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.

CES 2021 Goes Virtual in Pandemic Era

The annual CES kicks off today (Jan. 11) online instead of in Las Vegas due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Gone are the 170,000 attendees who interacted in person with more than 4,500 exhibitors at the consumer electronics showcase in 2020.

This year, the virtual CES will feature about 2,000 vendors, including those targeting home entertainment with the newest high-definition televisions (QLED, MicroLED, 4K and 8K) to consumers largely homebound for their video entertainment.

To accommodate online attendees, CES is affording registered viewers the ability to remotely access vendors via “digital activations” that enable them to interact with company reps and related show materials. CES will again showcase keynote speakers and roundtable discussions — all online.

CTA CEO Gary Shapiro

“CES 2021 will be making history, with our first all-digital show,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association said in a statement. “This new experience will feature exhibitors from around the world, showcasing the latest trends and innovation in artificial intelligence, 5G, digital health, smart cities, vehicle tech and beyond. Technology will move us forward and CES 2021 will illustrate how innovation paves the way for a brighter tomorrow.”

Shapiro said COVID-19 has underscored the need for consumer electronics and innovation without increased government regulation.

“We’re able to work and learn remotely thanks to high-speed internet, video conferencing tools and affordable laptops,” Shapiro wrote. “The pandemic has sped our embrace of technology — for work, school, health, entertainment, connecting with loved ones — and spurred innovation around the globe.”

CTA estimates that 40% of U.S. workers are doing so from home, while 90% of school children are being educated outside the classroom during the pandemic.

Shapiro said consumer technology enhancing work and entertainment in the home will “help us be human again with other humans as they ensure crowd-friendly spaces and entertainment zones.” He lauded major content players such as WarnerMedia for taking the landmark step streaming movies into homes at the same time they arrive in theaters.

At the same time Shapiro is calling on the new 117th U.S. Congress to take a “fresh look” at immigration reform, with an emphasis on high-skilled immigration policy. He said 80% of immigrants are likely to start a business in the U.S.

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“The incoming Biden administration can also help our competitiveness by stabilizing trade relationships and promoting our crown jewel companies and world-leading startup ecosystem,” Shapiro wrote. “This includes a fact-based look at Section 230, the cornerstone of free speech online, and ensuring it continues to provide protections to companies both large and small.”

Section 230 is legislation passed into law as part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. In the current political climate, Section 230 provides immunity to social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter against being sued regarding content on their site. The companies say they can better self-moderate content and government regulators.

Some lawmakers, including President Trump, say Section 230 enables tech companies and social media platforms to censor political content.

Shapiro said the Biden Administration should help to promote clarity and provide “rational and clear guardrails” within which companies can operate, while at the same time enabling U.S. companies to be more competitive globally.

“American tech companies are the envy of the world,” Shapiro wrote. “China is spending billions to catch and surpass our nation’s most innovative companies. Europe targets our tech companies with protectionist rules. If we implement rules restricting flexibility or creating new barriers to entrepreneurship and innovation, we will bolster the efforts of competitor nations.”

 

Samsung Debuts 2021 Eco-Friendly Lifestyle TVs

Samsung Jan. 6 unveiled its 2021 portfolio of Neo QLED, MICRO LED and Lifestyle TV displays during its first-ever virtual event ahead of next week’s virtual CES 2021. The new line underscores Samsung’s goal to develop TVs leaving a lower carbon footprint, using solar power and renewable packaging, among other sustainability issues. The new HDTV screens are also gigantic, up to 110 inches in diameter.

“During the past year, we have witnessed the pivotal role technology played in helping us carry on with our lives and stay connected with each other,” JH Han, president of visual display business, said in a statement. “Our commitment to an inclusive and sustainable future goes hand-in-hand with our relentless pursuit for innovation to meet consumers’ ever-changing needs – from reducing the carbon footprint of our products, to providing a suite of accessibility features, to offering an unparalleled viewing experience that fits each user’s lifestyle.”

Samsung long-term sustainability programs include seeking to decrease its overall carbon footprint in TV manufacturing. The company will also seek to lower user power consumption and use more recycled materials across its entire TV line.

The South Korean-based CE giant is expanding its ‘Eco-packaging’ design to all 2021 Lifestyle TVs and most of the 2021 Neo QLED line. This initiative aims to upcycle up to 200,000 tons of corrugated boxes each year. By minimizing text and graphic imagery on the Eco-packaging, the oil-based ink from color printing that’s traditionally used on TV boxes is eliminated, helping to further reduce waste.

In 2021, Samsung TVs will come with a solar-powered remote control that can be recharged by indoor light, outdoor light or USB — a first-of-its-kind innovation for the brand. This will help prevent waste from a projected 99 million AAA batteries over seven years. To construct the remote, Samsung innovated manufacturing process that upcycles plastics from recyclable bottles — including 24% recycled content.

In addition to sustainability, all 2021 QLED and Neo QLED models feature the latest advances in technology and Artificial Intelligence(AI). New features include Caption Moving, Sign Language Zoom and Multi-Output Audio, giving those with the hard of hearing, the deaf, people with low vision, and the blind the ability to optimize their viewing to their needs and preferences. By 2022, Samsung said it would expand its Voice Guide feature — which provides audio guidance for people with the deaf and people with low vision. And Samsung will continue to develop new AI based features to enhance the accessibility of Samsung TVs in the years to come.

The company is also introducing new display technology, Neo QLED, to its flagship 8K (QN900A) and 4K (QN90A) models with a new light source, Quantum Mini LED precisely controlled by Quantum Matrix Technology and Neo Quantum Processor.

The Quantum Mini LED is 1/40 the height of a conventional LED. Instead of using a lens to disperse light, and a package to fix the LED in place, the Quantum Mini LED uses thin micro layers filled with many more LEDs. Quantum Matrix Technology enables ultra-fine and precise control of the densely packed LEDs, preventing blooming — and allowing viewers to enjoy content as its meant to be seen.

Neo QLED increases the luminance scale to 12-bit with 4096 steps; this helps make dark areas darker and bright areas brighter, resulting in a more precise and immersive HDR experience. By using up to 16 different neural network models, the Neo Quantum Processor can optimize picture quality to 4K and 8K picture output regardless of the input quality.

The Neo QLED 8K features a new Infinity One Design — a nearly bezel-less screen providing an even more immersive viewing experience in a sleek design and form factor. And Neo QLED 8K’s attachable Slim One Connect box — an all-new cable management system that can be attached to the TV’s back — allows for an easier install and cleaner aesthetic. The 2021 Neo QLED 8K also includes several premium, room-filling audio features; Object Tracking Sound (OTS) Pro’s dynamic sound corresponds to the movement of objects on screen, and SpaceFit Sound analyzes the installed TV’s physical environment and outputs immersive sound tailored specifically to your space.

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Content updates include:

  • Samsung Health seamlessly transforms the home into a personal gym, and the new Smart Trainer feature tracks and analyzes posture in real time, just like a personal trainer. During and post-workout, Smart Trainer provides feedback on form, helps you count your reps, and estimates calories burned. With video and interactive training via Bixby-enabled voice control, Samsung Health Smart Trainer elevates and personalizes the home workout experience.
  • Super Ultrawide GameView gives gamers the option to play not only at the wide 21:9 aspect ratio, but even at the ultrawide 32:9 ratio. The wider field of view ensures gamers don’t miss a moment of the action. And Game Bar lets players quickly monitor and adjust critical aspects of play — whether that’s switching aspect ratios, checking input lag, or connecting a headset. Finally, FreeSync Premium Pro minimizes stuttering so players enjoy smooth picture quality throughout gameplay.
  • With Google Duo, consumers can use their phone to initiate a high-quality, high-speed video call that up to 32 people can join — no matter which operating system they’re using. With Google Duo app, you can make video calls directly through an optional USB-connected camera. And with smart camera solution, the camera can follow your movements. It will automatically zoom in and out so you’re just the right size, always in focus.
  • PC on TV on Samsung devices allows consumers to connect a PC to the TV, enabling working and learning from home through the TV screen with a connected mouse, keyboard, and PC. Consumers can also directly access MS Office 365 through the TV’s web browser to create and edit documents. Simply install an Easy Connection app on your computer and log into your Samsung Account — and your TV will automatically connect to your PC, making working from the living room seamless.

 

In 2021, the promise of Micro LED comes home. With the new MICRO LED line, Samsung has made Micro LED available in a traditional TV form factor for the first time — bringing consumers a breathtaking visual experience on an ultra-large next-generation screen.

Available in 110-inch, 99-inch and smaller sizes by the end of the year, the new MICRO LED line uses micrometer-sized LED lights to eliminate the backlight and color filters utilized in conventional displays. It is self-illuminating, producing stunningly lifelike colors and brightness through its 24 million individually controlled LEDs.

Samsung has innovated its Smart TV features to take advantage of the new MICRO LED line’s massive screen. For example, consumers can use the 4Vue (Quad View) feature to comfortably watch up to four different content sources simultaneously on one screen. Viewers can connect multiple external devices to keep up with multiple playoff games at once, or stream a walkthrough while playing a video game.

Finally, the new MICRO LED’s dynamic audio experience is just as immersive as its visuals. With Majestic Sound, it delivers breathtaking 5.1 channel sound with no external speaker — transforming any room into a luxurious home theater.

Enhancing the Award-Winning Lifestyle TV Portfolio

Samsung is also making enhancements to its 2021 Lifestyle TV line with new design and form factors to reflect the changing interests and tastes of consumers. Since launching in 2017, The Frame has redefined the television, transforming displays into stunning works of art, with over one million units sold.

The 2021 version builds on The Frame’s innovative legacy, offering a more customizable experience in a slimmer form. The Frame is about half thinner compared with previous iterations, mirroring the depth of a traditional picture frame. New attachable bezel options come in five color options and two different customizable styles — Modern and Beveled — to match the aesthetic of whatever room The Frame is in.

With a subscription to The Frame’s all-new Art Store, consumers will be able to enjoy 1,400+ carefully curated pieces. Samsung’s new AI-based auto-curation technology better analyzes individual consumer preferences to recommend artwork.

Online CES Moves to Jan. 11-14

The 2021 CES event, which is going online and was scheduled to start Jan. 6, is moving back to Jan. 11-14, organizers announced.

The new schedule is:

  • Jan. 11: Exclusive media-only access
  • Jan. 12: Exhibitor showcase and conference programming
  • Jan. 13: Exhibitor showcase and conference programming
  • Jan. 14: Conference programming

 

Owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association, CES 2021 will be an all-digital experience connecting exhibitors, customers, thought leaders and media from around the world. CES 2021 will allow participants to hear from technology innovators, see cutting-edge technologies and the latest product launches, and engage with global brands and startups from around the world, according to organizers.

For more than 50 years, CES has spotlighted technology. Visit CES.tech for all CES 2021 updates.

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2021 CES Trade Show Moving Online Only Due to COVID-19 Resurgence

The annual in-person CES in Las Vegas — an industry mainstay for 50 years once known by its longer moniker of the Consumer Electronics Show — has been canceled due to surges in COVID-19 infections and will be replaced by an all-digital format, Jan. 6-9, 2021, organizer Consumer Technology Association announced July 28.

“Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, said in a statement. “By shifting to an all-digital platform for 2021, we can deliver a unique experience that helps our exhibitors connect with existing and new audiences.”

CTA said it plans to return to Las Vegas for CES 2022, combining elements of a physical and digital show.

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As recently as June, the CTA had vowed to proceed with at least a partially physical show. At the time, the trade association said in a statement, “We will showcase our exhibitors’ products, technology breakthroughs and ideas to the world, both physically in Las Vegas and digitally. “You can expect to see a wider selection of live-streamed CES content, along with many other engaging digital and virtual opportunities, enabling you to connect with the world’s leading technology innovators, thought leaders and policymakers.”

In January 2020, more than 175,000 industry professionals, including more than 61,000 from outside the United States, convened in Las Vegas for CES 2020.

At the time reports were just filtering in from China about a mysterious new illness centered around the city of Wuhan. It wasn’t until Jan. 11, a day after the 2020 CES ended, that the first death was reported. From the Wall Street Journal: “A new virus implicated in a pneumonia outbreak in central China killed a 61-year-old man there, Chinese health authorities said. … It was the first death of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan, where 59 people have been quarantined. Chinese scientists discovered a new strain of coronavirus there this week.”

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In last month’s statement, the CTA said it would enable social distancing at the January 2021 CES, including widening aisles in many exhibit areas and providing more space between seats in conference programs and other areas where attendees congregate. Attendees and exhibitors would be encouraged to wear masks and avoid shaking hands.

CTA also said it planned to limit touch points throughout the facilities, including through cashless systems for purchases and transactions. It also was considering employing contactless thermal scans at key venue entry points, in addition to providing enhanced on-site access to health service and medical aid.

CES 2020 Concludes Its Run With More Than 20,000 Product Debuts

LAS VEGAS — CES 2020 concluded its four-day run Jan. 10 after seeing more than 20,000 product debuts, most of them in the technology sector.

Over 4,400 exhibiting companies launched their latest products to 170,000 attendees across more than 2.9 million square feet of exhibit space. The focus, as it’s been in recent years, was on innovation, with large show floor areas devoted to smart cities, smart homes and automobiles, both connected and autonomous.

“CES 2020 inspired and connected every major industry across the globe,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), owner and producer of CES, said in a statement. “The innovation unveiled at CES 2020 will reshape industries, create jobs, fuel the global economy and improve lives around the world.”

The show’s legacy consumer electronics, meanwhile, dominated the huge central hall, where large CE manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, LG Electronics and TCL set up massive displays exhibiting their latest 8K TVs. TV makers are lining up behind either QLED or OLED. QLED stands for “Quantum Dot LED,” which uses a backlight. When light reflects on the quantum dots, they emit light. OLED, which stands for “Organic Light Emitting Diodes,” doesn’t require a back light. QLED TVs offer a greater range of colors and can reach higher levels of brightness without losing saturation, but due to their LCD chips, they cannot reach absolute black.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) was dominant throughout the show floor and will be a “key ingredient technology” over the next decade, CTA says. Companies debuting their latest AI solutions included Brunswick, Doosan, John Deere and Kyocera.

5G, the next-generation wireless technology that began its global rollout in 2018, also generated a buzz at CES 2020. Delivering data 20 times faster than 4G, the technology also has lower latency — meaning much less of a delay when requesting data — and massive capacity that will allow it to handle not only current devices, but also emerging technologies such as autonomous cars and connected home products.

5G deployment and adoption is spreading more rapidly than expected, according to the June 2019 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report. By 2024, 45% of the world’s population will have 5G coverage, according to the report, a number that could surge to 65% as spectrum sharing technology allows for 5G deployments on LTE frequency bands.

CES 2020 also saw the launch of innovative technologies not connected to entertainment or communications. Digital health technologies were a major theme, with advancements in digital therapeutics, wearables and remote patient monitoring as digital health addresses issues like opioid dependence, mental illness and chronic disease. The Health & Wellness category saw an increase of nearly 25% with more than 135 exhibiting companies at CES 2020.

The Smart Cities exhibit area expanded by nearly 25% over 2019, the CTA says, with companies and organizations including the Department of Transportation, Hitachi and Siemens highlighting products designed to bring cities fully into the digital age.

CES 2020 was also a key startup event, with more than 1,200 companies from 46 countries featured within Eureka Park, offering disruptive innovations, attracting investors and big-name brands. Technologies unveiled within Eureka Park include the Oval Home smart sensor that analyzes temperature, light, humidity and movement in the home; Yoganotch, which applies motion capture technology to help users improve poses; and Caregiver Smart Solutions with sensors that track movement and patterns to provide caregivers reassurance and patients with more independence at home.

CES 2020 also featured an expanded automotive section, split between connected cars and the latest advances in autonomous driving. The north hall featured exhibits from nine leading car manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, Daimler (Mercedes), FCA, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota, and more than 150 vehicle tech exhibitors.

CES 2020 also brought together content creators, Hollywood, the advertising and music industries, media and leading CMOs to explore the future of brand marketing and entertainment, including streaming services, through the return of C Space. The 2020 program featured more than 60 exhibitors, including AT&T Services, Comcast, Google, HP , Hulu, iHeart, NBC Universal, Pandora, Reddit, Roku, Sirius XM, Snap, Twitch, Turner, Univision and WWE.

The CES stage featured more than 1,100 speakers representing major global industries, including keynotes from Samsung president and CEO of Consumer Electronics Division Hyun-Suk Kim; Daimler chairman Ola Källenius; Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian; NBCUniversal chairman of Advertising and Partnerships Linda Yaccarino; Quibi CEO Meg Whitman and founder Jeffrey Katzenberg; U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao; Salesforce chairman and co-CEO Marc Benioff; Unilever CEO Alan Jope; and presidential advisor Ivanka Trump.