Talk to any AV industry veteran and they will tell you about those Consumer Electronics Show events where audio and video ruled supreme. The audiophile show at the Sahara Bi-level for "Winter CES" was where legendary companies were made (and porn was across the parking lot or in the suite next-door assuming you wrote a big enough purchase order while at the show). "Summer CES" years ago, was in Chicago and those in-the-know knew to slip the union guys a few hundreds to assure that your boxes arrived in good shape before and after a show. Even in recent years, the South Hall at CES was designed to be a mini-CEDIA featuring all of the best in home theater companies complete with grand displays, sound rooms and more. Today CES is unfortunately a disorganized mess with the audiophiles squished into The Venetian Hotel with hour-long waits to board an elevator to a show floor.
The good news is the Consumer Electronics Association is going to expand the scope of CES beyond specialty audio, home theater and consumer electronics. They are going to go past the merger of COMDEX which has wooed all of the gadget companies, phone companies, major software companies and OEMs. Now CES will include appliances to go along with car audio, wireless technology, green technology and everything else.
For nearly a generation, home theater was about as strong of a draw as you could ask for with a tradeshow. Today, it's an afterthought at CES which year-in and year-out is the largest tradeshow on the planet. Hotel rooms in a recession plagued Las Vegas are astronomically priced. Taxi lines are 40 minutes long - if not longer. With PC convergence, phone people, software companies and other gadgety people - the show has little to no focus other than to highlight that consumer electronics doesn't mean (specialty) AV like it used to. Consumer electronics today is about commodities. Commodities sold by clerks working in dealers that don't spend the time to do meaningful training or in warehouse stores where there isn't any kind of salesforce whatsoever.
CEDIA is an alternative to the CES tradeshow and most higher end dealers are leaning this way but the CEA is the most powerful lobby for the specialty audio business. They need to find a way to assemble a better event that both highlights the best in specialty and high end audio-video while still reaching the mainstream press, the best dealers and attracts the best exhibitors. The idea of a mini-CEDIA like the CEA planed in the South Hall was a good one but it may need to move to a more off-the-beaten-path location like The Mandalay Bay resort that has fine meeting rooms, exhibit space and plenty of suites that would allow for all of the specialty AV business to have a manageable, focused show as CES. Another idea bandied about is to stagger the show dates to keep costs down for attendees. Either way, the CEA needs to get it right as the specialty AV business needs CES to be a powerful show for them especially with international distributors and key domestic dealers. Right now adding refrigerators and washer-dryers doesn't sound like a move in the right direction.