more change happening right now than at any point in those 30 years,” he said.

Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, Walmart had to adjust to serve customers as they flocked to e-commerce.

“I think many of those things that changed won’t go back,” he said.

As the pandemic hit, he said Walmart identified five priorities, in order:

  1. Keep associates safe.
  2. Keep the supply chain moving.
  3. Help others.
  4. Manage the business in the short term.
  5. Move forward on strategy.

 

As far as keeping employees safe, the chain was able to quickly secure tens of millions of masks and install plexiglass to protect associates.

“They’re just being so courageous,” he said, noting the difficulty of “working with customers, some of which don’t want to wear a mask even though we have a mask mandate.”

With the supply chain, food was the first challenge, and then other items were in high demand, including adult bikes.

“The demand really changed on a lot of those items,” he said.

During the pandemic, the company had to adapt to how customers wanted to live and shop, which taught the company lessons on the importance of using new technology, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, to better interact with them.

“We’ve got to get better at forecasting demand, so artificial intelligence and the way we use data is really important,” he said.

As far as helping others, the chain forgave rents, offered different terms for suppliers, and hired more than a half million people in a matter of months.

“We hired bartenders that didn’t have a job,” he said.

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Walmart+, the chain’s $98 annual subscription program aimed at competing with the Amazon Prime membership, debuted Sept. 1 in the middle of the pandemic. The service offers subscribers the ability to “scan-and-go” purchases in stores, free same-day shipping on some store items, and discounts on gas, among other perks. The chain is carefully ramping up those memberships, keeping an eye on maintaining customer service.

“We’ve got to build capacity for delivery,” he said.

McMillon discussed the company’s environmental initiatives such as Project Gigaton, a Walmart initiative to cut 1 billion metric tons (a gigaton) of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030. The company wants to go further to become a “regenerative” force, preserving land and water, he said.

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Spurred by the killing of George Floyd and protests last year, the company also stepped up its diversity strategy. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation last summer committed $100 million over five years through a new Center for Racial Equity. The center’s initiatives will fund research, advocacy, innovation of practices and tools, stakeholder convening, and non-profit capacity building.

“We’ve been looking in the mirror, and we’ve been studying and learning,” he said, noting that his own educational background was lacking.

“I’ve been learning more about American history, things I was not taught in school,” he said.

The company has also been looking at processes such as where they put cash deposits and how that might help black-owned businesses.

He’s also garnered lessons about organizational speed, learning to count on and trust employees, he said.

“There were quite a few times where we were facing something that I didn’t have answer for,” he said, adding, “I think the run rate of the company going forward will be faster as a result of what’s happening.”

CES: Warner Chief Ann Sarnoff Says Sending First-Run Movies to HBO Max Driven by Circumstances

Warner Bros.’ move to send first-run movies to the studio’s new streaming service HBO Max concurrently with their theatrical release was dictated by the pandemic, said Ann Sarnoff, CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Network Group, during the virtual CES Jan. 13.

“We’re pivoting to be able to adjust to the environment we live in,” she said, adding, “I have some amazing movies that I would like the public to be able to see.”

As cinemas shuttered due to COVID-19, the studio made a controversial decision to release its theatrical slate through 2021, including Wonder Woman 1984 released on Christmas Day, in theaters (that were open) and at the same time on HBO Max for 31 days.

“We needed an alternative,” Sarnoff said. “Remember, this is a global theatrical release and HBO Max is only in the U.S.”

It’s very hard to launch a film theatrically in a pandemic, she said, noting that marketing in cities where a film is playing is planned out weeks in advance and, with theaters in danger of closely at any time, that wasn’t feasible.

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She noted that earlier in the pandemic the studio was able to release Christopher Nolan’s Tenet theatrically.

“We knew Tenet would play well overseas” where more theaters were open, she said.

Sarnoff joined the company in the summer of 2019, following the exit of Kevin Tsujihara, who left the position after allegations of sexual misconduct. When she discussed taking the studio job with AT&T CEO John Stankey, “he talked about breaking silos,” she said, and that has become one of her key aims.

“It is something I’m most excited about and most proud of,” Sarnoff said, noting “how siloed Warner Bros. was in and of itself.”

She has instituted weekly meetings on the company’s big franchises to discuss collaboration.

“You don’t want your fans to see your org chart,” she said, adding, for instance, “they can see the movies don’t have anything to do with the TV.”

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Sarnoff’s career prepared her well to become the first woman to head up the venerable Warner Bros. studio, she said. Before joining the studio, she was president of BBC Studios Americas, where she was responsible for driving growth and profit across the United States, Canada and Latin America. She oversaw L.A. Productions, linear and digital program sales and co-productions, home entertainment and licensing. She also led efforts to amplify BBC Studios’ global brands “Doctor Who,” “Top Gear” and the natural history brand “BBC Earth.” As board chair of the streaming service BritBox, Sarnoff guided the development and growth of the direct-to-consumer service, which offers U.S. and Canadian customers British television programming.

“My job at the BBC, I was the only executive that wasn’t sitting around a table in London, so I had to be a collaborator,” she said.

Stints at BBC and Nickelodeon helped her learn to work with “incredible franchises and IP,” she said.

Building out the franchise at Nickelodeon “has served me very well to this day” as she has the responsibility for driving such franchises as “Harry Potter” and the Wizarding World, “Game of Thrones” and the DC Universe, she said.

“We started thinking about what we could do for our DC fans this year,” she said of the superfan event the company launched virtually in September.

Called “DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse,” the 24-hour event allowed fans to create and control their own viewing experience from more than 100 hours of on-demand content from television, films, comics, games and more — highlighting the work of more than 500 artists, writers and other talent from around the globe.

“We were able to connect virtually and celebrate the amazing movies we have coming out … as well as our TV shows,” she said, noting Venus Williams designed a whole line around Wonder Woman 1984.

Increasing diversity is another aim at the studio, she said.

“It’s a huge issue for me,” she said. “I’ve tried to blaze trails my whole career.”

She recalled having to conform to a male culture in an early job, hiding “female characteristics.”

“In terms of being a woman in this industry, it hasn’t been easy,” she said.

She says it’s a danger to have a “homogenous corporate culture where people are kind of finishing people’s sentences.”

A diverse workplace pays dividends, she said, adding that she learned from female colleagues to “get a seat at that table and make a difference.”

CES: Streaming Execs Discuss Race to Please, Attract Customers

Executives from streaming services gathered at the virtual CES Jan. 12 to discuss how they aim to please consumers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“We are all in this battle to make sure our customers can find our content as easy as possible,” said Stefanie Meyers, SVP of distribution at Starz, who manages its digital business.

Sarah Lyons, SVP of product experience at WarnerMedia, said the company’s new HBO Max service uses a blend of curation and data to target programming to consumers.

“About two-thirds of the time consumers know what they are looking for,” she said. “In those instances, get out of their way. Make it as easy as possible.”

As far as content, Lyons said, “you see tremendous engagement when you offer up lots and lots of content.” But that content has to be a mix of originals and catalog, she said.

Meyers agreed, noting that theatrical blockbusters with huge marketing campaigns are a draw, but “if you have a deep library, that can help with retention as well.”

Consumers are in different mindsets when they approach a service, Lyons said. Sometimes they are ready to sit down for a two-hour movie, and sometimes they just want to watch for a quick 30 minutes. She noted a trend of families coming together to watch a story, either virtually or in their homes, as families did in the past gathering around the TV.

“What’s old is new,” she said.

Indeed, streaming is the new TV, noted Andrew McCollum, CEO of virtual MVPD Philo.

“20 years from now people aren’t going to consider streaming TV streaming; they’re just going to consider it TV,” he said.

Thus, the competition is heating up in the virtual MVPD marketplace that replicates traditional TV, with consumers confronted with streamers, such as YouTube TV, that are having to raise prices to cover the cost of content, especially sports and news.

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“A lot of the services came to market with price points that were not sustainable,” he said, citing YouTube TV’s price jump from $25 to $65.

Philo took a different tack, eschewing such costly content that consumers may not need or want.

“It was never our intention to be the lowest cost service, but it was our intention to be the best value service,” he said.

Consumers can now get bundles of streaming services “for less than they were paying for cable,” he said.

Pluto TV, now owned by Viacom, relishes its market leading position in the ad-supported VOD or free streaming marketplace, as well as the content available from its parent, said Pluto TV SVP of programming Scott Reich. Pluto fills a niche in the Viacom streaming strategy, he said.

“It’s about creating a complementary ecosystem,” he said. “Pluto is the priority on the free service side of things. Paramount+ and Showtime are obviously the priority on the paid side.”

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Content from Viacom is filling Pluto’s AVOD pipeline, delighting customers with classic shows.

“This year we added a lot of CBS content,” Reich said, allowing Pluto consumers to revisit “Three’s Company,” “Love Boat” and “Happy Days,” among other classics.

“What’s old is new again,” he said.

 Being a free service is an advantage in the crowded streaming market, he noted, “You just fire it up, and it works.”

Nielsen at CES: Kids Titles Rule Movies, ‘The Office’ Tops TV Shows in 2020 Minutes Watched

Eight of the top 10 movies were kids’ titles, and “The Office” was by far the top TV show in minutes watched in 2020, according to Nielsen data presented during the virtual CES.

Meanwhile, Netflix’s “Ozark” topped streaming originals in minutes viewed. In fact, Netflix originals took nine of the top 10 on the minutes-watched originals chart, with Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” coming in at No. 5.

Americans streamed the equivalent of more than 100,000 years of “The Office,” said Brian Fuhrer, SVP, product strategy and thought leadership, Nielsen — with one episode, season four’s “Dundar Mifflin Infinity,” the most streamed episode at almost 31 years.

While Netflix got the benefit of devoted “Office” fans in 2020, Peacock this year acquired the rights to the NBC show.

“We don’t think ‘The Office’ is used up,” said Fuhrer, who noted fans watch the show almost as a comfort.

Kids’ films dominate minutes of movies streamed for a simple reason.

“The kids’ movies have the tremendous advantage of repeat viewings,” he said, as children will watch a film over and over.

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The top movie in terms of minutes watched was Frozen II, followed by, in order, Moana, Pets 2, Onward and Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch. Among non-kids’ titles, only Disney+’s streamed Broadway show Hamilton and Netflix’s Spenser Confidential cracked the top 10.

Among originals, following “Ozark,”  the top most watched programs in terms of minutes were three other Netflix shows, in order, “Lucifer,” “The Crown” and the infamous “Tiger King.” Coming in at No. 5 was Disney+’s “The Mandalorian.”

Fuhrer said the idea of stretching out episodes of a series to create “water cooler TV,” as Disney+ did with “The Mandalorian,” is a growing trend.

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“I think we’re going to see more and more of that,” he said, adding “Amazon did it with ‘The Boys’ to great success.”

While everyone streamed more during the pandemic, one of the biggest changes is how it attracted older viewers, who adopted it and kept on streaming.

“As the older demographic started to stream, there was a lot of sampling,” especially of AVOD services as they were free, he noted.

As theaters closed, first-run movies hit streaming, a trend that is here to say, he said.

“One of the things I find most fascinating was the opportunity to deliver first run movies to consumers,” he said.

While cinemas aren’t going to go away, first-run streaming will become a “bigger and bigger piece of the television pie over time,” he said.

Another trend is an explosion in streaming outlets.

“Fragmentation is hitting streaming just like it hit traditional TV,” he noted.

For these services, “distribution is critical,” he said.

“If it’s not available on the device you have, it’s invisible,” he noted.

Value is another battleground in the streaming marketplace, with consumers evaluating the price versus the quality of content.

CES Keynoter Best Buy CEO Corie Barry: No Reverting Back to 2019 Behaviors

Consumers’ move to digital experiences and expanded store services is here to stay, said Best Buy CEO Corie Barry during her Jan. 12 keynote at the virtual CES.

“There isn’t a world where people revert back to their 2019 behaviors,” said Barry, who took over as chief executive of the retail chain last year.

She noted that her dad during the pandemic learned to order groceries for curbside pickup and is now “more comfortable with curbside in general.”

“It’s this comfort level more than anything else that will continue to push the envelope,” she said, adding “customer expectations will be raised in terms of what they can get done digitally.”

Best Buy instituted curbside pickup within the first three weeks of March as the COVID-19 outbreak began, she noted.

“People took immediately to more digital means [of finding products],” she said.

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Also as the pandemic hit, products such as computers, webcams, and computer speakers were in high demand, as were home theater and gaming products.

One surprise was “how much people needed to be entertained at home,” she said.

Online sales grew 174% in Q3, with 40% of items picked up in store or curbside.

Going forward, she noted, “the store is going to have a massive role in fulfillment” of online orders.

Still, the in-store experience is important, especially in helping customers with complex technical problems.

“Our stores play a really vital role in that,” Barry said.

While some companies were concerned about the effect of the pandemic on their bottom line, Barry said that at Best Buy the view was to the customers’ experience and how it set the chain up for the future.

“We knew if we took care of them today, in the moment, that would be really important for our brand in the long term,” she said.