CES: Expect Self-Driving Cars, 5G Keynotes to Make Waves

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"The focus is more on the delivery of content," says MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan.

Entertainment executives will get a glimpse at the future of content distribution during their annual trek to Las Vegas for CES. The Jan. 8-11 consumer technology show is set to highlight innovations, including self-driving cars and 5G, that will drastically shift how people consume entertainment.

MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan, who moderates a media-centric keynote and panel discussion at CES each year, says, “The focus is more on the delivery of the content, not the creation of it.” THR looks at the trends to watch.

SELF-DRIVING CARS Imagine viewing a movie while your car drives you to work. Could that once far-fetched vision get a bit closer to reality at CES when Audi unveils what one executive described to CNET in November as a new in-car experience developed in collaboration with Disney? Details are still under wraps but expect there to be a lot of chatter at CES about how the future of the automotive industry will drastically change content consumption. Meanwhile, a keynote event featuring U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and executives from Audi, Intel and Aurora will look at how the car industry can establish trust with consumers in their push for self-driving vehicles. 

5G Wireless tech is poised for a big update, one that will make it even easier to stream video on the go and help fulfill the promise of mixed reality headsets like Magic Leap even as it also increases costs for consumers, and CES is placing 5G center-stage at the show. Executives from the two largest telecom companies (Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg and AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan) are both expected to take the stage to lay out how the forthcoming 5G tech could not only replace most Americans’ home Wi-Fi setup but also make it possible to download a movie in seconds. 

IMMERSIVE TECH With virtual reality not taking off as quickly as many in Hollywood would have liked, anticipate a muted presence on the tech (though there will be some incremental improvements) and content sides this year. Immersive entertainment will keep being talked about in Vegas, however, when VR/AR is combined with developments in drones, artificial intelligence and 5G. Notes Philip Lelyveld, immersive media initiative program lead at the nonprofit USC Entertainment Technology Center, "Combine those technologies with 5G and you've enabled a significant advance in immersive experiences. I expect that reframing of what an immersive experience can be to be a major topic of discussion at CES."

Carolyn Giardina contributed reporting.

Jan. 4, 1:27 p.m. Updated to clarify details about Audi's expected announcement.

A version of this story appears in the Jan. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.