(By Buzz Knight) The Consumer Technology Association rolls out CES 2021 this week and I couldn’t be more pumped for the event. Every year, it is a must see moment and this year as we are stuck in a pandemic the virtual event is more important than ever for us to digest.
One tradition I look forward to is syncing up with my long time, co-conspirator, partner in crime and friend Fred Jacobs to interview CTA President Gary Shapiro for his take on the event.
1. Can you describe the immense challenges involved with the necessity to move the show to a virtual event?
Shapiro: This year’s CES is a totally reimagined experience – both for us as producers and for our attendees. Our goal is to create an experience that lets exhibitors, media, thought leaders, and executives connect in ways that are both safe and meaningful.
The biggest challenge was finding a platform that would let us accomplish this. We teamed up with Microsoft for its technical expertise, global scale and experience in creating compelling digital content. Microsoft is a global innovation leader and longtime supporter of CES. They understand what makes CES special and unique. And they’re working side-by-side with our team to capture that experience digitally.
CES 2021 attendees will be able to build profiles and select areas of interest so that we can tailor their experience and offer content recommendations.
2. Healthcare is always a big focus at the show. Will we see new medical technologies spurred by the pandemic?
Shapiro: Digital Health is a key focus area of CES 2021. We’re seeing amazing technological innovations borne out of this pandemic, many of which will be on display and part of the conversations at CES.
Robots and drones are forging ground in automated, contactless home delivery. Smart city technology helps monitor our public spaces for signs of ill health, using air sensors and temperature checks. The next generation of wearables will monitor our vitals and alert us to any irregularities before they become larger issues. And artificial intelligence can lead to improved health outcomes and lower costs.
3. COVID has forced most people to stay home more this year. How do you foresee video content and delivery changing as a result?
Shapiro: Despite a slowdown in television sales, we’re seeing growth in content streaming and continued interest by consumers in smarter TVs. According to CTA’s 2020 Sales and Forecast report, over 70% of displays shipping this year are smart TVs that enable access to hundreds of streaming services. And consumers continue to upgrade their sets to smarter and higher-resolution displays. In fact, 76% of TVs shipped this year will be 4K displays.
Augmented and virtual reality headsets are also expanding the horizon for entertainment, as content creators develop new all-encompassing video experiences. CTA predicts 7% revenue growth for AR/ VR headsets this year.
But it’s not just how consumers are streaming content that’s changing – it’s what they’re streaming. We have an entire vertical of CES dedicated to covering this transformation. C Space at CES brings together leaders from marketing, entertainment and media to discover disruptive tech trends affecting content consumption, advertising mediums and consumer behavior. I’m excited to hear from Warner Bros. Entertainment Chairman Ann Sarnoff about her company’s decision to stream its 2021 slate of releases online during our C Space Keynote address, Jan 13, at 10:30 AM ET.
4. And where does radio fit in? “Regular radios” are disappearing from homes and offices, but more people than ever are listening to favorite stations and personalities on mobile devices and smart speakers. Do you see that accelerating?
Shapiro: Consumer adoption of streaming platforms is moving at lightning speed through this pandemic. According to CTA research, U.S. consumers spent $42 billion on music and video streaming services in 2020, up more than four-fold from 2016. And our home entertainment is getting more immersive and sophisticated as digital assistants in smart speakers, sound bars and TVs are opening opportunities for voice-based applications.
Radio stations need to support various mediums – including smart speakers. Smart speakers are our portal to the world, connecting us with our favorite radio personalities, news sources and music genres, across time zones, across borders, and across languages. And with 5G, radio can reach new markets around the world. Streaming and radio stations remain an important component of our fully connected content future.
5. Many companies like Delta had ambitious plans at last year’s show that had to be disrupted or put on pause. Which companies are you looking forward to “seeing” at CES 2021?
Shapiro: We have leaders from some of the most cutting-edge companies joining us on stage this year – Amazon, Best Buy, Google, IBM, Twitter and Walmart, just to name a few. We’re also pleased to be joined again this year by leaders from non-traditional tech companies, such as the WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and WW International CEO Mindy Grossman – because these days, every company is a tech company.
6. 2020 has been off the charts. What leadership lessons have you observed by business, government, or civic leaders this year that have stood out to you?
Shapiro: One lesson about American innovation that has stood out to me in 2020 is that when faced with adversity, nothing is impossible thanks to our melting pot country of bright minds from around the world.
Less than 12 months after a devastating pandemic swept the globe, scientists banded together to create multiple effective vaccines that are already being distributed. The big takeaway for me, seeing Pfizer partner with Germany’s BioNTech to create the first FDA-approved Covid vaccine, is that innovators are all around us. We need policies that allow the best and brightest to come to the United States.
But U.S. immigration policy needs work. While large parts of our economy still rely on crucial high-skilled immigration programs, such as the H-1B visa, many of these programs are outdated and need to be improved for our new competitive world.
American innovators – regardless of where they were born – help drive our global competitiveness. Policymakers must enact policies that attract – not deter – immigrants who want to succeed in America.
7. Radio has been scrappy this year, doubling down on local community connection and coverage. Any thoughts on how broadcasters can stand out in 2021 in an increasingly crowded media landscape.
Shapiro: It’s true – the media landscape is more crowded than ever. But that’s a great thing! Content creators have more avenues than at any time in history to share their art and inspiration. And as new revenue models emerge, both ad-free and ad-supported, there are more opportunities for consumers to choose the models that make sense for them. I can’t wait to see what we create in 2021 and beyond!
Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]