CES Preview: A Frank Discussion With Nielsen’s Scott Brown

(By Buzz Knight)   It wouldn’t be the New Year if we weren’t getting pumped for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and as our team from Beasley Media Group gets ready to head out I had the opportunity to chat with one of the finest minds in the business to get a preview of the show.

Scott L. Brown is the Senior Vice President, Engineering and Strategic Relations, at Nielsen and his responsibility involves insights relating to impending changes to the media landscape, the impact of new technology, and the path of new advertising models.

Buzz: Do you remember what innovations you observed at your first show and how it impacted your thinking?
Brown: 1998 was just a first CES experience for me, but the year 2000 was another story. That was the year TiVo hit the CES floor and was an overnight game-changer. The DVR was the first biggest innovation in television since the VCR of the 1970s, and it created a media flurry of interest. It was less about TiVo causing ad skipping, as that consumer behavior of disengaging from ads for a bathroom break, a peek at the newspaper, or to make a sandwich, had been a known. “Quantifying” that ad avoidance was the key, with the new fast-forward button and time shifting capability present. Many experts at the time believed the DVR would spell the end of commercial television, but instead, it was a new beginning for television on consumer terms and with Nielsen measuring. Today, we have live TV, near DVR ubiquity, TV viewing on screens of all types and sizes, via cable and DBS, via Internet and cellular, and with a much larger shift to on-demand consumption.

Buzz: What are you most excited about seeing this year at CES?
Brown: This year could be the “Leap to Transparent Technology” — meaning the business application of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and machine learning, all sown into multi-use devices that connect using low-energy wireless like Bluetooth and 5G. Digital Voice Assistants will increasingly have sensory advances such as touchless 3D sensing (think Apple’s iPhone X), more predictive capabilities and awareness of other devices, as well as humans.

Curiously, the automotive sector is a CES centerpiece though not a traditional car show. Just look at all the technology necessary for driverless cars: terrain learning and guidance, environmental awareness in an infinite combination of light and weather conditions, transparent features that transfer home network data to the auto network and back, seamlessly.  Imagine your A/C settings, music preferences, paused a movie in progress, podcast placeholder, AM/FM station tuned, travel narrative, etc. following as the consumer moves from the home to the car and back.

And of course, the Nielsen Gracenote team will be at CES demonstrating how its latest media identification technology and radio station metadata is creating new ways for drivers to discover and engage with radio programming in the connected car. Gracenote is already in more than 100 million cars from every manufacturer and has developed a suite of new data-driven radio products and services aimed at transforming the radio experience.

Buzz: As CES becomes focused on the connected car, what do you expect we will see this year? Autonomous platforms with AI, driverless capability, greater safety with terrain guidance and use of big data?
Brown: The connected cars are in some ways the tip of the innovation spear in managing incredibly complex tasks while serving safety, understanding weather, being aware of other devices, knowing and providing your favorite entertainment features, all with constant connectivity. Imagine how big data will aid navigation, traffic planning, and predictive accident avoidance, and how network hand-offs will enable new advertising models to influence consumers with value propositions based on new data-driven value propositions, subtly interwoven with content. When your car knows you’re on your way home, and your connected refrigerator knows you’re out of milk, and Amazon’s Whole Foods has a sale on milk and your car is outfitted with Amazon’s Alexa … we’re not far away from that and more. It will all be voice and touch controlled and one day even mind control. Artificial intelligence will sit on top of many platforms and provide ultra-smooth, ultra-realistic interaction via the big pipe. Your devices will know you as well as you know yourself!

Buzz: Why should more people from the radio industry attend CES every year?
Brown: The show cannot be adequately described unless you are there to witness it. Literally thousands of exhibitors from the top OEMs down to the smallest innovative shops will be pitching the next big thing. Device connectivity has been a key feature the last three years, but now it’s necessary to experience, not just read about, the unseen, transparency technologies that address the consumer’s thirst for more connectivity, more control, and more value. The connective tissue is AI, VR, Big Data, and advanced software. Radio will be a part of much of it, and if you’re interested in the future of media, audio and advertising, you dare not miss the breakthroughs or fail to understand the impact of new technology. Just attend!

Buzz Knight is the Vice President of Programming for Beasley Media Group. He can be reached at buzz@bbgi.com


This blog was previously featured in Radio Ink.


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