James Kotecki (00:08): 

This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki, bringing you one of my favorite C Space Studio interviews from CES 2024. I had a lot of great conversations in Las Vegas and I know you're going to like this one, so enjoy. 

(00:24): 

Welcome back. You are in the C Space studio with me, James Kotecki. We're here at CES 2024 talking to marketing, media advertising and branding leaders. And in fact, right now we are talking to Adam Bergman, Group Vice President, Advertising and Data Sales Vizio. Welcome to the C Space Studio. 

Adam Bergman (00:41): 

James, great to be here. Thanks for having me. 

James Kotecki (00:43): 

All right, so Vizio. Vizio is on display here at CES, as we were talking about before we started rolling cameras here, but can you define the Vizio brand here? What does it mean in 2024? 

Adam Bergman (00:53): 

Sure. Vizio is about endless entertainment. We are a 20-plus-year-old company. This year, we'll be celebrating our 22nd birthday. We are a minority-owned, US-based television manufacturer. We create televisions and soundbars, and as I mentioned, endless entertainment. Our job is to put incredible technology, easy-to-use experiences in front of millions of households that rely on us every single day to get their content. Whether that's streaming, whether that's film, television, live sports, they rely on our products every single day. And so for us, it's about maintaining that relationship with our customers, constantly pushing ourselves to innovate and deliver great products. And we're customers too. We're huge fans of television and the home theater experience, so this year is about continuing that tradition, 

James Kotecki (01:36): 

Advertising and data sales. What does that look like in the context of that larger mission? 

Adam Bergman (01:39): 

Yeah, we're a really simple and streamlined company, I would say. We build televisions, we make soundbars, and we create a platform experience chock-full of content for our customers. When you turn on any Vizio smart television, whether you bought it yesterday or five years ago, we're delivering you an unbelievably rich content experience through our native operating system. That means hundreds of free channels of live television. That means thousands of movies in an on-demand library, every premium app and channel from a key partners that you would want in the marketplace. So for us, that really rich entertainment experience is of course chock-full of unique branding opportunities. 

(02:18): 

We live by a really simple mantra. When you create a great customer experience, advertising and brand opportunities organically appear. So for us, advertising is about how do we enrich that experience? How do we deliver free ad-supported television to our customers? And then on the other aspect of that, we are in a unique position. We own the hardware, we own the operating system, and we own all the data that runs through it. So for us, it's really important that in order to deliver a great experience, we have to collect really, really rich data and use that to our advantage. 

(02:46): 

So we collect opted-in viewership data from our consumers to better understand what they watch on television, what apps are they streaming, what ads are they exposed to. We can then use that data to inform recommendation engines on the platform to build out unique content experiences. And inside of Watch Free Plus, our free streaming services, we use that data to program content and we can then hand that back into the advertising community so we can plan, buy and measure media more effectively. 

James Kotecki (03:13): 

That was great by the way. That was a great synopsis of what you're up to. And it leads me to my next question, which is what is the optimal consumer experience here? What are you offering consumers when it comes to how ads show up? So a simple way would be, I turn on TV and it's linear, or at least it feels like it's linear and I'm getting ads in the way that I would expect to get. But I imagine that there's other things that you could offer in terms of advertising here. So what are you looking at and what are you doing? 

Adam Bergman (03:36): 

Well, look, I think you're spot-on. I think one, the average consumer has a really good understanding of the relationship between advertising and content. In years past, I don't really know that that was the case, right? You watch television, scripted television was built in with pod breaks and commercial breaks, and the average consumer understood that. As we moved into the streaming environment, of course on-demand, non-ad-supported environments really are what broke the mold. 

(04:01): 

Now you're seeing a couple of different things. You're seeing customers churn in and out of different apps based on content calendars. In this past year especially you've seen maybe some more downward pressure on wallet, how much someone is spending on entertainment in a monthly basis. So with that comes the rise of ad-supported. So whether that's ad-supported live, whether that's ad-supported on-demand, it's really about fair value exchange. So again, when you buy a Vizio Smart Television at any one of our great retail partners, out of the box, you are chock-full of endless entertainment, as I mentioned, apps, channels, movies, et cetera. So I think there's a fair value exchange in there to say, this relevant advertising is going to support this free content experience. For all intents and purposes, I'm providing you a free cable service out of the box. I think there's a really unique relationship there with customers. 

James Kotecki (04:48): 

And how are you using AI to think about optimizing this? Everybody's talking about AI here. We're at CES 2024. I can't not ask you about that. 

Adam Bergman (04:54): 

Yeah, certainly. 

James Kotecki (04:55): 

So what does that mean in your context? 

Adam Bergman (04:57): 

Yeah. Look, you're absolutely right. I think AI has gotten a lot of attention in this space, and rightfully so. I think as a digitally-native company in a lot of ways, we're always thinking about what are the technological advancements that can help us think in a more unique way for our customers? 

(05:14): 

For us, AI is an umbrella where there's a lot of different technical capacities underneath it. What I would say is we use technologies like AI, like machine learning to constantly better understand what our customers are interested in. We say constantly. Our consumers vote with their behavior. My owned and operated data set is television viewership, as I mentioned. What shows did you watch? What channels are you viewing? What apps, what ads did you see? Consumers vote with their behavior. When five, six, seven million televisions are telling me that they like to watch food and garden and travel content, well, I can then use that information then turn around and program a recommendation engine or hand them a 24/7 live channel that gives them that content right back to them. So for us, whether it's AI, otherwise, there's a lot of little technical use cases in there for how do we make this experience feel personable and feel really specific to that customer. 

James Kotecki (06:05): 

Do you think there are pockets of really extraordinary value that are still yet to be found? So we've talked about AI for years. We've been talking about data for years. Obviously, it's coming into its own now in ways that people are really excited about, but it sounds like your answer is yes, but I'll just finish the question, which is are there things... When we talk about optimizing, are we talking about a couple percentage points or are we talking about, oh my gosh, this is discovered some insight that's totally counterintuitive? I as a human never would've uncovered this. Thanks to this data, now I can optimize in ways that really are unprecedented. 

Adam Bergman (06:38): 

You're hitting the nail on the head. And yes, the answer is enthusiastically, yes. I would put it in two separate categories. One, streaming video. Fifteens, thirties, sixties, akin to television. What advertisers are finding with partners like us, and especially those like us with a really unique data set, is the amount of incremental exposure they can deliver to a customer base. We have some fascinating tools that even the largest brands in the world are leveraging to understand, wow, I am really under exposing this massive footprint of smart televisions. And so one, they're using our tools to better optimize their video spend as an advertiser and to be more specific. So they can now maintain a reach frequency story across broadcast, into streaming and into digital devices in the home. 

(07:21): 

On the other side, you talked a little bit about what is 2024 about? For us, the home screen experience. Last year, we delivered a new UI and new home screen experience to our customers, and we also completely rebuilt our operating system from the ground up to deliver faster, more responsive streaming. Within that, the customer is now spending a lot more time in our experience searching for great content. So what that means is we now have an opportunity with brands to present even more content in a free environment to our customers. So we're talking a lot with brands about sponsorships and integrations, not new to the advertising community, but perhaps new to the OEM and smart television space. 

James Kotecki (08:00): 

And if I step back, one kind of macro story of this space is companies you might not have thought of being content companies, becoming content companies. Are you creating original content? Are you thinking about that? Is that on the radar? 

Adam Bergman (08:11): 

Yeah. It's a great question. So last year, we launched the Vizio branded content studio where we are specifically working with brands to underwrite content. This past holiday season, we worked with one of the market's largest retailers in the Home Depot and produced a show in conjunction with Jordan Sparks as the talent where we produced four to five episodes of really engaging holiday content, how to decorate your home, surprise decorations, DIY tips, and it was an unbelievably engaging experience. 

(08:38): 

For us, that is what content generation is about today. How do we think about how brands can be a part of the experience and hearkening back to our data, what do we know our customers are going to like to watch? In that instance, we know they love DIY, we know that they love home renovation. It was a perfect fit for a brand where it made sense and customers' content that they love to watch. 

James Kotecki (09:00): 

In a show, in a CES, that's all about all different kinds of screens and all different sizes and all different kinds of ways that people can be watching content from small to huge, how do you make a case? What's your best case for the TV? Why is the TV so important? 

Adam Bergman (09:12): 

Look, I think over the years, consumers will constantly defer to the best possible viewing experience. Of course, when you're on the go and you're in transit, sure, I'd love for you to carry your 65-inch Vizio OLED with you. Probably not the case. I think when you're at home and you're sitting on the couch, you're going to defer to the best screen possible, and time and time again, that continues to be the smart television up on your wall. For us, we have been working for more than two decades to deliver outsized performance in both the video and audio quality of our devices at a price that our consumers can work with. For us, we have always been about how do we overachieve in the relationship of quality and price? What that means now also is how do we make the smart television as smart as the smartphone. We think a lot about utility. We think a lot about the interoperability of that device. At the end of the day, until my television is still catching up to the smartphone, we know we have work to do. That's okay. That's a challenge for us. 

James Kotecki (10:07): 

And that may be the biggest competition, with you're going to defer to the best possible viewing experience, but if part of that viewing experience is a suboptimal operating system or just feels more challenging to get it, then that makes a lot of sense why you're putting so much effort into that part of the TV. 

Adam Bergman (10:17): 

Absolutely. And I think, look, there's plenty of data in the market now that says, yes, of course someone is watching content on their smartphone and on their tablet, but by-and-large, the massive amount of content that is being watched in this country is being viewed over the top on a smart television, on the screen. And I think second to that, you're also seeing the death of the dongle, right? The average consumer is not buying a new smart television and then plugging a $30, $40 stick or box into it. That's not the behavior. Why? Because we have challenged ourself and are delivering our customers all of those premium apps that they want blended with great free content. The second they unpack that television from the box. 

James Kotecki (10:51): 

I want to make a show called Death of the Dongle. 

Adam Bergman (10:54): 

Okay. Let's do it. 

James Kotecki (10:54): 

That's a cool title for something, so let's make a- 

Adam Bergman (10:56): 

Branded content studio [inaudible 00:10:56]. 

James Kotecki (10:56): 

Let's make a Vizio original [inaudible 00:10:59]. 

Adam Bergman (10:59): 

I love that. 

James Kotecki (10:59): 

It was great. Adam Bergman, Vizio, really appreciate you joining us today at the C Space Studio. 

Adam Bergman (11:04): 

Thanks so much, James, I appreciate it. 

James Kotecki (11:06): 

Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation from CES 2024. That's our show for now, but there's always more tech to talk about. Hit that YouTube subscribe button, leave a comment, follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeart Media, or wherever you're getting this show, and get more CES at ces.tech. That's C-E-S dot T-E-C-H. I'm James Kotecki, talking tech on CES Tech Talk. 

 

 

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