It’s that time of year again. CES in Vegas, baby! Can’t think of a better place to nurse our collective New Year’s Eve hangovers. CES always jump starts the year, but rarely this early. Just when we were beginning to feel refreshed from our much-needed R&R during the holidays, WHAM! CES’s whirlwind hits us this year in its first week.
To help you stop the panic and help you prepare for this annual rite of passage, I’ve assembled this “cheat sheet” of five hot topics and trends to watch and discuss — all related to the worlds of media and entertainment tech — as you weave your way around the massive convention halls and overindulge on complimentary food and drink at your business colleague’s soirees. I’ve also added links to some of my recent articles if you want to explore in more depth.
Hot Topic No. 1: Humans!
Yes, the biggest tech/electronics show in the world will, as always, feature endless walls of bigger and flatter TVs (is that even possible?), not to mention and endless array of enviable new gadgets that delight in their clever ingenuity (but rarely actually see the mass market light of day). But perhaps this year’s biggest CES story of all is human (sorry Chat GPT! — although you get Hot Topic No. 2 below). This year marks the first in years to feature people on a mass, global scale in a world that continues to try to put the pandemic in its collective rearview mirror. So ditch your schleppy Zoom clothes and dust off your professional clothes of yesteryear — and get ready to mingle!
Hot Topic No. 2: Chat GPT and AI (i.e., non-humans!)
Once you hit the CES floor, the sea of post-pandemic humanity that we rejoice above will be overtaken by endless, yet understandable, chatter about the biggest tech story of 2022 — Chat GPT. OpenAI’s new publicly available and entirely free chatbot represents a jarring new level of artificial intelligence (AI) sophistication. Make no mistake, Chat GPT is no meme. For good or bad, it’s game-changing. And if you haven’t tried it before boarding your plane to Vegas, you should. In fact, you should spend hours playing with it. Then you will absolutely “get” it. And this is only public version 1. Imagine what AI will be able to do next year. Five years from now. Ten.
Here’s my recent article that will help point the way and explain why AI is a real — very real — threat to the media and entertainment business (and what you can do about it).
Hot Topic No. 3: IRL meets URL (Humans + meta non-humans = experiential magic)
Who says that 1+1 can’t equal 3? That’s what you get when you add Hot Topic No. 1 (humans) and Hot Topic No. 2 (non-humans) to equal Hot Topic No. 3 — entirely new immersive experiences that mystify all senses. No matter what Chat GPT tells me, I continue to believe that shared “In Real Life” (IRL) experiences will dominate our memories for decades to come — and take on increasing importance, in fact, with the accelerating pace of online metaverse virtual worlds and AI (and the impending Singularity). We will spend more of our cash to commune more and rub shoulders in the physical world to experience lasting moments with our families and friends.
Increasingly, the most compelling IRL experiences are lifted to entirely new levels of impact because of — not in spite of — new immersive technologies. Here’s my article where I write in depth about one such example: Fan-Controlled Football (FCF) and how thousands of individual online (URL) “team owners” call the plays for real football players (IRL) on a real football field in real time. You can also listen to my podcast interview (here is the Spotify link) with FCF’s CEO.
Hot Topic No. 4: Massive media M&A (and then more M&A, big and small)
When global economies and company financials are challenged, brave new M&A possibilities rise up — both for offensive reasons (the acquiring company sees a chance to leapfrog its competition and current limitations) and defensive reasons (the acquired company can’t make it on its own). And this year presents that perfect storm. Media, entertainment and tech stocks are generally battered. The forces of change and transformation are jarring (particularly in a hyper-competitive streaming world dominated by Big Tech). Scale and operational efficiency are essential to compete. So are multi-faceted business models and compelling content (especially evergreen franchise content that can be re-imagined over and over again for decades to come and come with built-in audiences).
My bets are that Paramount and Viacom are both ripe for the picking (as I previously wrote here), as are smaller prestige boutique production companies and studios like Anonymous Content, A24 and Blumhouse (which have seen Brad Pitt and his Plan B beat them to the punch as 2022 ended – you can read more about that in my article here). Even mighty Netflix ultimately will be bought because it can’t go it alone (although that won’t happen in 2023), and as I wrote previously, Comcast is best positioned to make that happen via a merger of relative equals.
Hot Topic No. 5: Web3’s power for creators and fans (and the NFTs that connect them)
Yes, FTX crashed, burning thousands of crypto wallets along with it. But crypto is just one manifestation of the blockchain’s power of “Web3” — a moniker used to reflect disintermediation and direct connection between creators/artists and their fans/audiences. And the linkage that makes it all possible – i.e., non-fungible tokens (NFTs) — will begin to demonstrate their real lasting power this year in both film and music.
I’m not talking about Beeples and Bored Apes here. I’m talking about real lasting investments and experiences that can continue to yield value and exclusive benefits over time — and even give creators new sources of financing (and financial participation by the fans who power their creativity and crafts). Check out my recent article where I lay out which NFTs are “real” — and another article where I discuss how Web3’s power to extract the middleman represents a real threat to even massive companies like Google/YouTube (I use actual numbers to prove my point).
So enjoy CES everyone! Sip your Cosmos as you stay at the Cosmo (my favorite Vegas hotel by the way). And remember, what trends and topics happen in Vegas, won’t stay in Vegas. They’ll be out in the open as the year unfolds.
For those of you interested in learning more, visit Peter’s firm Creative Media at creativemedia.biz and follow him on Twitter @pcsathy.