How CES became a 'must-see' event for Hollywood

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What to Expect at CES 2016

Thousands of gadget lovers descend on Las Vegas in early January each year for CES, but the annual electronics showcase has also evolved into a must-attend event for Hollywood.

EARLIER: Products to see at the '16 Consumer Electronics Show

Nearly 27,000 entertainment and content professionals attended the event in 2015, according to the Consumer Technology Association's annual audit -- a 350 percent surge from the 6,000 entertainment attendees five years earlier. That number is only expected to increase when as many as 175,000 CES attendees head to Vegas from Jan. 6 to 9.

This year's conference has a media-heavy lineup with keynotes from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, speaking on Jan. 6; and YouTube executive Robert Kyncl and NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke, both presenting Jan. 7.

Take a peek at wearable technology in the gallery below:

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How CES became a 'must-see' event for Hollywood
Eric Soriano listens to music with a pair of Beats headphones at a Best Buy store, Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. On Wednesday, May 28, 2014, Apple announced it acquired Beats Electronics, founded by rapper Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
FILE - This Feb. 10, 2013 file photo shows music industry entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine, left, and hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre at a Grammy Party in Los Angeles. It’s as if anything Iovine and Dre touches turns to gold: The dynamic duo marked epic-level success when they introduced Eminem to the music world 15 years ago, and their lucrative Beats by Dre business reached blockbuster heights following reports on Thursday, May 8, 2014, that Apple plans to by the headphone’s parent company, Beats Electronics, for $3.2 billion. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision/AP, file)
Hisao Tanaka, president and chief executive officer of Toshiba Corp., wears the company's wearable display device as he speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, May 22, 2014. Toshiba targets 450 billion yen ($4.4 billion) of operation profit for the fiscal 2016. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
People recording with GoPro on stick in the Color Run by Desigual. Green color powder. Barcelona Catalonia May 18th 2014. Wearable technology.
Models display a wireless mini-computers and other high tech gadgets Wednesday June 14, 2000 during the "Brave New Unwired World" fashion show at Bravo! located in downtown Minneapolis. US Bancorp Piper Jaffray teamed up with Charmed Technology to give investors a sneak peak at the futuristic wearable and wireless gadgets that will allow people to accesss the World Wide Web anywhere anytime. (AP Photo/Dawn Villella)
Pebble Smartwatch
Woman wearing Fitbit and holding weights
Google glass
** COMMERCIAL IMAGE ** In this photograph taken by AP Images for Best Buy, Dr. Dre, left, and Sean "Diddy" Combs, right, launch a new line of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones from Monster, diddybeats, at Best Buy in New York, Wednesday, May 26, 2010. (David Goldman/AP Images for Best Buy)
Sunglasses made to fit Google Glass are displayed on a computer screen in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Beginning at 9 a.m. ET today, Google began a one-day sale for its wearable computing device, Glass, for $1,500 plus tax. The sale is an expansion of the Google Glass Explorer program, started in 2012. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An Indian model showcases the new Samsung 'Galaxy S5' smartphone during a fashion show held as part of a consumer event in Bangalore on April 10, 2014. The phone along with its wearable 'Gear 2' will be available on sale across India from April 11, works on a firstime, True OctaCore Proccesor. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)
A Narrative Clip life-logging device is worn on a shirt collar Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in Atlanta. The small, wearable camera takes a photo automatically every 30 seconds. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
A dog wears a Narrative Clip life-logging device on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in Decatur, Ga. The small, wearable camera takes a photo automatically every 30 seconds. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2013 photo, Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman wears Beats headphones before a preseason NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, in Seattle. Apple's $3 billion purchase of Beats Electronics, by far the company's largest acquisition, is at least in part recognition that Beats founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine might be able to help Apple incorporate more style and flair into its premium technology gadgets —especially a coming wave of wearable devices. (AP Photo/John Froschauer, File)
Singer Lady Gaga, poses for pictures at a press conference announcing, Heartbeats by Lady Gaga, the latest addition to the Beats by Dr. Dre family of headphones from Monster Cable, in New York, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
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While some entertainment execs might find their way to the show floor, it's not the next-generation drones or self-driving cars drawing them to Vegas. It's the deal-making opportunities. Hollywood executives hold private one-on-one meetings to discuss distribution of their content on these new technology platforms, while digital publishers court the biggest advertisers and studios showcase new content.

"CES is great for all aspects of the Hulu business from distribution and ad sales to product and technology," says Hulu head of ad sales Peter Naylor, who will attend the event with a half dozen other of the company's distribution, marketing and content execs, including CEO Mike Hopkins and content chief Craig Erwich. "The companies we call on and the companies who call on us are there with their highest level executives so you really jumpstart the year with interesting conversations to drive business forward."

Other Hollywood executives expected to attend include DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and A+E Networks chief Nancy Dubuc.

CES didn't always draw such large crowds from the entertainment industry. Content companies have long sent their technology and innovation executives, but as technology and media have become increasingly intertwined, those companies encouraged their marketing teams and content executives to attend.

The CTA -- recently renamed from the Consumer Electronics Association -- began working with UTA ahead of the 2011 show to boost film, television and digital media attendance. Together they designed a programming track called Entertainment Matters to highlight Hollywood-focused events. In addition to panels and speakers, Entertainment Matters hosts annual keynotes and offers customized tours of the show floor.

The conference has also been reaching out to the advertising community, and the brands they represent. Those industries also have their own programming to fuel interest that help draw more than 26,000 advertising and marketing attendees to last years show, according to CTA. Last year, the CTA created a centralized CES home for those attendees called C Space that provides panels, networking events, and other meeting opportunities. C Space is expected to double in size this year.

"Many of the biggest publishers tell us CES is the single most important ad sales event of the year for them," said UTA partner Brent Weinstein. "It has become a critical event for anyone who is looking to get business done in this space."

Michael Kassan, CEO of consultancy MediaLink, which oversees much of the C Space programming and sends out party invites to everyone from Rupert Murdoch to Tim Armstrong, adds that CES is one of the few events where executives from different disciplines all come together. "What we were able to do was carve out a niche to bring marketers together with with technology partners and digital partners. It's the place where it all comes together."

For CES, the expansion into these industries has become a way to provide new relevance to conference-goers as the technology landscape shifts. "Technology is rapidly changing how media companies make, market, monetize and consume content, how advertisers reach their audiences, and also how people consume media across an ever-increasing array of platforms and devices," said CTA Senior Vice President Karen Chupka.

The result of these efforts is that CES has established a permanent place on the media conference calendar. This year, that's highlighted by the lineup of programming focused on such attendees.

In addition to the content-focused keynotes, Hulu and Google will both throw cocktail events, brands and content companies will rub elbows at the annual MediaLink bash, Twentieth Century Fox will show off its new The Martian virtual reality experience, and YouTube stars Joey Graceffa and iJustine will tour the show floor as the event's entertainment ambassadors.

"It's not just a tech show anymore," says Kassan. "It's a must-see conference now. If you're a content company, you don't have a choice. You have to be there."

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