It’s 4:30 on Friday afternoon at the Consumer Electronics Show. I’m on the blogger stage at the *Sharp/NBC Universal” Multimedia Lounge, a long title for some comfy chairs, ethernet access, power outlets and the chance to work while people watch. The full NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) booth runs almost 9,000 square feet, nearly double last year’s first-time presence, complete with a full set for live broadcasts by CNBC — eight hours and counting, Access Hollywood and others, including Jim Louderback’s Revision3 shows. You could barely move when Maria Bartiromo was broadcasting Thursday afternoon.
NBCU’s updated the download stations, too. Last year, the company distributed San Disk USB drives for visitors to download shows from its networks. This year, they’ve doubled the stations to 20 and are offering 2 gig micro SDs. I’m not sure if this is a fair measure yet of CES but one veteran showgoer I talked to listed the micro giveaway as one of the coolest things he’s seen. (Update: By early Saturday they’d given out the 12,000 drives they brought to the show.) The downloads were faster, too. The booth also features four *Microsoft* Surface tables– NBC used Surface technology for election coverage — and they were slammed as people get a chance to try out one of the hot items to come out of last year’s CES.
It might seem counter intuitive that NBCU expanded this year when other key exhibitors ditched the main floor and some contracted — especially given the recent layoffs and CEO Jeff Zucker’s mandate to cut costs. (The company did keep costs down in one area: while the presence was major and a number of execs were on hand, last year’s massive corporate presence, when Zucker held leadership meetings at the show, wasn’t repeated.) But the connection with CES raises NBCU’s profile considerably, differentiates its coverage, adds tech cred and gives it a chance to toss a lot of messaging in different directions at once. The blogger lounge is one example: Jon Accarrino, manager of digital marketing, expects to host more about 100 bloggers during the show. “It’s free marketing and exposure for us. Even inviting a company that has no exposure to us like Revision3, while they’re broadcasting you see NBC logos in the background.” Revision3 mentioned NBCU in its show publicity and drew people to the booth. “It’s a very low-cost way for me to do my job and with all these cutbacks in the economy I need to find new ways to promote our shows, our properties with no budget.” And, yes, I’m fully aware that this post delivers what they want, but with or without a comfy chair, you can’t ignore it when a media company has one of the buzziest booths at a tech show.
Mark Lukasiewicz, the NBC News VP responsible for the booth, knows the knock on trade shows these days: “They could say you could cut every trade show in the world and save a lot of money.” He wouldn’t say if NBCU got a better deal from CES this year.