CES Thursday: Sports, Cars ... And A Little Radio, Too
January 7, 2016 at 2:51 PM (PT)
By PERRY MICHAEL SIMON in LAS VEGAS: THURSDAY's schedule at INTERNATIONAL CES in LAS VEGAS featured the commissioners of two of the major pro sports leagues, more connected car talk, and the head of radio's largest company chatting with one of his company's star attractions.
RYAN SEACREST received an award from VARIETY and then sat down for a conversation with his boss, BOB PITTMAN, and VARIETY's ANDREW WALLENSTEIN. PITTMAN called radio "the first social media... the magic frequency" with no data charges and 1 billion radios in use, and cited the oft-referred-to 93%-reach statistic to assert radio's relevance. Asked how radio can be relevant, PITTMAN denied that radio has a relevancy problem, saying that "a friend is always relevant" and that young generations are being "taught" to listen when their parents play the radio in their cars on the way to school; SEACREST and PITTMAN pointed to iHEARTRADIO live events like "JINGLE BALL" as how radio is engaging with listeners. The discussion avoided touching on iHEARTMEDIA's financial situation but did address reaching "Generation Z" (PITTMAN noting the wide range of differences within the generation but the common element that all generations do not want to be like their predecessors) and the possible applications of virtual reality to the company's operations (allowing viewers to "meet" artists before concerts).
A day-long sports business track sponsored by TURNER SPORTS featured MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL Commissioner ROB MANFRED and NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION Commissioner ADAM SILVER discussing sports and broadcast and Internet technology with TURNER's "INSIDE THE NBA" host ERNIE JOHNSON. The talk ranged from technology's role in helping baseball reach younger audiences (MANFRED noting that the age of users of MLB ADVANCED MEDIA's AT BAT app average under 30 years old, significantly younger than the sport's broadcast audience), what technology is catching their eyes (SILVER said that he is focused on wearables, but joked that "companies should go for the other wrist" in light of the new watch his wife bought for him), and improvements in streaming (which, SILVER said, "seemingly happened overnight").
The commissioners also addressed their league's relationships with daily fantasy sports companies FAN DUEL and DRAFT KINGS, with MANFRED stressing MLB's position that they are games of skill, not chance, and SILVER calling the debate "a distraction" and noting that the games are about engagement with the sport. And after JOHNSON asked about players using social media during games (referring to PABLO SANDOVAL's infamous bathroom tweets during a RED SOX game last year), MANFRED, while rejecting the idea that CARLOS CORREA might send out a tweet while playing, nevertheless said that he saw more social media activity among idle or injured players as a possibility at some point. SILVER added that players in his league are being instructed that they no longer can expect privacy at the arena, considering that there are cameras and recording devices everywhere, including in the hands of fans seated right next to the bench.
PANDORA VP/Automotive Partnerships GEORGE LYNCH spoke of his company's efforts to get its app on the dashboard on a panel about the phone-car connection. LYNCH said that it "takes a strong, strong commitment from the OEM" to improve the user experience, and said that his company is working with OEMs to make podcast streaming work in cars (in light of PANDORA's deal to stream "SERIAL"). GM's DAN KINNEY discussed how "we can't go it alone" in developing in-car systems, pointing to the need to work with content companies to work on safe interfaces to access the programming. "We might not get it right the first time," he said, "but we keep at it ... I think we do a good job, but we can do better," citing the addition of APPLE CarPlay and ANDROID Auto and giving consumers a choice of interfaces.
DRIVERSITI's SASCHA SIMON noted that processes formerly handled by the car are being transferred to the phone, with the OEM systems merely offering an interface to allow users to safely use the phone without touching the device and for the phone to offer features like setting preferences, detect hazards, and other safety elements. The AUTOMOTIVE AFTERMARKET SUPPLIERS ASSOCIATION's CHRIS GARDNER noted the marketing challenge of how much to charge for new features and how to market them to the consumer; he pointed towards the established infrastructure and supply chain in the aftermarket as an opportunity for new technology, since, he asserted, the changes "won't be happening en masse."
Industry figures involved in the production and distribution of high-resolution music discussed the growth and challenges of the category at a midday session moderated by DEG; THE DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP Senior Director MARC FINER and featuring WARNER MUSIC GROUP's SVP/Chief Technology Strategist HOWIE SINGER, artist and HD TRACKS founder UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP VP, Technology and Production JIM BELCHER, producer DAVE O'DONNELL, and RECORDING ACADEMY Managing Director, Producers and Engineers Wing MAUREEN DRONEY. SINGER noted the success of getting Hi-Res Audio into BEST BUY's MAGNOLIA stores "but that's only 90 stores"; he stressed that consumers need to hear the difference, "the more people we can get to engage, the better." He pointed out how vinyl is the fastest-growing segment of music sales and how younger artists want their music to be represented in the vinyl category. CHESKY suggested that HiRes Audio can become a "lifestyle product" but added that the key to making it mainstream is to expose consumers to hearing it. "If we don't hear it, if we just talk about it," he said, "it's a distraction."