A "primordial soup of innovation" is how Steven Sinofsky, the former President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, describes CES. It’s where attendees see the raw, unformed amino acids of innovation rather than evolved and final products. Some technologies, like USB, emerge from the brine to dominate the landscape while others, like VR, have not yet found market fit and return to the soup for another go-around. Nonetheless, industry veterans and repeat attendees see trends where they exist, and 2020 is clearly all about large and abundant entertainment.
Screens Everywhere: televisions, always a huge hit at CES, remain the ultimate consumer device, and we're now seeing a creative explosion in form factors, leading to transparent screens, rotating, portrait-mode screens, rollable screens, convex screens, and screens inside cars. The trend towards outrageously large devices is not going away, with Samsung demoing both 98" and 219" OLED models at the upper ranges of affordability. 8k models were also in abundance, with 500k predicted to be sold in 2020, but, lacking content at a similar resolution, the jury is still out on whether 8k is is all talk and no walk. With prices for sub 75" models being driven consistently lower, ultimately this all means more screen in more locations, and, implicitly, the need for more content to fill them. The push towards abundant, bigger TVs is also, arguably, evidence against suggestions that mobile phones have become the inevitable medium for consuming video entertainment.
So Many Apps: content producers are pulling in their shows from licensed platforms and going direct to the consumer with their own OTT apps. Disney+ made the news in 2019, along with HBO Max and CBS All-Access, and now Discovery Networks (Discovery Channel, TLC, Food Network, HGTV) has thrown its hat into the ring. Quibi, the app from Jeffrey Katzenberg (ex Disney) and Meg Whitman (ex HP), made further waves at CES when it announced the launch of its new, short-form content channel, perhaps not least because of its $1B in 'seed' funding. The drivers behind these moves towards direct-to-consumer entertainment are evident, but the endgame unpredictable. These apps are fighting for subscribers with original (and expensive) scripted content, but consumers have limited viewing hours in the day (and limited dollars in the wallet). While the pie is certainly getting bigger, an app reconsolidation could be forthcoming.
So, more TVs, more apps, more content. We're seeing a once-in-a-generation change: viewers are moving in waves to OTT, the ad dollars are following, and TVs are everywhere. The companies who connect advertisers with their OTT audience are certain to be amongst the winners when the dust settles. Exciting times.