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One media reporter's takeaways from the CES 2019 show floor

A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. ...

Posted: Jan 10, 2019 11:45 AM
Updated: Jan 10, 2019 11:45 AM

A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

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On Tuesday night President Trump sounded like Sean Hannity while borrowing Hannity's 9 p.m. time slot to call for border wall funding. On Thursday night they'll be together in Texas: Fox just announced that Hannity the host will be interviewing the president on "Hannity" the show.

>> The Daily Beast: "Trump has been consulting Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs during the shutdown and wall fight..."

Our CES download

Smarter, faster, better. Those are the promises being made on the CES show floor this week. Everything is "smart." Everything. During a head-spinning private tour on Wednesday, I saw smart sleep trackers, smart sensors for your indoor plants, smart juicers, smart drinking water systems, a "smart aroma diffuser," a smart "mailbox alert system," smart ovens, smart kettlebells, "smart pepper spray," a calorie-counting SmartDish, a smart plank of wood, and more smart speakers and watches than I could count.

I toured the floor with a media agency and their advertising clients. Every year, more buyers and sellers are coming to CES to see the future -- and because tech giants like Google and Amazon are here too. Most of the action happens in hotel suites and restaurants -- in meetings with tech partners, marketers, etc. But on the floor, my companions were looking for new ways to place ads and gain attention. One idea: An "in-video virtual ad service" called Tisplay that enables YouTube stars and Twitch players (and anybody else, really) to insert digital ads onto their shirts.

"Hey Google..."

I don't need a smart voice assistant embedded in my bathroom mirror. Or do I? That's what you start to wonder. Apple, Amazon and Google's voice platforms were omnipresent. I mean, I'm pretty sure I don't need a voice enabled kitchen faucet. But... maybe? Around the corner, a "parasol automation device." A voice-controlled umbrella? Sure, why not...

Hopefully someday soon the word "smart" will just be assumed about all these products. If it's not smart, it's "connected:" Motion detection cameras, GPS trackers for pets, personal ultrasounds, robot companions, connected bike helmets, voice powered rings, digestive trackers, digital assistants for drivers. Personally I was most intrigued by the rows and rows of health and wellness startups. Tim Cook's quote from Tuesday came to mind: "If you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, 'What was Apple's greatest contribution to mankind?' It will be about health."

Samuel Burke's takeaways

CNN business and tech correspondent Samuel Burke has been here for days... Here are his takeaways:

1. This year's CES has shown us that in 2019 nothing is safe from politics -- not even the the biggest gadget show on earth. The geopolitics of the trade war has dominated the conversations of many execs. About 20% fewer Chinese vendors are at the expo than last year...

2. "Micro mobility" is one of the dominant trends -- that's the car manufacturers' fancy phrase for saying "we are pushing hard into the escooter business." I was struck seeing electric scooters feature as prominently as vehicles at Ford's massive space on the floor following their acquisition of Spin...

3. 5G, 5G, 5G -- it's being talked about everywhere, for everything(especially for self-driving infrastructure). But what about your phone? Stay tuned for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month...

4. Bad news for device makers from Apple to Samsung means more announcements about these companies working together to try and sell you more services.

5. How about a TV set with no visible speakers, with the sound coming directly from the screen? It was incredible to stand in front of the TVs at the LG Display booth and hear the sound following the image around the screen...

Coolest gadgets

A visit to the show floor "is like wandering through 2.7 million square feet of a SkyMall catalog," as CNN's Ahiza Garcia and Heather Kelly put it. "Artificial intelligence" was the buzzword of the show, they wrote. I highly recommend their whole story. Here are a few of their favorite gadgets...

-- Ahiza Garcia: "My favorite thing was at the NatGeo, RESOURCE and Intel exhibit: An AI camera that can help cut down on poaching. It's able to discern movement caused by humans and alert rangers to speed up the process of catching poachers."

-- Samuel Burke: "My favorite gadget? By far the prototype for a mouthguard-looking device that promises to brush your teeth in just 10 seconds. Never thought I'd brush my teeth on international television."

-- Heather Kelly: "I was impressed with the OrCam MyEye 2, a small camera for people with vision impairments. It snaps on to regular glasses and can read text or recognize faces and tell the wearer who they're talking to. It's always nice to see technology that can genuinely improve lives in the middle of all the crap at CES that nobody really needs."

CBS-Viacom buzz is back

I came away from Michael Kassan's MediaLink party on Tuesday night wondering: Is Shari Redstone going to finagle a CBS-Viacom merger sooner rather than later? Redstone was there, but I didn't have a chance to ask her. Some of the chatter in the room -- before Seal performed -- centered on the combo.

>> Related: Deadline's Dominic Patten hears that the CBS CEO search is on the "back burner" amid a new merger push...

On the sports stage

I interviewed Turner president David Levy on the CES sports stage Wednesday afternoon. Dawn C. Chmielewski's recap for Deadline: "Levy picked perhaps the perfect venue, Las Vegas, to offer his bullish predictions about the future of sports betting... In the near future, Levy said media companies will be able to develop content that gaming companies like MGM or Caesars will need to create attractive sports wagering services." More here...

Right after our session, Rachel Nichols interviewed Adam Silver and Jack Dorsey on stage, which leads us to...

Twitter's next experiment with the NBA

Katie Pellico emails: Starting in February, Twitter will start streaming the second half of some NBA games by way of a single cam focusing on a single player, as voted on by Twitter users during the game's first half. Recode's Kurt Wagner says the experimental deal "reflects the quandary facing TV executives today: As more and more people stop paying for traditional TV, professional sports leagues and their broadcast partners are trying to figure out how to translate great TV content... to places that aren't television."

My sit-down with Hulu's CEO

I spent time with Hulu CEO Randy Freer on Wednesday afternoon... You'll hear from him on this week's "Reliable Sources" podcast... He talked about increased investments in programming, his interest in the documentary and news space, and I brought up Wednesday's cancellation of Sarah Silverman's show. Scroll down for details about that...

Read more of Wednesday's "Reliable Sources" newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

FOR THE RECORD

-- "Netflix has decided not to produce a second season of the BuzzFeed show Follow This..." (THR)

-- Jennifer Robison, an alum of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has a must-read about alleged misconduct cases at the paper that did not make it into the #MeToo spotlight... (CJR)

-- Jon Ralston wanted to publish Robison's piece, but concluded that his startup nonprofit site was too vulnerable to legal action. Read his candid editor's note here... (Nevada Independent)

-- "Harvey Weinstein is reaching out to new lawyers to shore up his criminal defense team, currently headed up by superstar attorney Ben Brafman..." (Beast)

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