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Microsoft Industry Blogs

Contributors: Steve Franklin, Director of Marketing, Media & Communications and Paul Fister, VP Innovation, MediaKind

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In our recent blog post, we described Microsoft’s extensive ecosystem of world-class partners that continue to reimagine audience experiences across various events and venues for sports leagues and franchises, media and entertainment organizations, and other national and global event organizers. Our recent work in this area included building a platform that enabled significant, new audience engagement opportunities for one of the year’s most prominent events in terms of size and scope: the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES)—achieved by leveraging Microsoft’s intelligent media and entertainment experience.

CES is the largest and most influential tech event of its kind. Each year 150,000 plus attendees venture from around the world to Las Vegas to see and experience some of the latest and greatest consumer tech trends—from smart homes and streaming video tech for health and fitness. However, in 2021 CES went all-digital for the first time in its 54-year history. In doing so, it drove significant innovation in its own right, working with Microsoft, MediaKind, and other partners to break new ground in digital media technology.

At the start of the pandemic, when it became clear that in-person events would be canceled for the foreseeable future, MediaKind and Microsoft developed an innovative video-streaming blueprint that formed the basis for several virtual festivals and shows throughout last year—including this past May’s Chattanooga Film Festival. The strengths of that blueprint were then taken to another level to develop a unique technology-driven solution for the inaugural all-digital CES 2021 and its much larger and more global audience.

“Having already trialed the combination of our MediaFirst D2C TV Platform alongside Microsoft Teams, our solution was tried and tested for live collaboration and engagement. However, we had yet to trial it on the scale of CES.”—Paul Finster, VP Innovation and Webscale Sales, MediaKind

The all-digital CES 2021 encompassed an array of live and on-demand media, including exhibitor video content, interactive showcases, media events, conference programming, and keynote speeches. Significant production pieces, including the keynote speeches, were recorded through Microsoft Teams and delivered into the Microsoft Studios workflow ahead of the event. MediaKind’s solution supported this production process to ensure the fast turnaround of CES 2021 content produced remotely as well as the live video streaming from the conference itself.

A key benefit to the solution was its ability to scale to any number of viewers. This meant the platform could handle significant surges in viewership, such as during keynote speeches from Verizon, AMD, Best Buy, MasterCard, and Microsoft. On the second day of the show, the average video sessions peaked at 13,541 viewers per hour, with the platform able to handle over 700,000 video plays over the four days.

Virtual experiences enabled by digital technology

Over the last year, Microsoft has also produced virtual versions of a dozen major Microsoft-hosted events—including all six of our flagship global conferences—with tremendous results and some very clear lessons learned along the way. During that same time, Microsoft has also collaborated with customers like the NBA, the NFL, and iHeartMedia to help them bring a new level of connection to a world that has, for so many months, felt disconnected.

Considering that a virtual event on the scale of CES was little more than a concept 10 months ago, it’s been incredible to see what digital media technology has been able to achieve in such a short amount of time. In-person trade shows, conferences, and other events will hopefully resume in the not-too-distant future. However, with the accomplishments we’ve seen over the past year in executing virtual events and their effectiveness at driving engagement with more diverse and geographically dispersed audiences—it’s safe to say that virtual experiences enabled by digital technology will be an essential component for all events going forward.

Microsoft empowers media and entertainment organizations to achieve more with our trusted and secure platform supported by a comprehensive partner ecosystem with industry-leading solutions for creativity, collaboration, content management, and personalized experiences.

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Learn more about intelligent media and entertainment to see how the capabilities of our solutions have optimized workflows, streamlined content delivery, and deepened audience engagement for the likes of Mr. X, Dentsu Aegis Network, the Miami HEAT, Real Madrid, LaLiga, and Thomson Reuters.