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CES 2016: Disrupt, or Be Disrupted

| January 7, 2016

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant


cookewriterLAS VEGAS — “Our industry is literally changing the world,” Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro proclaimed in his opening keynote, forecasting his to be a $287 billion industry in USA alone in 2016.

“We champion The Sharing Economy,” he declared, noting how his organization helped make Uber and Lyft available in Las Vegas. Almost every time I jump in a cab in New York or Washington, an irked driver is railing against Uber; and, when I ask, admits that fellow drivers are defecting. Disrupt or be disrupted.

“Sharing is green” Shapiro reckons, because “now anyone can be an entrepreneur, by offering unused resources.” Like Airbnb, some of whose members say the extra income “has allowed them to stay in their homes.” And he cited 3D-printing accomplishments: a broken tool cloned aboard the International Space Station, prosthetic limbs, and rapid prototyping for inventors. Other innovations he boasted of include “a smartphone app they’re using in Rwanda that can diagnose HIV in 15 minutes.”

For a broadcaster, being here is a whack-on-the-side-of-the-head, because the CE culture celebrates the innovation that characterizes those disrupting broadcasting. And few are more conspicuous than…


You would’ve thought Shapiro had introduced Paul McCartney the way a packed Venetian ballroom welcomed Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings. His company now has “the coverage it took cable 20 years” to attain; 70 million users worldwide, who watched – whatever they chose, whenever they wanted, on whatever device – for 12 billion hours in the fourth quarter of 2015.

“We invented ‘binge watching,’” he quipped, touting Netflix’ groundbreaking “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black, which will be back for a fourth season soon!” And if you thought those shows were compelling, wait’ll you see “The Crown,” forthcoming, set in 1953, as Queen Elizabeth took the throne. The preview is riveting.

To the chagrin of TV networks, Netflix is what its boss calls “a simple and revolutionary shift from corporate to consumer control.” Disruption.

I have no doubt that our industry will change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 50.”

General Motors CEO Mary Barra’s presentation – on the stage in the Westgate Hotel theater – the big room where Elvis was the house act – was as elaborately produced as any show I’ve seen there. It was netcast live on Facebook, a GM partner.

Her goal is “to re-define personal transportation,” and initiatives underway include:

  • A strategic alliance with Lyft. Yep, the USA’s biggest automaker is making plans for a time when fewer people own cars.
  • GM is working with Mobileye to create maps for “autonomous cars,” the driverless robo-cars I described in my previous TALKERS column. ICYMI, it’s here.

The usually blasé CES press gaggle burst into applause when the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV drove on-stage.

  • Unlike existing electric cars such as the 100-mile range BMW we test drove here last year, this one has a 200 mile range.
  • “As you walk up to your car it instantly syncs with your smartphone, so there’s no waiting for a connection.” Apple Play and Android Auto are built-into a dashboard screen “bigger than iPad air.”
  • The battery charges to 80% in one hour, and 100% overnight.
  • The rear-view mirror is really a video screen, displaying the wide-angle rear-camera.
  • Built-in mapping offers the fastest route to your destination, and the route with the most charging stations.
  • CES-goers are test-driving it all this week, and you’ll be able to drive one off the lot for “around $30,000 after government incentives.”

Barra says electric-and-connected are in GM’s DNA. Reminding us that GM built NASA’s lunar rover, she grinned, “it was electric;” and she noted that On-Star is now 20 years old, and has responded to more than a billion connections.

In the USA , a new car is sold every 2 seconds. Like radio, tune-in is constant. So, Mary Barra insists, “We put the customer at the center of everything we do. That’s what Chevrolet is all about: giving you more than you expect.”

Other mature legacy industries, like ours, take note.


Holland Cooke is a media consultant at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers conventions for Talkers and RadioInfo. Follow his real-time Tweets from CES @HollandCooke, and hear his radio reports at www.HollandCooke.com

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Category: Analysis