Small cylinder with cords

A Stream+ unit, with a quick-connect coax cable, in the Channel Master suite

Although I had been unsure whether a visit to CES this year was going to be worth it, I came back pretty happy. Not only did I get an in-person visit with Channel Master‘s new Stream+ over-the-air DVR and streaming TV receiver, I also got to check out the company’s new quick-connect coax cable and indoor SMARTenna+. All that was near the end of my day, so let me first tell you more about everything else.

Because of other commitments, I commuted from home to CES yesterday, taking the first flight in the morning and the last one to return that night. As I wrote a couple of years ago, this is not recommended for casual CES fans. There’s no way to see all of the show in less than two days, and it wouldn’t be hard to find interesting educational conference tracks for a longer stay. On the other hand, for someone like me focused on one topic and within a two-hour flight of Las Vegas, it is possible to put on blinders and cover just the relevant exhibitors in one long day.

After picking up my press badge at the Las Vegas Convention Center, I went over to the “C Space” area in the Aria. That’s where I saw an interview with Ben Sherwood, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, of which I will write more tomorrow.

Next, I took another shuttle over to the exhibit halls at the Sands, which includes Eureka Park. With its low ceilings and science-fair atmosphere, Eureka Park is a little claustrophobic, but it’s got the most new ideas per square foot anywhere. It’s the place to meet such companies as Solaborate, which makes a device to use a TV as a collaborative whiteboard, and CloviTek, which makes a wifi audio transmitter for TVs, but this year I just couldn’t find much there to excite me.

While I was at Eureka Park, my phone got a notification that there was a power outage at the LVCC. A half hour later, I was on the bus heading back there anyway. I started in the Central Plaza (what other shows might call the front parking lot) where I caught up with Google. All those attendees that had been evacuated from the blacked-out Central Hall had to go somewhere, which might have been a reason why the Google booth’s tours were already booked solid for the rest of the day. At least I got a few photos. Directly across the aisle was the Amazon Treasure Truck promoting an Alexa-empowered smoke detector (that could do much more, of course). By the time I finished my rounds and walked back over to the convention center, the lights were back on.

In the back of the South Hall there were a few companies, such as MyGica, pitching Android TV boxes, but the visit I was anticipating was in Channel Master’s suite at the Westgate Hotel next to the convention center. The Stream+ was exactly as described, using Google’s Live Channels app to display the OTA guide data. They haven’t started shipping units yet, and I hope to give one a more thorough test after I get it.

Channel Master was also proud of its SMARTenna, even though I think it has too many upper-case letters. It’s an indoor antenna that can scan different reception patterns to get the most channels from a given spot. What surprised me were the new push-on coax connectors. When I tried one, it was as simple and fast as any old cheap push-on connector, but this new one had a real grip on the threads that resisted accidental unplugging. The SMARTenna is expected to begin shipping within a few months, and again I look forward to trying one in my basement torture chamber. (I mean, it’s torture for the OTA TV antennas that I plug into my “ancient” 720p HDTV set, sitting across from a pile of old satellite TV receivers.)

My last visit of the day was with SiliconDust, makers of the superb HDHomeRun series of OTA tuners. Over the past few weeks, I’d started really trying out its DVR software, and that tale belongs with this visit. It’ll be another of the stories that I’ll be unspooling for the next few days.

While you wait for more, here’s one more photo of some Google workers getting ready for the start of another day at CES in front of their giant gumball machine.

About a dozen white-clad Google employees circled in conversation next to a 30-foot high gumball machine


Woman in white suit waiting in front of a landing pad

A Google helper awaits another satisfied visitor at the bottom of its twisty slide

I dodged the #CESblackout (more on that tomorrow), and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Google had its Central Plaza booth dried out and working just fine today. In fact, by the time I dropped by around 1 pm, its booth tours were booked for the rest of the day.

My meetings are later this afternoon, so I’ll post a lot more tomorrow after I get back to FreeTVBlog World Headquarters, but I wanted to share a photo of at least one Google employee. I wonder what her job title is.

By all accounts, Google’s presence at this year’s CES is huge, with branding on the monorail, a 30-foot gumball machine, and a large tent in front of the convention center. The goal is to promote Google Assistant as an alternative to Amazon’s Alexa. But today it’s raining in Las Vegas, which really does happen now and then, and the Google tent can’t handle it. Frederic Lardinois of TechCrunch wrote, “For now, the booth is closed, with tarps covering the roof and all of the electronics inside and out.” Not auspicious.

The silver lining to this rainstorm, for me anyway, is that Las Vegas never looks better than it does after a rain. With all the dust and crud knocked out of the air, the views of the distant desert mountains are really sharp. I plan to check that out in person tomorrow.

Pluto TV just added The Gorilla Channel to its lineup. Just in case you know someone who was looking for it.

Since I can’t add anything to that, I’ll turn my attention to CES, which had its Press Day today. For all you readers who weren’t there and have never attended this day-before ritual, check out some fresh video here. (CES posted this “B-roll” mainly for TV stations to use as background while local announcers remind viewers that it’s CES Eve, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t watch it too.)

The video accurately shows several examples of the press conferences common to Press Day. Very large companies set up in the Mandalay Bay Events Center’s cavernous ballrooms, which are then packed with reporters. They watch a stage presentation of the latest products that may come to market this year, then they either scurry back to the equally packed press room to write up something or they get in a very long line for the next press conference a few doors down. This provides helpful fodder for the Wireds and TechCrunches of the world, but it rarely addresses the needs of you, dear reader, who come here to learn more about the latest content on TV and video and occasionally new ways of watching it.

This year will be my 12th consecutive CES visit. I’ll be posting notes about it all this week, but I’m otherwise skipping Press Day.


Convention booth showing Give Away Starts in 39 seconds

Scout the giveaways, then arrive in plenty of time to get a seat. You don’t want to stand for too many 10-minute presentations.

This might be the last chance I get to reach some readers before they fly off to Las Vegas for the 2018 edition of CES. (Don’t call it the Consumer Electronics Show.) If you want to read a good summary of the TV-related stories that might develop at this year’s CES, CNET has a good one. It’s been four years, so I guess I ought to forgive them for that time they cheated the Dish Hopper receiver out of a Best In Show award.

Based on hotel prices, this could be the busiest CES ever. If you’re going to join the crowd next week at the show, here’s a freshened version of my evergreen Convention Attendee Survival Guide.

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. This is the highest priority, because if you have bad shoes, it will ruin the whole show for you. You will be walking. A lot. On hard surfaces. Most of the time, when you’re not walking, you’ll be standing. Unless they’re used to that kind of treatment, your feet won’t be happy with this. Find those comfy shoes now and break them in before you arrive.
  2. Have a plan, but don’t expect to stick to it. Make note of the high points that you absolutely have to see. Add some topics that sound interesting, but which don’t have the same high priority. Make a list of exhibitors you want to meet. Then walk onto the floor with the expectation that your schedule may change. There will be a lot of interesting stuff out there, including something you never thought of. Don’t be afraid to set aside what looked good yesterday when you want to learn more about something that’s amazingly cool today.
  3. Bring food. It shouldn’t be a lot. A PowerBar or Clif Bar or maybe even a Snickers will do. If you prefer something warm and mediocre, you can take a half hour to wait in line, pay too much, then struggle to find a place to gulp down lunch. Or you can unwrap a protein bar from your pocket or bag and munch on it as you sit and watch an exhibitor’s presentation. Save your time to visit more booths, and save your money for a real meal after the exhibit hall closes for the night.
  4. Drink, especially water. The air is dry in Las Vegas, and hours of walking and standing take more effort than sitting around all day. Dehydration will make you and your muscles feel more tired. When you pass a water fountain, take a drink. Consider bringing a small refillable bottle – it might go well with your PowerBar snack. And when any exhibitor offers any kind of liquid refreshment, it’s probably a good idea to take it. Come to think of it, that’s good advice on any occasion, isn’t it?
  5. Download the CES app before you arrive. Every year for every show, the official app is always lame. But it’s still the best way to put all the exhibit floor maps in your pocket. When you remember that you wanted to visit TooCool’s booth, you’ll want to know where to find it. When you need to find the nearest rest room, you’ll definitely be thankful for the map. (Side note: The best rest rooms in the LVCC are along the southeast wall of Central Hall. Keep that in mind when you’re in the neighborhood.) On the other hand, don’t carry the thick, physical convention guide book because …
  6. Beware of heavy freebies. There are so many great things for free at a big show. Free magazines. Free catalogs. Informational flyers. Pens. Paperweights. Bags for carrying them all. You can probably haul around all the pens that you’ll get, but anything that feels a little heavy at 11 is going to be a burden by 4. If you really need that two-inch-thick catalog, plan to pick it up as you leave for the night.
  7. Wear comfortable shoes. Seriously.
  8. Choose your bag well. With all those flyers and freebies, you’ll want a free bag to carry them around. Don’t just grab the first one you see, especially not the one hanging there when you pick up your badge. This bag will be making a first impression for you for the rest of the show, so find something useful and interesting. You might even spot a bag from one of your favorite brands, made with sturdy fabric with a side pocket for your water bottle. When you see one of those, grab it fast; the most popular bags run out before the show’s over.
  9. Time your presentations well. If you pass by a booth with a mob standing around watching a presentation that you’d like to see, make a note of when the next showing will be, then keep moving. If you pass by a booth with a presentation that’s going to start in 10 minutes, have a seat if you think it’ll be of interest to you. Use this 10-minute break to check your schedule, check your email, and get friendly with the folks at the booth. You’ll get the benefit of an unobstructed view of a full presentation and your feet will get the benefit of a full half-hour break. Then get up and walk back to that booth you passed, if it’s about 10 minutes before that next showing.
  10. For your top priority event, get there early. If your schedule is built around the 2 o’clock show at the Virtual Reality Theater, get there at 1:30. If Harrison Ford is signing Star Wars posters at 4, get to his booth by 3. If it’s really that cool, it’ll be that popular too, and you’ll probably be waiting in a long line. If there’s no line when you arrive, hang around the neighborhood until it starts to form. If no line ever forms, make sure you’ve got your schedule right; maybe Harrison isn’t supposed to sign anything until tomorrow.
  11. For everything, include plenty of travel time. It takes over a half mile to walk from the back of South Hall to the northwest corner inside North Hall, with plenty of foot traffic along the way. If you visit a Westgate hospitality suite, that’s another 1000 feet each way. Want to shuttle between Tech East and Tech West (the Sands)? It’s only a mile and a half, but give yourself at least a half hour to stand in line, ride the bus through clogged traffic, and unpack at your destination. It might be a good time to eat that PowerBar.
  12. Wear comfortable shoes. Okay?