CES Expects To Challenge Attendance Record; ESPN Without Booth, But Holds BCS Party
The '13 Int'l Consumer Electronics Show opens today in Las Vegas, and organizers are again expecting this week to set event records, even with several major companies including ESPN and Microsoft decreasing their CES profiles. The Consumer Electronics Association, which produces the event, has sold an unprecedented 1.87 million square feet of event space and last year's all-time attendance of 156,153 will be challenged. There was no breakthrough product introduction yesterday during the prelude CES Press Day and none are expected today. But several manufacturers this year have sought to winnow the wide gap often seen between the hype of many CES announcements and realistic commercial viability. LG Electronics CTO Skott Ahn, regarding a "laser" TV projector capable of displaying a 100-inch image in full high-definition, said, "This is not a prototype or a demo." The product is due to reach the U.S. in March after an initial introduction in South Korea. "We have made the 100-inch screen reality." Below is a look at news and events around yesterday's CES Press Day.
ESPN: The company will not have a CES booth as it did last year. But it once again held an invitation-only party last night for several hundred industry execs to watch the BCS Championship Game in 3D. Shot in native 3D with nine cameras from the Cameron Pace Group, the ESPN production featured a specially designed mast for the main play-by-play camera that essentially sought to split the difference between the high sideline feed common to standard 2D TV coverage of football and lower camera angles necessary to make 3D work. ESPN's event was the most visible presentation of 3D yesterday, as each of the major TV set manufacturers presenting barely mentioned 3D. The rage of recent CES events, 3D has yet to approach the consumer acceptance originally projected by many industry executives. 3D is now just one of many capabilities of current high-end sets as opposed to the primary feature.
MONSTER: The audio products company announced a partnership with EA Sports to create a series of gaming headsets bearing the EA Sports logo that can also be used for music and movies. Carrying a suggested retail price of $269.95, the headphones will be available beginning next month, including EA Sports' new series of branded airport stores. EA Sports VP/Brand Marketing Chris Erb said, "This is really our first high-end peripheral for gaming. It felt like a really natural brand extension." Added Monster Cable Founder & CEO Noel Lee, "We weren't going to enter the gaming market until we were ready to work with a leader." Boxing HOFer Sugar Ray Leonard aided in yesterday's presentation of the new headphones. Saints QB Drew Brees also was on hand to support a separate Monster announcement around the redesign of its iSport fitness-oriented, in-ear headphones. The alignment with Brees essentially replaces one Monster announced last year with the Livestrong Foundation. Monster additionally unveiled a new marketing and product design partnership with UFC.
QUALCOMM: Replacing Microsoft last night in the high-profile, pre-show keynote slot, Qualcomm had NASCAR VP/Digital Media Marc Jenkins and reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski on stage to discuss NASCAR's development of its mobile apps with the aid of Qualcomm technology, particularly live race tracking with multiple data feeds and video.
SAMSUNG: The company was one of many manufacturers to tout heightened efforts in new "4K" and "Ultra HD" television sets with four times the resolution of current high-definition. But Samsung also announced an "Evolution Kit" in which owners of current Samsung Smart TV sets can buy a small box that replaces the one in the back of the existing set and installs a new advanced processor and up-to-date set features. The cost of the kit, likely approaching $500 initially, may still be out of reach for many consumers. But it represented a rare CES nod to not constantly replacing technology. Samsung Exec VP Joe Stinziano said, "We recognize consumers can't buy a new TV every year."
SPORTS SIGHTINGS: Sports celebrities and execs continue to be present at CES. In addition to Leonard, Brees and Keselowski, Jets QB Tim Tebow will announce a new headphones line with Soul Electronics on Thursday. Former boxer Victor Ortiz is appearing on behalf of Luvvitt LLC, a producer of iPad and iPhone cases. Execs speaking on various CES panels include outgoing NFL Digital Media GM Jeff Berman, Mavericks Owner and HDNet Chair Mark Cuban, Sports Legacy Institute President & CEO Christopher Nowinski and TBS Senior VP/Business Development & Multi-platform Distribution Jeremy Legg.