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Editorial: CES Lays Out Roadmap to the Digital Future

Jan 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

When a convention draws the likes of Bill Gates, Brian Roberts and General Motors’ Chairman-CEO Rick Wagoner as major speakers, and it’s neither a computer gathering, a cable convention nor a car show, attention must be paid.
And paying attention is exactly what many in the TV industry will be doing this week in Las Vegas at the 41st annual International Consumer Electronics Show, where Messrs. Gates, Roberts and Wagoner will be speaking.
For several years now, the byword of many traditional TV and media companies—as well as marketers—has been “360 degrees,” meaning they intend to connect with their customers whenever and wherever they are, and through whatever devices they use.
As companies increasingly adopt this philosophy, CES becomes ever more important. Forty-one years ago, when the first CES took place in New York City, about 17,500 people attended.
It was 1967, the year the first Super Bowl was played. “Bonanza” was ruling the airwaves back then with a Nielsen rating of 29—the 20th-ranked series that year did a 20 rating. By comparison, the No. 1-ranked show on TV last season, “American Idol,” scored a 12 rating. So clearly, finding the consumer in an ever-fractionalizing world has become imperative.
Where better to find out what devices consumers will be using than at the annual CES show?
In past years, VCRs, CD players, HDTVs, plasma TVs, Blu-ray DVDs and IPTV, among many others, have had their major debut at CES. It’s a good bet that another very popular product will debut somewhere in the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center this week, where more than 140,000 attendees are expected.
The Consumer Electronics Association announced late last month that more than half of U.S households now own a digital TV. Earlier, the CEA estimated 36% of U.S. households now have high-definition TV sets. The success of these products is indeed phenomenal.
But as programmers and others pursue their 360-degree philosophy, a word of caution is in order: A better job must be done integrating programming with these new products.
HDTVs are a perfect example. Sixty-six percent of those who own HDTV sets don’t receive HD programming—and to be frank, on many HDTV sets standard-definition programming doesn’t look good.
So not only do TV distributors, programmers and manufacturers need to do a better job of convincing consumers to get high-definition programming along with their HDTVs, but more programmers need to telecast in HD.
Some may consider these issues a distraction, but they aren’t. They are key to making sure these devices and those to come benefit all of us in our digital future.

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