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E3 Highlights

Along with @norrismarkw, I joined 46,800 video game industry professionals, investor analysts, and retailers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the annual video game conference and show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Items generating buzz at this year’s E3 were Nintendo’s Wii U next generation console, PlayStation’s PSVita next generation handheld, and Microsoft’s Live TV on Xbox 360. Notable software demonstrations included Star Wars Old Republic and Battlefield 3 from EA, Gears of War 3 from id, Halo 4 from Microsoft Game Studios, Tomb Raider from Square Enix, Rage and Elder Scrolls V Skyrim from Bethesda, and Bioshock Infinite by 2k Games.

According to an info-graphically dense report from the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) survey of almost 1,200 households that have been identified as owning either or both a video game console or a personal computer used to run entertainment software, 72% of American households play video games and 82% of gamers are adults. The report also highlighted that 42% of gamers are women and that women over 18 represent more than 1/3 of the game-playing population. In addition, purchases of digital full games, digital add-on content, mobile apps, subscriptions, and social network gaming accounted for 24 percent of game sales in 2010, generating $5.9 billion in revenue.

Other findings of the survey include:

  • The average game player is 37 years old, while the average game purchaser is 41 years old
  • 65% of gamers play games with other gamers in person
  • More than half (55%) of gamers play games on their phones or handheld devices
  • 86% of parents are aware of the Entertainment Software Rating Board rating system, and 98% of these parents are confident in the accuracy of the ratings
  • Parents are present when games are purchased or rented 91% of the time
  • Consumers spent $25.1 billion on game content, hardware and accessories in 2010


Hardware News
Nintendo announced the sequel to its Wii console, dubbed “Wii U”, that includes a new controller with a tablet-like touch screen. The new controller sports a 6.2in touch screen with a heft similar to the Galaxy Tab, yet still has a rather plastic-y feel (the durability will hopefully be improved by the time the console launches late in 2012). In addition to displaying info that’s not on the TV (e.g., map details, special character views, game configuration details) the new controller features a user-facing camera, microphone and speakers, and stylus. Also, information and viewpoint of the controller can change based on the orientation of its gyroscope. In theory, the Wii U “experience” shown at E3 can support full HD graphics and allows consumers to continue playing while the TV is used for other activities (e.g., TV, movie), but must still be in range of the main console (so it’s not a standalone device). Games can be played on a TV, the Wii U controller, or both (in conjunction with the Wii Remote). Nintendo’s aim is to continue their progress on capturing the causal gamers while focusing back on hardcore gamers that never really took to the original Wii and are entrenched with the PlayStation3 or Xbox 360. The only negative that the public seemed to espouse with the Wii U is its intended launch date later in 2012. Thus, most items shown at E3 were concept games and not fully functioning next generation games; those are expected at E3 2012.

Sony unveiled its new portable device, the PlayStation Vita, as the successor to the PlayStation Portable. The new handheld sports a 5in multi-touch OLED screen, dual analog sticks, dual front and back cameras, and Sixaxis motion sensing. It will come in either WiFi only or dual WiFi/3G (3G from AT&T) models. The PSVita allows the use of its Internet connection for voice and text chat during gameplay or when browsing the web. It also provides a new social networking function called Near that allows owners to connect and interact. Cloud-based game saving will allow PSVita players to pickup gameplay on their PS3 and vice versa.

Software News
Microsoft’s Kinect has started to penetrate hardcore gaming titles like Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Solider, where players can assemble and fire a large variety of guns using just their hands. Microsoft Game Studios also demonstrated an upcoming Star Wars themed title: Star Wars Kinect. Players take the role of a Jedi and wield a lightsaber and force powers with nothing more than hand gestures. However, there are concerns as to how realistically a hardcore gamer would play using just their body and Kinect as moving seems to be optimal using the normal remote. Other titles that focus less on precise movements seem to be where Kinect will truly shin. These types of games include Dance Central 2, Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster, Kinect Sports: Season 2 (golf, but not football), and Kinect Disneyland Adventures.

Of the various highlights from Microsoft’s keynote, the most notable for media companies is the Kinect-based TV navigation. This allows an Xbox to act as a set-top box, let consumers watch live TV, and use an Xbox-based DVR with voice & body movements. This feature is already live with Sky TV in the UK, Canal+ in France, and FoxTel in Australia. In partnership with the UFC, they will be allowing mixed martial arts fans to quickly and easily enjoy pay-per-view events on the Xbox. Xbox Live is also getting some additional entertainment features including YouTube, Bing for search, and voice control capabilities.

The movement in the Asian gaming market has been towards the freemium model and is most likely where the US market will trend in the future. A great example of this sort of success is Zynga’s $10B valuation and probable IPO. The days of subscription-based gaming (e.g., World of Warcraft) are likely on their way out; what remains to be seen is whether the console gaming market will trend this way as well and focus more on in-game purchases. Clearly game studios are hedging their bets with the likes of Disney purchasing Playdom, THQ partnering with Jimmy Buffett, Exploding Barrel Games creating a 3D game on Facebook, and iOS devices using the Unity gaming platform.

NBCU-related News
Syfy and Trion Worlds announced a partnership to launch the game and television show titled “Defiance”. This unique title will blend game play elements from first person shooters (FPS) taking place in a MMO virtual world (massively multiplayer). The game will have a shared universe with a TV series to be aired on the Syfy channel. In-game events and those on the show will influence each other. According to Lars Buttler, CEO of Trion Worlds, “This is essentially the convergence of the television and gaming industry into one fully-developed cohesive property. Syfy is creating a television show that takes place in the fictional universe that the game is set in. The game and the show will constantly [influence] each other from the moment they simultaneously launch.”

Universal Pictures also had some coverage of their upcoming Jurassic Park game and their existing Back To The Future (“BTTF”) game; both games are in conjunction with Telltale Games. The Jurassic Park game comes out later this year on PC/Mac, the PlayStation Network, and eventually the Xbox 360. The game focuses on puzzle solving and is very story-driven. It is based on the untold story of Nedry, his Barbasol canister, his handlers, and of course Velociraptors & T-rex. The BTTF game is an interactive choose-your-own-adventure style game that allows fans to take the role of Marty McFly and travel back in time to save Doc Brown. The game comes in several incarnations: iPad, Facebook, PC/Mac, and a physical card game.

NBCU Competitor-Related News
Disney Interactive Studios showed off their upcoming titles that include characters from Cars, Phineas and Ferb, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension is an action game (Wii, DS, & PS3) taking part over five worlds that gives players access to odd gadgets that let them melt enemies and stick to walls. Players may also play with a friend in co-op mode. Disney Universe is an online multiplayer action game (Xbox 360, PS3, & PC) that has gamers working together to save the “Disney Universe”. Fans take on various Disney characters and progress through Disney-themed worlds via challenges. Cars 2: The Video Game is a racing game (PS3, Xbox 260, Wii, DS, & PC/Mac) similar to Mario Cart that takes place across Europe and Japan where fans can play as Mater and 20 other characters. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game (Wii, DS/3DS, Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, & PC) has fans building Legos, dueling, and treasure hunting as 70 various characters. Finally, a fan favorite at E3 had several Disney animators drawing hand sketches of various characters from the Disney archives, easily winning as the best swag item of the show.

Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment’s lineup of games at E3 included Batman, Lord of the Rings, Green Lantern, and Sesame Street. Batman Arkham City’s follow-up to Batman Arkham Asylum is an action and puzzle game (Xbox 360, PS3, & PC) that sees the Caped Crusader using forensic analysis and a criminal database to track and catch villains across the city. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a co-op game (PS3, Xbox 360, & PC) for up to three players touching on items not in the films. Rise of the Manhunters is a 3D game (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS/3DS) that sees Hal Jordan, using the likeness and voice of Ryan Reynolds, and his Power Ring use various weapons to defeat the Manhunters. Bastion is an RPG game (Xbox Live & PC) that sees the narrator provide different feedback based on the players actions. Finally, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster is an adventure game (Xbox 360 Kinect) focused on helping kids learn to read by solving problems with the help of monsters. It also features a co-op version to allow for parent-child cooperation (sibling cooperation gameplay seems highly unlikely).

Other Gaming / Software News
Another interesting development from Nintendo was its 3DS mobile gaming platform. There were several games to demo including classics like Excitebike [10] and Tetris [11], as well as updates to newer favorites like Mario Kart- all of which use autostereoscopic (aka glasses-free) 3D that can be increased, decreased or disabled depending on the consumers desire. Older gamers and those with glasses or contacts take note: 3DS gaming can make you reach for some Visine as well as a serious temple-rubbing rather quickly.

Nintendo’s 3DS mobile gaming device also showed off some Augmented Reality (“AR”) titles including Kid Icarus: Uprising [12] and Pokédex 3D [13]. The new version of the classic Kid Icarus game certainly cannot be labeled “retro”. It uses the built-in 3D camera to recognize countless specially designed AR Cards with animated game characters popping up in 3D on the game screen and even battling each other when two cards face off. For those Fallon fans out there: in addition to a copy of Kid Icarus, Jimmy Fallon received a demo of Zelda: Skyward Sword and the WiiU console and controller courtesy of Reggie Fils-Aime (President & COO, Nintendo of America) [14]. The free Pokédex 3D application includes a collection of over 150 Pokémon from the Pokémon Black and Pokémon White games. The application lets you see each Pokémon in 3D with animated motion and sound, and you can rotate the Pokémon image 360 degrees to zoom in and view it from any angle. You can receive Pokémon data from friends using the SpotPass WiFi feature or by scanning AR markers. Once you have collected data for a Pokémon, the AR Viewer allows you to view that Pokémon image in a real-world setting in real time and create photos to share with friends.

GRilli3D [15] presented their “3D Without Glasses” technology to allow for 3D viewing on iOS devices. GRilli3D films are known as “GRillis” and allow users to view 3D-generated content in true 3D stereo format without cumbersome and expensive 3D glasses. GRilli3D offers the very first of a next-generation utility that allows users to enjoy true 3D stereo depth by virtue of applying a simple and inexpensive plastic film to a 3D-enabled device. GRillis operates by interposing a series of “Barrier Lines” between the eyes and the projected image, blocking the view of each eye differently and providing the signal separation that result in depth perception at close intervals when used with mobile devices. “GRilli3D really is the first of a new generation of 3D stereo viewing devices that completely eliminates the need for special glasses,” said Dwight Prouty, GRilli3D’s Inventor and Founding Partner. The GRillis in combination with Final Cut or Avid software would allow for rendering and viewing content for iOS; this was demoed at E3 using an episode of Mr. Ed to prove that it wasn’t content created for 3D.

As an observation, there were several companies including QR codes in their booths and marketing materials to direct consumers to mobile websites, video clips, and other marketing materials. However, several brands directed users to full web sites instead of mobile-optimized websites and this sort of QR code usage should be explicitly avoided by NBCU brands looking to explore this space.

EA made a splash with its new Lord of the Rings title: War in the North. Using a full orchestra, EA demonstrated the emotional impact of a powerful musical score. In the EA booth, several stations were setup for attendees to try out four player cooperative game play. The game will be available on PC, XBOX360 and Sony PS3.

For those classic gamers: a company out of El Monte, CA called Hyperkin [16] have gone the Ben Heckendorn route [17] and are mass-marketing new hardware systems to support classic cartridge games. Favorites at the show include the RetroN 3 console [18], which allows for playing NES, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis cartridges all on one system, and the SUPABOY portable pocket SNES console [19], which can play Super Nintendo and Super Famicom cartridges anywhere you are.

Finally, and again for the classic gamers, the Video Game History Museum [20] had an exhibit at the show displaying a portion of their 25 years of game artifact and memorabilia archives. Their mission is focused on archiving and preserving the stories of how the industry evolved as well as honoring and documenting the contributions of the people that made it possible. In addition to thousands of physical artifacts and memorabilia, the museum’s digital archives boast hundreds of gigabytes of design documents, memos, magazines, press kits, and other historical corporate paperwork. The exhibit specifically showed off 30 classic coin-Op machines, 18 classic console stations, 256 pieces of nostalgia, and two bands rockin’ classic game tunes.

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Reblog – Highlights of CES 2011

I’m reblogging my post from an internal NBCU site here on our website for posterity sake.

Syfy at CES 2011
Syfy at CES 2011

The 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) just wrapped in chilly Las Vegas and two topics are worth noting: 3D & tablets. On top of those two major highlights you’ll see different form factors, different operating systems, different user interfaces and different application marketplaces which equates to a myriad of options for consumers and a headache for content creators.

3D TV
TV manufacturers are making heavy investments in 3D across several areas: displays, Blu-ray players, & cameras. The conversation between Active & Passive 3D heated up even further with TV manufactures staking their preference on each side of the fence with LG & VIZIO on the Passive side and Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Sharp on the Active side. The issues with viewing angles, refresh rates & flicker seen in the 3D TVs in 2010 have improved and the resulting 2D quality is astounding. While the various TV application marketplaces used different standards, there were some similar apps across the ecosystems: Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, Pandora. Sony demoed their consumer-grade 3D camera (3D Bloggie HD) that allows consumers to shoot their own 3D footage that can then be watched; it should be noted that the quality is very much entry-level and nowhere near the quality that broadcast networks or film studios are capable of with their 3D cameras, but an interesting option for taping your child’s upcoming birthday party.

Bravo at CES 2011
Bravo at CES 2011

Tablets
In 2010, netbooks were all the rage; in 2011, you couldn’t avoid the proliferation of tablets and their corresponding peripheral devices. The main positioning that tablet manufacturers are using to market their devices are that they’ll be used in conjunction with watching TV. Some, like the Panasonic VIERA tablet only have a function when viewing TV (and in that case, only with a VIERA Connect-compatible TV). The crowd favorite seems to be a toss-up between the Motorola Xoom and the Blackberry Playbook with a slight edge to the Xoom for being a more open ecosystem. The Xoom features Android version 3.0 (aka Honeycomb) that was specifically designed for tablets, has a well-integrated experience, and appears ready to take advantage of Motorola’s Media To Go home broadcasting feature to display content from your DVR or live TV on the Xoom tablet. The Playbook, built on Blackberry’s own OS, has the ability to authenticate with a Blackberry device that’s in-range and display email & other data related to the synced users account; otherwise it has all the same functionalities as the Xoom minus the home broadcasting options. None of the tablets on display are expected to upstage the iPad, but there will be some competition as the fight to be #2 begins.

Comcast-Samsung Partnership
Brian Roberts showed up at the Samsung keynote to show that Comcast will be partnering with them on the video portion of Samsung’s cloud-based platform to store, share & play content. Brian also displayed the Xfinity TV app for the Galaxy Tab, how it turns the tablet into a guide, video player, and remote, & noted that they’ll be adding the feature to watch live TV on the tablet and social media features soon. Samsung Smart TVs will have access to Comcast’s VOD library and you can switch between the tablet & TV and it’ll pick up where you left off. Samsung’s TVs will support Flash and Adobe AIR will be the technology behind the cross-platform, multiscreen applications

Oxygen at CES 2011
Oxygen at CES 2011

The NBCU Booth
The NBCU booth focused on Syfy, Bravo & Oxygen on successive days as well as hosting a five-seat hub for bloggers, a live set for CNBC & MSNBC, a staged control room for consumers to see “how the sausage is made”, a group of six hanging wicker chairs with iPad’s displaying many NBCU apps, and a simple information booth. Oh, and a giant sphere who’s various panels could move independently to open & close to display the various networks showcase concept of the day. Thursday was Syfy’s day to shine and they used the space to display the first playable demo of the RIFT game. The makers of RIFT gave a short talk on the gameplay in the center of the Syfy sphere, were accompanied by an appropriately dressed Asha from the Telara saga, and consumers could sample the gameplay on the kiosks circling the sphere. Friday was Bravo’s day to take control and Top Chef’s Richard Blais turned popcorn, liquid nitrogen, and a blowtorch into a tasty spherical treat. They also had some of their famous Housewives on-hand for interviews and photo ops. The weekend saw Oxygen putting their Live Out Loud label on the line with video-taped karaoke that consumers could later download from the Oxygen website as well as a live interview with the host of The Aubrey O’Day Project. More from the NBCU booth can be found on the NBCU at CES website.

Other Highlights
Some other highlights include autostereo (glasses-free) 3D technology from several manufacturers, a convertible laptop-tablet from Samsung featuring Windows 7, a dual touchscreen laptop from Acer featuring Windows 7, Avatar Kinect from Microsoft that allows for chatting via Kinect online personas, as well as Microsoft and several partners displaying functioning System on a Chip (SoC) hardware designs.

Many thanks to NBCU for the opportunity to be here in Vegas as I’ve enjoyed my entire CES experience. I hope to come back next year and provide updates to my blog readers as well as co-workers at NBCU!

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Reblog – Microsoft Keynote: Quick Impressions

Microsoft Pre-CES Keynote
Microsoft Pre-CES Keynote

I’m reblogging my post over on the NBCU at CES site here on our website for posterity sake.

After sitting through the Microsoft keynote, I can say for certain that they have some great things ahead in 2011 including a tablet & laptop device that I might mediately order tonight.

Steve Ballmer focused the crowd on their coverage of TVs (via the Xbox), phones, and PCs. 2010 saw a lot of progress with the Xbox 360, Xbox Live and Kinect. With the addition of the Zune marketplace and Kinect you now have hand and voice controls of music and movies to go along with the obvious Xbox gaming platform.

With the addition of Netflix, Hulu Plus and ESPN3.com you now have access to movies, TV shows and sports all through the Xbox. One thing not mentioned was that each of those services require paid subscriptions, so buyer beware.

The Windows 7 phone has been launched with 9 different phones, by 60 mobile operators, in 30 countries. They demoed some cut scenes from Xbox Live games on the phone, all of which looked fun but several appear to be “me too” apps compared to Apple’s app store options. Competition in the mobile marketplace is a good thing and proof of that comes in some things not seen on an iPhone. Live tiles on the lock and home screens give you quick access to the most important info (# of emails, texts, voicemails, etc) so you van glance and go. A physical camera button that works even when the phone is locked allows you to go from pocket to picture to post in seconds.

Their last segment on PCs showed some hot gadetry in the form of an Asus dual touchscreen laptop and a Samsung Sliding 7 Series PC that is a laptop the converts into a tablet. So, if you want to get some large format Nintendo DS action, the Asus machine is for you. If you’re like me then the Samsung device will let you have the office power of a laptop plus the kick-up-your-heels comfort of a tablet. I’ll be getting my hands on that later today and possibly putting through an order on Amazon.com!

Now I’m off to the rest of CES, but stay tuned to the NBCU coverage via Twitter (@NBCUCES), Facebook (NBCUCES), and here at http://NBCUatCES.com.

(Blogged from my iPhone.)

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CES 2011: Tablets, A New Era of Mobile Computing

"iPad's" by Ultmost
“iPad’s” by Ultmost

My last session of the weekend was the “Tables: A New Era of Mobile Computing” from Ben Bajarin (Director Consumer Technology, Creative Strategies). Ben had done some research and was essentially reporting his market view of tablets and things to focus on to be successful.

Ben is estimating 46-48 million tablet sales in 2011 and falling into the Lean Backward category (tablets used to consumer media & browse the internet) compared to the Lean Forward category (PCs used to producer content & perform work). When developing a tablet manufacturers must take into account shared and personal experiences; multi-user abilities to login and have secure access as well as personal access to your own apps, content and media. A good example of a multi-purpose device are Apple’s iPad, Motorola’s Xoom and RIM’s Playbook. An example of a use-case specific tablet are the Nook Color and Galaxy Tab.>

The “Apple model” is used by Apple, RIM and Palm and is part of a proprietary ecosystem. Content is a sunk cost, services drive loyalty, and all devices in the ecosystem work together as well as separately.

The “Android model” is open, customizable, and using the Android ecosystem. There are less hardware-loyal consumers, but they use Google services. Manufacturers need to figure out how to add value on top of Google/Android. The Motorola Atrix is a good example of added value and differentiation and the HTC Sense UI is another good differentiation to the Android ecosystem.

Success in the tablet market depends on hardware innovation, differentiation, software ecosystem & developers, services, personal cloud among other aspects. You need to know your consumer, integrate value added experiences, invest in differentiation, and integrate & develop services. Tablet vendors want to get back to owning the consumer instead of the mobile operator (e.g., “pay as you go” model).

Microsoft is desperate to get across this ecosystem. They need to find holes in Android and exploit there. It sounds like Windows 8 will be fully integrated across all devices (PC, phone, tablet) which begs the question, is Windows 7 considered Windows Me part 2?

Ethnographic research started with Age groups, but moved to Use Cases (Navigation, Media, etc.). Prices will follow netbook pricing, $199 price point will do very well, but prices will come down. The bulk of sales will be in the US, then UK with some in Korea & China (aka, developed markets). Early evidence shows consumer demand for magazine experiences, but consumer and business (including education) should be viewed as two niches of users.

Many thanks to NBCU for the opportunity to be here in Vegas, I hope to post again this weekend with some additional company & product reviews.

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CES 2011: Gadgets Everywhere and the Role of Wireless

Gadgets Everywhere SuperSession
Gadgets Everywhere SuperSession

The last panel session that I sat through on Friday (my brain sponge was absorbent, but damn today was a lot) was one titled “Consumer 360 – Gadgets Everywhere and the Role of Wireless” and moderated by Rajeev Chand (Managing Director and Senior Equity Research Analyst, Wireless, Rutberg & Company). The panelists included Anand Chandrasekher (SVP Intel, GM Ultra Mobility Group, Intel), John Donovan (Chief Technology Officer, AT&T), Bill Ogle (Chief Marketing Officer, Motorola Mobility), and the sparkplug of the group Robert Stephens (CTO, Best Buy).

The panelists that 2011 will go down as the year of tablets with the main question being what is the N number of devices that the populace will support; sounds like it will be 3-4 and eventually whittle down to 1-2. From a cell carrier perspective we’re no longer an enterprise Blackberry voice & data users, but now you can pick up a tablet at a friends house, authenticate and get billed for it on your bill. Users appear to be willing to give up some data & privacy to access services that benefit or help them. Netflix and the Kindle are good examples of seamless experiences. Devices will adapt because of apps, but not likely because of the app being the main use.

As a side note, a great comment was let loose: “A user manual is a list of design failures”. I just LOVE that, it’ll certainly make its way into my cliches at work!

Since I was so engrossed in the panel discussion and didn’t take great notes, I recommend you check out the video from the session and enjoy it yourself:

http://player.stickam.com/stickamPlayer/mp/190631502

Many thanks to NBCU for the opportunity to be here in Vegas, I hope to post again this weekend with some additional company & product reviews.

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CES 2011: NBC Digital Model

NBC circa 1956
NBC circa 1956

As part of the Media Money Makers program track, I sat in on a quick presentation from some familiar faces: the NBC.com executive team. The “From Broadband to Big Time: The NBC Digital Model” presentation from Vivi Zigler (President, NBCU Digital Entertainment), Steve Andrade (GM and SVP, Digital Development, NBC.com), and Nick Johnson (VP, Digital Media Sales, NBCU) touched on several popular campaigns with shows & sponsors in 2010.

The Microsoft sponsorship of the School Pride webisodes let people nominate local schools to win a computer lab makeover with Windows 7. The HP sponsorship of The Office social challenge had fans display a show-themed posted in their office to earn Fan It points (which can then be redeemed for physical & virtual goods). The Bud Light sponsorship of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon centered on the world premiere telecast of “Stones in Exile” documentary and exclusive Rolling Stones content on the Fallon website. The Turbo Tax sponsorship was a cross-platform social media play that has occurred for three straight years and included on-air vignettes, custom expert guides, sweepstakes and a live treasure hunt. The Dove sponsorship of the Good2Go mobile campaign reached across several NBCUniversal sites, generates awareness of the Dove “go fresh” brand message and creates engagement with busy moms on the go with continually updated content.

They keep content and sponsorships relevant and meaningful to their users by reading show scripts in advance to identify potential integrations, they work with digital agencies outside of the Upfront to see what they’d like to see included. NBC.com owns the content created for advertisers (eg. webisodes), all NBCU brands have significant digital teams, and some brands come to them while others they search out highlighting the solutions NBC.com offers. All in all, a quick and interesting insight into how they interact with major advertisers and how that affects their planning and strategies for their year. Let’s see what they come back with at CES 2012 in terms of success in 2011!

Many thanks to NBCU for the opportunity to be here in Vegas, I hope to post again this weekend with some additional company & product reviews.

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CES 2011: Innovation Power Panel

CES Innovation Power Panel
CES Innovation Power Panel

Day two started by stumbling into the press line for the Innovation Power Panel when all I was really looking for was the breakfast buffet line (how’s that for luck?). The panel was moderated by CEA President & CEO Gary Shapiro and included the following blue chip heavyweights as panelists: Ursula Burns (chairman & CEO of Xerox Corporation), John Chambers (chairman & CEO of Cisco), and Jeffrey Immelt (chairman & CEO of GE). While I’ve seen Jeff in person a couple of times and online and via webcasts many times doing GE/NBCU town halls, this was a much different perspective. It wasn’t Jeff as troop leader, it was Jeff as business luminary dispensing with a wealth of knowledge on the business landscape domestically and internationally.

The main topic was that the economy was down, Washington DC is a mess, and that innovators and entrepreneurs need to lead the charge back. Gary asked each panelist to quickly summarize how they felt; Ursula went with optimistic & nervous, John noted that we’re at an inflection point in regard to education & infrastructure, and Jeff talked about how the rest of the world was moving faster than the US. Jeff continued noting that China isn’t standing still, Germany came out of the recession stronger by focusing on exports “morning to night” as well as a R&D and job creation. He feels that the US needs to focus on technology & innovation in education.

Ursula graded our K-12 school system at D-, but the university level received an A- and as “probably the best in the world”. K-12 isn’t in the top 20, meanwhile India & China are improving by leaps and bounds. John added his concern that some state institutions might lose their edge because of state funding issues. Jeff continued that we need to set ambitious goals and got wonky with Six Sigma and mentioning the need to pick five X’s to move the Y. There are 1.5 million graduates in China a year while the US graduates more sports therapists then engineers (with a quip that there’s nothing wrong with a good sports massage).

Ursula mentioned that its not a fight with China, India, & Germany, but a focus on improving the US. The economic downturn made it easier to demonize non-US entities (especially on top of 9/11) but we need to do a better job coordinating between the business & government communities. Immigration use to encourage people to come and start companies in the US, but that’s no longer the case and that needs to change. Government policies discourage hiring Americans, but there’s progress and its moving towards encouragement. The main concerns focused on the US tax, immigration, & export policies.

The US is only one out of five countries (with the other four being small countries) double tax via overseas & local taxes. The unfortunate reality is that jobs go where the markets are and based on the US policies its not wise to hire heavily in the US. Jeff noted, however, that the days of labor arbitrage are over; it takes two hours to make a fridge, so he’ll do it in the US instead of Mexico; there’s only a 10% increase for US-based call centers so we’ll do that in the future now. John finished with admitting the government has a complex equation with about six variables, but if we address each variable logically then we’ll make a drastic improvement across the board.

As a summary, they stated that we used to have around eighteen of the top twenty companies in the US, but that we’re now at five and going to zero. In order to truly create wealth again in the US, we need to focus on technology & innovation.

The full video of the panel is available here.

As a side note, just about every (no, scratch that, EVERY) panel discussion or keynote used Taio Cruz’s Dynamite as an intro. And while it’s a great song, it gets old pretty quick when you see it mashed up against CEA graphics multiple times a day. Here’s hoping next year shows CEA branching out into multiple artists or at least multiple songs from one artist. Spread the royalty love guys!

Many thanks to NBCU for the opportunity to be here in Vegas, I hope to post again this weekend with some additional company & product reviews.

UPDATE: Interestingly enough, thirteen days later President Obama named Jeff Immelt to chair his new President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

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CES 2011: Social TV

CES 2011
CES 2011

Friday’s day-long panel discussion track continued with the Social Television – The Merger of Content, Social Interaction and the Video Platforms panel. The panel was moderated by Richard Sussman (VP of Digital Entertainment, The Nielsen Company) and included
Michael Kernan (Chief Executive Officer, NuMedia Studios), Greg March (Director of Digital Media, Weiden + Kennedy), Raviv Moore (VP Business Development, Eyecon Technologies), Marty Roberts (Vice President of Sales and Marketing, ThePlatform), Christy Tanner (General Manager, TVGuide.com), Matt Wasserlauf (CEO, BBE), and Gayle Weiswasser (VP, Social Media Communications, Discovery Communications) as panelists.

We’re seeing the formation of telecommunities with viewers chatting while watching and even seeing some networks work it into their broadcast with Fox’s Fringe as a prime example. One in ten watched the 2010 Oscars while on the internet, but there are issues if you have to pause to take care of the kids and then jump to live to get caught up with the group instead of watching linearly.

Discovery saw 14,000 users for a live chat during an east coast airing and 5,000 during a west coast airing of Captain Phil’s farewell from Deadliest Catch. Along with the viewer participation, they saw 135,000 page views and 15,000 comments during the live chats while the live broadcast of the episode on July 13th, 2010 garnered 8.5 million viewers and was the #1 show on cable that night for men & women aged 25-54. In terms of the differential between east & west Coast, they felt that many west coasters tuned in to the east coast broadcast.

In October 2010 Discovery added GetGlue stickers and saw 1,400 get the MythBusters premiere sticker with a potential social media reach of 1 million users. If viewers continued to view the live episodes on Wednesday, they were able to unlock additional stickers. In under three months of check-ins, there were 38,000 for MythBusters 12,000 for Sarah Palin and 10,000 for Storm Chasers. Discovery Super Fans get a discount code to use at the Discovery Store online by checking into a show five or more times. They’ve also added the check-in widget to select fan sites to help spread the word about the program.

Eyecon provides software to allow consumers to discover media more efficiently. thePlatform is a video management system that allows publishers to take their content to different destinations. They can work with content providers and video sites to build in ads to roll on embeded clips as well as ensure specific hashtags appear when something is retweeted.

NuMedia Studios partners with advertisers and talent to create content for web and TV. Recently they launched AssCastles.com with FunnyOrDie.com and sold the show to VH1 as a smart comedy tv show. It had 57,000 views and 2,000 comments in four days after launch.

Specific Media acquired BBE to bring together display and video. Their video is targetable and more than 10 billion US impressions and 1.9 billion video streams monthly. Mom Life was a 2010 Webby winner with 52 million unique users for season one & two, 100 million web streams with the twenty five episodes integrating 40+ brands.

TV Guide focuses on original content, linear TV listings grid, and full episodes from networks, cablers and web outfits. They have 23 million unique users, iPad/iPhone/Android apps, 300,000 fans of their pages (tv shows, movies, celebs), syndicate to mobile/YahooTV/OMG, and launched check-ins for tv shows on their site in October under the moniker of “I’ll Watch”. They’ve noticed that their top twenty checkin shows don’t match the top shows according to Nielsen or fan page counts. The Glee Christmas episode was #1, but #7 was It’s A Wonderful Life and Sons of Anarchy was in the top twenty.

In general in social TV and online video the advertisers set the KPIs while on TV its GRP. Any way to record fans is beneficial (eg., unlocking special content). Vindico provides an ad serving system that can help with this. Measurement online as a whole is a disaster, meanwhile TV has a digestible metric in GRP. Online doesn’t have a common vocabulary for metrics. Across both platforms (TV & online) we need to measure live, DVR, on demand & online to get a true idea of ratings. Comcast wants to allow subscribers to watch their on demand library online and then take the ability to watch to mobile devices as well.

Many thanks to NBCU for the opportunity to be here in Vegas, I hope to keep posting this weekend with additional company & product reviews as well as panel session updates.