CES Standouts: SlingTV, Smart TVs and the Internet of Things

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Welcome Active International, our newest MediaBizBlogger.

It would be easy to dismiss this year's CES show as anticlimactic. Our various screens have already become so amazing to behold that new versions are only incremental in quality and less awe inspiring. Additionally, the (arguably) most important companies whose technologies are shaping our lives -- namely Apple, Google and Microsoft -- don't even make the January trek to Las Vegas.

That said, our purpose in attending this annual event is primarily to understand what the changing consumer electronics landscape means for evolving consumer behaviors and how this will impact future advertising strategies. In this regard, there were some interesting takeaways from CES 2015 that are worth noting:

SlingTV Won Big.

It's not even a Consumer Electronics product per se. Yet the hands-down biggest winner at CES, winning numerous industry accolades (including Engadget's Best of the Best of CES) was SlingTV. This new Internet TV offering from Dish Network packages a dozen popular cable channels (including ESPN, Disney, CNN and Food Network) for only $20/month. The service is supported by a host of Internet-connected devices such as Amazon's Fire TV, Google's Nexus Player and Roku, as well as game consoles, smart TVs, PCs, tablets and smartphones.

SlingTV is a game-changer: Access on any screen, all platforms (iOs, Android, Mac, PC), anywhere, without a subscription to traditional cable or satellite TV service. This is sure to accelerate marketplace disruption, with previously announced operator services anticipated to launch shortly from Sony and Verizon as well as streaming channel launches from WWE, CBS, HBO and others.

Smart TV is Getting Smarter.

Operating systems from major players continue to make new TVs easier to navigate for services beyond traditional TV:

LG's WebOS (acquired from HP, formerly Palm) provides a beautiful interface navigated by a remote that replicates a "mouse" point-and-click experience.

Samsung's Tizen (originally developed for smartphone applications) provides another attractive interface that enables streaming TV and other web content.

(Interesting to note that both of the above brands are appropriating technology developed for mobile phones, the most intimate and personalized devices, to make the TV viewing experience just as intimate and personal.)

Roku is now licensing their technology to power SmartTV from other up and coming brands including TLC, Hisense, Haier and Insignia.

All of the above Smart TV operating systems promise to make it easier for consumers to access streaming content on demand, hastening the decline of appointment TV viewing. The expanding ad inventory on Smart TV menu pages and apps will offer advertisers opportunities to reach these viewers.

IoT Means Big Data is Getting Bigger.

The Internet of Things is already a reality and the race is on to connect seemingly everything to the Web. A projected 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020. Devices as varied as thermostats, kitchen appliances, home security, fitness wearables and GPS locators (for kids and pets) can be operated from a smartphone and/or a TV screen. The devices will collect an unimaginable amount of data that will inform about user location, lifestyle and context. The data will enable advertising opportunities on addressable screens in ways we cannot yet predict.

Also noteworthy from CES 2015 was the addition of C-Space at the Aria Hotel and Convention Center. This expansion of the show was billed as the "destination for creative communicators, brand marketers, advertising agencies, digital publishers and social networks." The notion of formalizing programming tracks and a gathering/networking space for the growing number of marketing, media and advertising professionals attending CES makes sense: Business gets done when all the right people are in the room.

Odd to overhear many comments like, "No, I haven't been to the show yet, too much going on!" Perhaps this is a symptom of the anticlimactic nature of the products on display. There's always next year.

Robert Acquaotta, Vice President, Digital, is an industry veteran with over 25 years of experience in advertising and more than a decade in digital. From his early days at the IAB, Rob immersed himself in all things interactive, creating relationships with buy-side marketers and agency executives, evangelizing the effectiveness of online advertising and rounding out his knowledge with a deep understanding of search. Rob brings a deep belief that digital is a key driver of brand growth and results.

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