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Jacobs Eyes Impact of CES Trends on Radio

Smart speakers, autonomous cars and the IoT will play increasingly important roles

The annual CES show is around the corner, set for Jan. 9–12 in Las Vegas. We checked in with Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs, who blogs about the convention, and will lead two tours of broadcast executives around the floor this year.

Fred Jacobs

Radio World: Each year, CES seems to become more important for people in radio and new audio media. Why is that?
Fred Jacobs: Technology is moving at a rapid rate, changing our personal and professional lives, disrupting along the way. It’s never been more important for everyone in business — whether you’re in radio, automotive, or into grocery stores to dial into these changes. There’s not a vertical that’s not being disrupted in some way.

CES represents that change — and the innovation that is all around us. Aside from the fact it’s inspirational and electric, radio professionals can see firsthand how these technologies are coming together, changing our homes, our cars, and our workplaces.

RW: What trends will you be watching for when you attend?
Jacobs: A few things — smart speakers have taken a quantum leap since last year, so it will be exciting to what’s changed, what’s new, and how many companies are integrating this technology.

Same with autonomous cars. There is so much money going into this technology and so many different companies working to bring it to market.

And finally, the Internet of Things — our connected lives — how all these gadgets talking to one another will hopefully simplify our lives. Of course, these themes are all connected to each other because so much of these gadgets are being driven by voice.

RW: You’ve been among the industry people speaking up about the promise and pitfalls of personal assistants and smart speakers. Where is this trend going to go, and how important is it really to radio people?
Jacobs: It feels very important for two reasons. Fewer and fewer AM/FM radios are in people’s homes — especially millennials. And yet, we’re predicting the sales of smart speakers will skyrocket this holiday season. As in-home (and at-work) penetration grows, consumers will be test driving these devices.

If broadcast radio is well-positioned, Alexa can connect stations to consumers in their homes thanks to these devices. It’s very much like where we were with apps nearly a decade ago. And right now, these devices are at least as hot as the original iPhone.

A Samsung stage presentation at the 2017 CES.

RW: Last year one of your takeaways was “Why cord cutting matters to radio.” Why does it?
Jacobs: Because it underscores the on-demand habit — which continues to grow. We see it in our Techsurveys as well as at CES. More and more carriers and distributors are allowing consumers more freedom to shape and personalize their viewing. And we’ve seen a direct correlation to podcast listening.

Consumption habits are changing, and that affects all real-time media — TV, of course, and radio. And yet, more and more radio stations are thinking podcasting. That’s a positive sign.

So, cord cutters are more likely to be podcast users. And vice-versa. I can’t explain the chicken and egg of it, but I know it’s happening.

RW: Any sessions or products you are specifically excited to attend or see?
Jacobs: We’ve stopped going to most keynotes. They’re spectacularly produced but they suck up a lot of precious floor time. Both Amazon and Google will be on hand so spending time with both mega-companies is on our list.

Voice command technology, autonomous, and the car companies overall are in our cross-hairs this year.

RW: What else should radio folks know about CES?
Jacobs: We’re taking two tours of broadcast execs on our CES/CEO Tour this year — and we’ve got a great one planned. Working hand to hand with CTA, we’re making stops at the places where radio’s leaders will get a glimpse around the corner at what’s next and why it matters.

And I’m gratified to see more radio people attending CES every year. It’s very exciting, stimulating, and thought-provoking. Over the years, it’s been one of the best investments both of our companies have made. We’ve made wonderful contacts, learned a ton, and we start the year off with a turbocharged bang.

I’m shopping for comfortable shoes this week.

Read the Jacobs blog or email Fred Jacobs.