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Volume 20 No. 41

Media

We could be in the midst of seeing the annual Consumer Electronics Show morph from a television-centric convention to one that’s more focused on everyday home products.

That’s the opinion from one of Comcast’s top executives, executive vice president of Xfinity Services Matt Strauss, who described CES as a place where five years ago electronic devices and services for the home essentially were relegated to a kiosk away from the convention’s main floor. Earlier this month, that part of the convention had grown to full exhibitions in the Venetian and Sands hotels in Las Vegas.

 

“I remember looking at that and thinking that was going to be the future of the show,” Strauss said during this week’s SBJ/SBD media podcast. “Over time, that will become the show. What started out as a little kiosk, I predict over the next five to 10 years will become a core part of where the innovation is going to come from and where people are going to spend a lot of their time when they go to CES.”

 

Strauss described a CES show floor this year that was littered with everyday items that can be connected to the internet, things like cameras, lights, garage doors, door locks and even his coffee mug.

 

“I tend to be a bit of a coffee snob, so my coffee mug is set to keep my coffee at 135 degrees at all times,” he said. “Something like that might seem like an unnecessary device. Yet for somebody who drinks coffee, it’s fantastic.

 

“It’s not hard to extrapolate where this is going. It’s not too distant where everything will be connected in some way to the internet. The question will be how do you use that information and data to create really compelling experiences and also improve people’s lives.”

 

It’s not just his coffee cup. Strauss already uses a lot of these everyday services. For example, on his drives home from work, his wife gets an automated text message every day when he’s five miles away. Lights in the home turn on and the home door unlocks automatically. When the Eagles score a touchdown, lights in Strauss’ home blink green.

 

“Eventually, I will want it to turn the television on to CNBC,” he said. “Something as simple as that, where predicting behaviors, simplifying daily interactions, might seem like it’s not a big deal. But at the same time, there’s a surprise and delight where as more and more of these things come on to the internet and as we’re all more and more connected to the internet, it unlocks the opportunity to create these kind of recipes around how we could take away some of our everyday things that we do and simplify them. Humans tend to be creatures of habit. How do we identify those habits, learn from them, but also simplify our everyday interactions in a way that makes life better.”

 

In addition to Strauss, I asked seven top media executives to offer their main takeaways from CES. As Strauss described, television displays still are the biggest draw, with NBC’s Gary Zenkel and ESPN’s Aaron LaBerge highlighting OLED technology. I was most interested in the Aibo Robot Dog described by Fox Sports executive Michael Davies.

 

LG wowed CES attendees with the brilliant displays provided by the latest in television technology.
Photo: getty images

Gary Zenkel

President, NBC Olympics

LG’s OLED Canyon was an amazing experience. Its floor-to-ceiling flowing walls of crystal-clear televisions made me feel as if I were immersed in the natural landscapes they were projecting. Everywhere you looked at CES, you saw head-turning TVs with strikingly clear pictures. I’m convinced that for years to come — and despite many predictions to the contrary — people are going to be watching content, particularly live sports, on large wall-displayed televisions.

 

Aaron LaBerge

Executive vice president and chief technology officer, ESPN

As usual, TV manufacturers showed off over-the-top displays, including gargantuan 164-inch displays, rollable TVs, and 8K. The advances in OLED technology were noteworthy. Most spectacular was Sony’s 85-inch, 8K display. It was stunning to see in person, especially running “Gran Turismo.” The color, brightness, dynamic range, and clarity were unbelievable. We’re approaching the pinnacle of home TV display quality.

 

Tom Sahara

Vice president of operations and technology, Turner Sports

“AI” and “connected” were common themes throughout CES 2018 — from “smart” clothing with AI-based apps that record and analyze your movements, then recommend activity targets for you to attain your daily fitness goals, to a digital photo album that automatically tags and sorts your selfies and snapshots. AI will make our lives easier by taking over the drudgery of routine, repetitive tasks and leaving us with time and brain power for more meaningful activities.

 

Peloton treadmills add content to your workout.
Photo: getty images

Chris Schlosser

Senior vice president and general manager, MLS Digital

Over the last several years the sports and fitness presence has increased at CES. This year it was great to run into colleagues, partners and sponsors all over town. The story of this CES was clearly voice and the efforts many device makers are putting into integrating voice assistants into all kinds of devices. I was most excited about the new Peloton treadmill. The combination of content, technology and fitness is a great strategy and if their bike is any indication the treadmill will be a fantastic product. Now to try to figure out how to fit a treadmill in a NYC apartment …

 

 

Blake Stuchin

Vice president for the NFL’s digital media business development group

Voice-controlled toasters sound cool, but I’m much more excited about how tech is giving fans new, fun ways to converse with friends and express themselves and their fandom. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface on this one.

 

The most exciting thing to me at CES wasn’t on the convention floor. It was the conversations we had with digital media companies about creating new ways for people to talk to their friends beyond text. For years, we’ve seen fans, especially younger fans, using gifs and memes in conversation. What we’re starting to see now is how new creative tools and light augmented reality can take this to the next level. Stickers, filters, emojis, frames, lenses are not new, but A/R is enabling them to get smarter, faster and more elaborate. It’s the “selfie 2.0:” digital face-painting, dressing like the mascot, or just putting on a digital helmet sticker or overlay on top of your photo.

 

Michael Davies

Fox Sports senior vice president, technical and field operations

The overall power and utility of 5G continues to manifest itself as one of the most important elements on the horizon for almost everything across the spectrum of technology. From consumer-facing wireless distribution, virtual and augmented reality, professional transmission and much more, there isn’t very much that we work with that won’t be potentially enhanced by the speeds made available by 5G.

 

Sony’s robot dogs were a popular curiosity.
Photo: getty images

While countless companies are touting artificial intelligence, it seems as we are very much firmly rooted in the “machine learning” stages of what was certainly one of the big buzzwords of the conference. Like 5G, there is little that this area of tech won’t touch eventually, but we are still in it’s infancy.

 

The new Aibo Robot Dog from Sony is pretty amazing: The $2,000 price tag and intelligence — it professes to learn owners’ preferences — should begin to phase out real dogs in the near future. In financial comparison to my own dog, the Aibo would seem to pay for itself in less than six months.

 

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

Fox Sports’ “Daytona Day” marketing campaign is coming back for a third year because it’s working, said Robert Gottlieb, Fox Sports executive vice president of marketing.

 

Fox introduced the campaign in 2016 to posit to casual and non-fans that the NASCAR season-opening 500 doubles as a social gathering for fans and occasional observers alike. Fox has started to roll out elements of the 2018 campaign in recent weeks.

 

The move to bring back the campaign has not been entirely well-received on Twitter, where some fans, influential media members and drivers have criticized it, saying the spots focus too much on scenes from contrived “Daytona Day” parties and not enough on actual racing. Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted about one highlight-filled spot he actually liked because it wasn’t “that Daytona Day bullshit.”

 

Gottlieb said that a Fox-commissioned Nielsen study after the 2017 campaign showed that the effort delivered, with 49 percent of last year’s Daytona 500 audience composed of casual or non-fans.

 

“The Nielsen research was very interesting and very clearly indicated that we made strong gains in the casuals and non-fans in terms of viewership for Daytona last year and that we had seen good gains in millennial viewers and co-viewing,” Gottlieb said. 

 

Despite criticism from fans and drivers, Fox is keeping “Daytona Day” in the mix for its season-opening NASCAR promos.

Fox earned a 6.6 rating and 11.92 million viewers for last year’s race, flat in ratings and up 5 percent in viewership from 2016.

 

Gottlieb said criticism over the campaign from hardcore NASCAR types shows the passion behind the sport.

 

“Inevitably, when you have to speak to a broader audience than the core, there’s always going to be a segment of core fans who feel like, ‘Here’s what I love about the sport; I want you to talk about what I love about the sport,’” he said. “Of course, as a broad-based marketer, sometimes you have to find other reasons for people who don’t inherently love the sport, you have to invite them in a little bit, and if that creates some tension among the core, that’s kind of inevitable to a degree.”

 

About a half-dozen spots will be released by Fox Sports leading up to the Daytona 500, some of which will be rotated on 21st Century Fox’s various networks while others will only be on digital and social media. About five spots will be geared toward avids, including one that’s filled with highlights, and several others that see drivers talking about what’s special for them about the 500. The “Daytona Day” spots for casual or non-fans include “Holiday,” which debuted during the NFL playoffs and has a narrator talking about why the day of the 500 deserves to be a holiday. A forthcoming spot will feature celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay talking about special food dishes to make on race day.

 

Other elements of the campaign include cross promotion with corporate partners in the sport, and working with Comcast and House Party Inc. to organize 250 Daytona Day house parties in key markets nationwide.

 

Fox worked with Wieden & Kennedy, New York, on this year’s campaign, after working with Pereira & O’Dell and director Joseph Kahn on last year’s creative.

 

The race falls this season during Presidents Day weekend on Feb. 18, a week earlier than last year. Gottlieb is hopeful that the holiday weekend will help boost viewership.