What Happened in Vegas - Three Things That Defined My First Trip to CES

By Brian Kurtzman

Market Development | 01.18.2018

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Hi. My name is Brian Kurtzman. Last week was my second week working on Market Development with the team at ICX Media.
So, I did what any responsible employee who just joined a new company would do…

…I went to Vegas.

Friends and family members asked: “Are you going for business or fun?” “Business”, I told them. But I know they don’t buy it. My Grammie still doesn’t believe that a company would let me wear jeans and sneakers to the office!So this is my attempt to prove that I was ACTUALLY working during my time at the Consumer Electronics Showcase (CES).

WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS

For anyone reading who isn’t familiar with CES…it’s an annual gathering of….nevermind - I’ll let them describe their conference:CES is the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. It has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years — the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.

Consumer technology innovations affect media consumption. Changes in media consumption affect all brands, media companies, and creators alike. That’s why we had to be there.

I know I’m breaking the cardinal rule of Sin City, but here are three things that happened in Vegas at CES 2018…

1. EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHER WAS TALKING ABOUT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) AND MACHINE LEARNING. Clearly, this means that those two concepts are incredibly important, but I intentionally introduced this point with a sprinkle of sarcasm.

For every one CES attendee who was blown away by a company’s pitch about their differentiated AI and Machine Learning technology, I met three attendees who were completely skeptical. Granted, this was Vegas and every innovative company has to do a bit of posturing as they grow, but it isn’t easy to separate the contenders from the pretenders when you’re not a computer scientist.

Hence, after a few conversations, I developed my own personal sniff test – if a company was discussing AI and Machine Learning and talking about how their technology could seriously disrupt an industry, wholly perfect a process, or completely eradicate a problem, I became skeptical.

These technologies are way too nascent for anyone to be talking like that. The companies that caught my interest discussed how AI and Machine Learning are powering innovation for their teams by doing what AI and Machine Learning do best – testing hypotheses, measuring outcomes, learning what did and did not work (h/t Eric Ries), and repeating the cycle.

Those same companies – the ones that I believe are legitimately leveraging AI and Machine Learning right now – talk about its potential for helping their product or service continuously improve. AI and Machine Learning offer tons of promise, but it’s too early to be speaking in absolutes.

2. CABLE SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE THE NEW COMPACT DISC (CD). From 2005 to 2010, I had my first two post-college jobs at record labels in New York City. Those five years were to the old record industry as the final five minutes were to the Titanic.

Digital downloads were driving precipitous declines in the CD business, but it was the iPod’s release in 2001 that truly killed it. At CES this year, Hulu made an analogous release of a similar magnitude. Hulu’s brand new user interface will now include LIVE programming. Boom.

Hulu has been bleeding the cable subscription business for years with their on-demand digital content platform, but the one major thing that has insulated the major Telcos and kept many consumers (myself included) from cutting the cord was a fear of losing access to live programming. The thought of watching Sunday at the Masters from anywhere but my couch at home…I just…can’t even.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Comcast will soon file for Chapter 11 (they’re invested in Hulu, btw), but it does support the widely held belief that content is, always was, and always will be…king.

Consumers now have unprecedented leverage over traditional cable media companies, and the fight for viewer attention amongst existing and forthcoming OTT outlets will become even more fierce. The difference between winning and losing in the new world order of video distribution won’t be about having the MOST content. It will be about having the RIGHT content.

3. I’M STARTING TO AGREE THAT ZUCK IS THE MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN THE WORLD. In 2015, before he went to work at Facebook, Ricky Van Veen introduced the notion that Mark Zuckerberg is the most powerful person in the world. He posited that Zuck represented the “gateway to the primary source for news, commerce, and communication for pretty much the entire world.”

Zuck’s power was overwhelmingly evident at CES when his blog post sent tremors through the halls of The Cosmopolitan and The Aria in Vegas (home base at CES for the media community).

His announcement – in the spirit of improving our lives and social interactions – revealed that Facebook’s algorithms that dictate which content is displayed in users’ feeds would fundamentally change.

Instead of prioritizing content from publishers and advertisers (ehem, “sponsored” posts), the Facebook algorithms will be geared toward displaying posts that engender conversation between friends and family members. So now more than ever, it’s imperative for the players on Facebook to produce and distribute content that fosters interaction. As the boys from Liverpool would say : “Money can’t buy [you] love.” At least not on Facebook anymore.

See Mom? TOLD YOU I WAS WORKING. But seriously, I’m thrilled to be a part of the team at ICX Media, because our platform is uniquely positioned to help organizations that are affected by the takeaways above.

We believe in data over opinion. We believe that video is a marketer’s most powerful tool. And we believe that the right influencer will always move the needle of consideration more than a canned pre-roll spot.

We believe that creators in the long tail SHOULD produce the most viral and shareable content – because oftentimes they’re in the best position to capture the moment. And we believe in the world of connectivity.

ICX Media is the platform for data-inspired storytelling. Our ExactMatch offering helps brands and media companies connect with the right video creators – from a major Hollywood studio to my middle school-aged cousin who creates videos as a fun hobby. (Love you Bails!)

We’re also helping brands and content producers get smarter about what kinds of video to create. Our ActiveInsights tool has ingested and continuously listens to billions of video engagement data points from the major social platforms. When we work directly with our partners, the platform gets even richer data with visibility into the subset of video performance data specific to each individual partner. With both the macro and micro viewpoints of the data, our technology can spot trends and correlations which allow our customers to better predict which types of video content will get the most eyeballs.

And did I mentioned that our INDUSTRY-LEADING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND MACHINE LEARNING CAPABILITIES WILL FOREVER CHANGE…I’m kidding…our AI and Machine Learning capabilities simply ensure that our platform gets better and better at providing predictive recommendations with each passing day.

So there you have it. My first trip to CES was awesome. I just wish I hadn’t gone to Tiesto the last night. Actually - that’s a lie - I just wish I hadn’t missed my flight back to DC the next morning…

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