CES 2021: Media Trends from the Biggest Tech Event of the Year

CES events do a great job at highlighting the upcoming tech climate and give us an idea of the possible collateral effects on various industries. Max Kalmykov explores the most prominent media trends from CES 2021 and elaborates on what’s to come in the near future.
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By Max Kalmykov
Vice President, Media & Entertainment
CES 2021: Media Trends from the Biggest Tech Event of the Year

Just like every event in recent times, CES took place virtually in 2021. The event was a great success. Tech companies found creative ways to showcase their new products and concepts through mostly pre-recorded keynotes.

Aside from being a fascinating event for tech enthusiasts around the world, CES is also a great zeitgeist for the short period of time that not only shows where tech is headed but also how those directions are going to impact the industries they are related to. This year was especially interesting for reflecting on the trends for the Media and Entertainment industry, considering the whirlwind impact last year had on how people consume media and especially how it is being made.

Considering the heavy reliance on streaming as a source of entertainment during the pandemic, it is no surprise that TVs shined differently this year at CES. Some of the themes that came up consistently include personal wellness, home entertainment, WFH-centric tools, and affordable technology. Read more on the most prominent media trends from CES and what do they signal for the near future of Media.

TVs Aim to Do More

TVs are always in the spotlight at CES. This time, TVs not only got bigger panels but also aimed to do much more than broadcasting and streaming. It seems like TV manufacturers like Samsung and LG are aiming to make their TVs into a wholesome hub for the entire family to get entertained, stay fit, and even communicate.

One of the most notable TVs presented was Samsung's The Wall, which the company paraded for the fifth year running, and this time it peaked at a massive 292". The company also mentioned that smaller commercial sizes from 88" will be available this year.

New screen technologies like MicroLED and Mini LED were a consistent feature across different manufacturers like Samsung, LG, TCL, among others. What was surprising, though, is not the size of the TVs but the functionality built into them. As homes evolve to handle aspects of work, education, and social life, TVs are now advancing to play their part. 

1. Video Call Support Is Now Becoming Ubiquitous

Thanks to a Skype and Cisco collaboration, Sony Bravia and Vizio Via joined Panasonic and Samsung with a range of Skype-enabled TVs for video conferencing. Cisco's Videoscape suite allows TV content to blend with online content such as social media and communication apps for a seamless internet experience on the TV.

2. Samsung's Biggest TV Sets Allow Four-Way Viewing

Samsung also announced that its 110", 99", and 88" MicroLED models would support 4Vue quad viewing, allowing users to watch four different channels or content types at the same time. These next-gen TVs will be available in the United States starting this spring.

It is hard to tell whether TV multitasking will become a permanent trend or is just another gimmick that will probably be brushed under the rug in the coming years. Regardless, Samsung took an interesting approach at utilizing the humongous panels of their TVs, and I am very curious to see how users will take advantage of it.  

3. Fitness Streaming on TV

TV apps traditionally spanned movie streaming and social media, but now TV giants are offering fitness streaming apps right on their TVs. After the success of the Peloton and the huge cult following it gained (which also includes the newly elected President Biden apparently) fitness streaming platform, Samsung has followed suit with the Samsung Wellness integration in its newest TVs. 

The lockdown prevented many people from going to the gym to get fit, so many relied on fitness apps like Peloton, and it seems like fitness streaming is here to stay. Samsung agrees, and its new Wellness platform is the company's effort to get a share in the newly expanding market of home workouts.  

4. TVs Replacing the Cinema Screen with Straight-To-VOD Premieres

With cinemas across the globe closed, the film industry heavily relied on the VOD platform as the only way to release films to major audiences in 2020. And now that there are wide discussions about this release model and if it will be the next business model to replace theatre releases, it comes as no surprise that TVs at CES were better equipped to handle the so-called "home premieres."

Whether it is native integrations with all the possible VOD platforms where films can be rented or purchased or even the new NextGenTV broadcasting standard that makes it possible for TV stations to broadcast 4K quality video along with Dolby immersive audio, TV manufacturers showed that they are ready to embrace the new cinema distribution model.

5. TVs Want to Look Like a Piece of Art on Consumers' Walls

Framed TVs are not exactly new. They have been around for a while now. The most notable example is Samsung's The Frame TV, which looks like your usual framed piece on the wall. You can even customize the frames to your choice, but the most notable feature is that you can display your favorite art piece, and the TV will fool your guests into thinking it is a framed piece they are looking at. Samsung offers a paid subscription to its art store for $5/month that gives owners access to around 1,400 pieces of art from various art institutions. This year's version, presented at CES, offers a thinner build to look even more like an actual frame.

Over the last decade, the number of people who do not want a big TV display to obstruct their living spaces has been growing. Samsung is clearly targeting this segment of the market. The curious thing is that this concept offers not only a new approach to using a TV display but also a new medium for people who enjoy art. It is quite possible that, thanks to this curious trend, framed TVs will become a popular way people showcase the digital art they own, which surely will benefit the art market immensely.

Video Game Streaming Gets a Step Closer to Mainstream

LG announced at CES 2021 that its new lineup of TVs will support Google Stadia natively. Traditionally, users need to acquire Google Chromecast and connect it to their TVs to be able to stream games from the Stadia library on their TVs. The native integration that LG offers enables gamers to skip the $50 purchase of Chromecast and just pay for the controller.

LG's collaboration with Google is perhaps a sign that game streaming (or cloud gaming) is finally becoming mainstream. People are still skeptical about streaming heavy console games like Cyberpunk. In order to work properly without any interruptions, game streaming services like Stadia, Xbox Game Pass, GeForce Now require a high-speed connection.

The Netflix-like revolution to video games may attract more people to console-level video games. Game streaming makes it possible to play high-end games without having expensive high-end equipment such as gaming consoles and PCs.

Another year, another CES. This year was also full of interesting tech that helps us predict the directions that technology will lead us to in the near future. CES 2021, unlike the previous years, was also a reflection of the hardships that the previous year brought us and how consumer technology can help make those hardships easier.

Before you go, a quick word about Octopus, the white-label video streaming platform we launched recently. If you are interested in building your own customized streaming platform at a fraction of the cost and time, make sure to learn more about Octopus here.

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