Hollywood Goes High-Tech at CES

Steve Ballmer, Eric Schmidt and other technology executives might come to mind as some of the people you would run into at the Consumer Electronics Show. These days, you’re just as likely to see Hollywood moguls at the convention, not to mention Will Smith.

Will Smith
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Will Smith

Why is Hollywood so prominent at CES? Because content continues to reign supreme in the real world and in the digital one.

One of the major players in this arena is Sony, which is an electronics maker and a Hollywood studio. Sony is one of the few companies showing its own original content, playing on devices it manufactured.

“As a studio we’ve been coming to CES for decades and a big part of the reason is because we share a lot of the same customers that consumer electronics have,” said David Bishop, president of Sony Home Entertainment.

“Now that digital has come to the forefront, there’s even a greater opportunity for us to meet people and companies like Microsoft and Playstation because now they are meaningful customers to us — the same way that Wal-Mart and Amazonare meaningful customers for us.”

Digital has indeed come to the forefront. It represents about 25 percent of profits for Sony when it comes tohome entertainment growth, up from about 20 percent last year and 10 percent two years ago, Bishop said.

Hollywood has also engaged in consumer electronics in different ways, Bishop said.

Celebrities come to CES in part because it's the perfect venue for them to showoff the technology featured in their films. Smith made an appearance at Sony's keynote to promote "Men in Black III" — a Sony Pictures film that will be shown in 3D.

“There is a lot of Sony technology around that, both on the production set as well as in the theater and that travels also to the home. Now 3D TVs are starting to grow in the marketplace, so it’s all connected in a nice way,” said Bishop.

But with digital at the center of how content is shared, there is some concern among Hollywood executives that tech companies like Applecould become a monopoly over how their content is distributed.

Miramax CEO Mike Lang, however, said he sees opportunity in competition.

“The key for any media company is to make sure there is as much competition as possible and many different players,” said Lang. “We just believe that is what has made content companies successful in the past and that digitally it will be the same thing.”
Miramax has licensing deals with Apple, Netflix , Hulu, the Latin American company NetMovies and with other subscription-based content companies, Lang noted.

“It’s a positive inflection point to be honest with you. I mean I love being a content company because what is happening around the world is two major things,” Lang said. “First, is globalization, where every major market of the world is building paid TV platforms or broadband subscribers. … Second is we are seeing many, many competitors: Netflix, Hulu, companies like Lovefilm in Russia — there’s four or five digital subscriptions, and our goal is to access them all.”

Miramax also announced Monday evening at the Panasonic news conference that they have partnered with the technology giant. Miramax's app will be part of Panasonic's Viera Connect HDTV. This app will enable users to access Miramax Films and will contain social features.

Sony also has Netflix as a customer and sees the subscription-based company developing as a Showtime or HBO model, Bishop said.

“I think the benefit of Netflix is it gets people comfortable with the digital experience. It teaches them that they can watch movies on multiple devices, and we think that will translate in a meaningful way, moving people into the ownership model of digital devices. It helps build a habit,” Bishop said. “They’re not competing — different models of distribution have always complemented one another.”