Hollywood cuts back glitz at CES

Fri Jan 9, 2009 9:53pm EST
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By Sue Zeidler and Anupreeta Das

LOS ANGELES/LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Hollywood is toning down the glitz at the annual Consumer Electronics Show as studios seek cheaper, more practical ways to sell movies and television programs.

Celebrities such as actor Tom Hanks, singer Stevie Wonder and rhythm & blues star Usher did show up to endorse gadgets by their corporate sponsors, but such sightings were few at the once-extravagant show in Las Vegas.

Regulars like Walt Disney Co Chief Executive Bob Iger and CBS CEO Leslie Moonves were notably absent. And while CES officials insist more studios than ever attended, studio executives admitted to sending far fewer people than before.

Media executives kept mum or were unavailable for comment but studios like Time Warner Inc, News Corp and Disney have signaled they were cutting back on travel expenses, saving millions of dollars a year.

The shift comes as alternative marketing strategies have sprung up. Viral marketing uses email to share messages, videos and media online, along the lines of the mystery-filled Web promos for the 2008 sci-fi movie "Cloverfield." And social networking sites such as Facebook or Second Life have added corporate applications.

Underscoring the trend, Apple Inc withdrew from the Macworld Expo last week after years of news-grabbing announcements by CEO Steve Jobs at the erstwhile mecca for the Mac-faithful. The company said it preferred to pursue its own tailored marketing campaigns.

"As part of our larger cost containment initiatives, we're curtailing travel unless it's really critical for business reasons and I'd imagine that fewer people are going to conferences," said one studio executive, referring to CES as well as the Sundance Film festival and the National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas.

"Some of these shows have grown less relevant as programmers find different ways to market their material," said another executive from a different major studio.   Continued...

<p>Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, gives a presentation during an Industry Insider session on the first day of the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 8, 2009. REUTERS/Steve Marcus</p>