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Sony, NBCU Push CES Content

Jan 4, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Despite the current economic downturn, the Consumer Electronics Show kicking off in Las Vegas this week is projecting that attendance in the entertainment category will hold steady with last year.
Overall, the Consumer Electronics Association expects about 130,000 attendees for the annual tech-centric event, down about 10% from 140,000 in 2008.
Those who make the trek will be treated to a heavy dose of programming, as CES continues to position itself as not just a gadget show but a programming event as well. NBC Universal will broadcast programs including the “Today” show, “NBC Evening News” and “Access Hollywood” live from the show floor. Sony Pictures Television will shoot 10 episodes of “Jeopardy!” on an 18,000-square-foot set on the CES show floor and G4 will broadcast three hours of live coverage from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday hosted by the “Attack of the Show” team. Sony also will showcase at its pavilion on the show floor its programs and movies, from “Dr. Oz” to “Hancock,” across Sony devices including Bravia TVs and Vaio computers.
But some experts still question the value of peddling entertainment programming at a show that’s traditionally been a gadget extravaganza.
“There are more content companies at the show, but they are awkward at this point [because] they think they need to be there because of multiplatform potential, and it’s largely exploratory,” said Kaan Yigit, analyst with Solutions Research Group. “But what can you really buy from NBC Universal except movies and TV shows online?”
Sony and NBC did not make executives available for comment, but G4 said the value from broadcasting at CES comes from the brand association. “First and foremost, G4’s objective for CES 2009 is to advance the perception among our viewers, advertisers and distribution partners as the source for everything in and around CES,” said Neal Tiles, president of the network.
“CES has evolved to be so much more than a once-a-year trade show. It’s a stage. Technology has evolved to be a culture unto its own, complete with fans (vs. consumers) and competitive plot lines (Sony vs. Microsoft vs. Apple) that fuel year-round drama,” Mr. Tiles added.
There may not be a direct return on investment in pitching and showing programs at CES, but the value lies in creating a stronger tie between gadgets and content, said Sarah Szalavitz, CEO of 7 Robot, a new-media consulting company.
“Electronics are nothing without content,” Ms. Szalavitz said. “All networks by necessity have to stop thinking about platforms and start thinking about reaching audiences where they are geographically. And building audiences is about building community, so NBC gets to build community with technology providers at the show.”
But the agenda of the show will be dominated by the recession, Mr. Yigit said. A study conducted by SRG in late 2008 found that 44% of American consumers said they have “less money to spend on leisure and lifestyle purchases,” which includes electronics.
Mr. Yigit said the big challenge at CES could be a glut of new products and a population suffering from upgrade fatigue, even if the new gadgets contain the best shows on TV.

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