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CES After NATPE’s Mantle

Jan 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The International Consumer Electronics Show gets into full swing today in Las Vegas, officially launching the Consumer Electronics Association’s all-out attempt to seize the crown as the leading content market for its hardware regulars.
Under the guidance of a veteran NATPE executive and with Sony Pictures Television on board in a big way, CEA is giving the National Association of Television Program Executives’ annual programming sales bazaar a real run for its money by merging technology and content vendors into one all-encompassing conference.
CES is expected to draw around 2,700 exhibitors and 140,000 attendees to 1.85 million square feet of exhibition space throughout the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo & Convention Center, as well as at the Hilton and Venetian hotels.
A key shift signaling the future direction of CES has been Sony Pictures Television’s withdrawal from NATPE, which takes place at the end of the month, to join its hardware brethren at CES, until recently a showcase exclusively for technology. In an attempt to make the move a success, multiple sources said, Sony will fly in key station executives from around the country to view its upcoming programs, particularly syndicated fare.
“The entertainment industries have always had a direct impact on the adoption of new technology, and Sony Pictures Television will showcase its breadth of new content in a major way at CES, alongside service providers and technology giants exhibiting at CES,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association said upon Sony’s announcement. “As content development continues to drive new technology innovations, attendees at the 2008 International CES will witness the emergence of new content platforms, as the largest display of digital entertainment debuts alongside of the latest consumer technology innovations coming to market.”
Sony Pictures Television declined to comment about its participation at CES.
The question is who, exactly, will be there to buy?
Following Sony’s announcement, CES tapped the services of longtime NATPE ally Nick Orfanopoulos as “a senior adviser for the content and entertainment community and exhibits” in an attempt to bolster the conference’s influence with content providers. Mr. Orfanopoulos had previously overseen sales for NATPE, which he departed in September, as well as for Promax.
“As the International CES increasingly becomes the ‘must-attend’ tradeshow for the digital entertainment industry, Nick Orfanopoulos is the perfect fit to ensure that we continue to serve the needs of the content industry in bringing relevant exhibits, speakers and special events to the International CES,” said Karen Chupka, senior VP of events and conferences for CEA. “With more than 20 years in the television industry, we are thrilled that Mr. Orfanopoulos has come on board to offer his invaluable expertise and extensive knowledge of the content community.”
Although a large majority of station decision-makers will not attend the event, CES’ moves have piqued the curiosity of some station groups, including Sinclair, which, according to sources, will send executives to the gathering.
NBC Universal, which continues to support NATPE, will have a major presence at CES as well (see separate story).
In recent years the CES has seen a progressively greater influx of network, satellite and programming executives in attendance, with companies ranging from DirecTV to AT&T breaking news at the event. Furthermore, Disney President-CEO Bob Iger and CBS CEO Leslie Moonves have previously delivered keynotes for CES that laid out broadband initiatives for their networks.
Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp., is slated to speak Tuesday. Other speakers at CES this week include Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who was scheduled to speak Sunday; Panasonic President Toshihiro Sakamoto, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and Intel CEO Paul Otellini, all scheduled for today; and General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner on Tuesday.
The Consumer Electronics Association also announced recently that Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, will join Mr. Shapiro on Tuesday for a one-on-one discussion of consumer technology industry issues, including the digital television transition, the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction and broadband deployment.
In addition, in a CES first, all of the FCC commissioners who work under Mr. Martin—Michael J. Copps, Jonathan S. Adelstein, Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert McDowell—will be at the show.
“We welcome all five FCC commissioners and are thrilled to have Chairman Martin back to the International CES … and look forward to hearing his views on the upcoming DTV transition and other key issues facing our industry,” said Mr. Shapiro. “Chairman Martin’s support of industry competition and the furthering of technology innovation provides every American with greater access to consumer technology products and services.”

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