CES 2020: The show coverage that wasn’t

The image you see above you is the outer lobby of South Hall 3 at the CES show in Las Vegas. This photo was taken midday on the busy day 2 of the show. In past years this area was a mindboggling mess of people, expecially the far corner which was home to a series of media stages. Here’s a photo of the cNet stage from 2015. This is roughly the same space viewed from a different angle.

The stage itself was a hub of activity, despite what this picture shows. (It was obviously taken pre-opening.) cNet was the official news source of the show for many years and this area was always full of something to see and something to watch.

Not this year.

cNet was nowhere to be seen in the South Hall.  They’ve moved to a much less advantageous location near Sands Hall C:

and even more surprising, the folks at engadget were also very subdued. In the past that site had a big stage across from the central hall:

but again they were nowhere near as visible this year. Their HQ was shoved into the back of the central plaza behind the Google employees’ private lunch area.

What happened?

It’s not like CES isn’t newsworthy. I’m sure you’ve seen dozens of CES-related articles in the last few days, so it’s not like there’s no coverage. I think part of the change is that we expect streaming video now. Back in 2006, the year of my first CES, the idea that someone was live streaming was real news. Just the act of streaming by itself was newsworthy. Of course today everyone including your grandmother live streams. So the idea of doing it at CES just isn’t that interesting.

Because people aren’t live streaming, they’re taking more time to produce videos before posting them online or at traditional news outlets. They don’t need big fancy stages anymore.

And yes the show is smaller.

I am still waiting to see the official word on attendance from the Consumer Technology Association. My gut tells me that just like every year they will say this was the biggest show ever. And yet, it wasn’t. There weren’t any lines for the buses. You could get a taxi or Uber anytime you wanted.  The traffic on the local streets was slow, for sure, but it didn’t take an hour to get that last quarter-mile like it used to.

It used to be that anyone with a fake business card could get into CES. Now you not only have to prove industry affiliation, but for a lot of people tickets actually cost money. Like other shows, there are plenty of free floor passes. CTA members generally get in for free as well. But it’s clear that the CTA made a conscious decision to limit the number of people at the show. More importantly they limited the kind of people at the show to people who really should be there. Techno-tourists just aren’t welcome anymore. That’s not such a terrible thing.

It does sort of make me wonder what the endgame is though. The Las Vegas Convention Center is undergoing a massive expansion which will let even the largest shows stay under one roof. It should be done just in time for CES to shrink to its smallest size in decades. That’s progress for you, friends.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.