CEDIA Expo Truths: Attendance Flat, Show’s Dominated By DIY and It’s Arguably a Distributor Show Now

CEDIA Expo is the ultimate AV geekfest. Walking around CEDIA is like being an eight-year-old at Toys ‘R’ Us wishing you could have everything.

But like Toys ‘R’ Us, it’s on the verge of disappearing.

Let’s be honest here — the show has had flat attendance (right at 20,000, INCLUDING exhibitor personnel) for the past four years, Crestron pulled out saying it (CEDIA Expo) had lost its identity and some long-time exhibitors have recently either pulled out of the show (or gone bankrupt) or have opted for exhibiting via a distributor’s booth rather than their own.

Let’s me clarify — since I was asked to: CEDIA (the association) is totally separate and different from CEDIA Expo (the show). We did send a handful of reporters, at great expense to rAVe (no, we did not get paid nor did we make any money covering it) to CEDIA Expo last week in San Diego and shot over 350 videos LIVE on the show floor — all of our coverage is here. So, no one can accuse us of not supporting this show — we’ve been going almost since day one.

Don’t get me wrong, many attendees still love CEDIA and there will always be some 20,000 or so people that go. But the show isn’t growing. And, to be frank, it’s on the verge of constricting. Even before the show started, I’d heard from two large display companies that they would not have their own booths at the 2019 show — deciding to exhibit via their distributors instead — one mount company, three audio companies and two cable companies also told me they weren’t having their own booths in 2019.

What’s going on?

Well, Crestron President Randy Klein was right back in 2016 when I spoke to him at ISE — a few months after they announced they were pulling away from exhibiting — the show has lost its way. Is it a high-end residential AV show or is it a DIY (do-it-yourself) show? Currently, it’s trying to be both — but it can’t be. At the same time some attendees (and some manufacturers) are laughing-off upstarts like Brilliant Home Control for its new $299 DIY CEDIA 2018 launch which I highlighted on my LinkedIn feed during CEDIA (garnering over 5,000 views in four days), we have companies like super-high-end KEF offering up a $250,00 pair of speakers.

This can’t work together at the same time. If you disagree, stop reading and go ahead and keep attending — eventually there will be no more bathroom lines, no coffee lines, no wait for food and plenty of hotel rooms without an inflated show rate.

Case in point: The above mentioned $299 Brilliant control system post garnered comments such as, “At 299 how will a integrater play a role?” to “Nice segment, interesting and innovative product!” The $250,000 speakers from KEF drew comments like, “A speaker that’s worth as much as my house!” to “For that much money you could have a private live concert.” The perfect response to the KEF speakers was, “Remember, know your audience and the price the market will bear. KEF is not charging 250K because they don’t think they can get it.”

See also  Ian Bryant Takes Tech and Innovation Position With CEDIA

Look there’s nothing wrong with a DIY show or a true, high-end residential show — but which one is CEDIA Expo? “Do we want CEDIA Expo to become a new, smaller, less-relevant CES” (an actual quote form an outgoing CEDIA board member) or do we want CEDIA to be what it was chartered to be — a show serving the residential custom integration community? Either is fine. But it must decide!

We can’t totally get away from the DIY market — all customers are going to want to have some sort of voice-control activated ecosystem in their homes like Alexa or Siri and it’s not going to come from someone in the CEDIA space. Let’s face it — the best of the voice-control stuff from high-end residential manufacturers is as good as Siri on her worst day — none of these companies have the AI development money that Google, Amazon or Apple have. So those products will be integrated or requested by the homeowner. But you can’t have it BE the control system and survive as an integrator of high-end homes.

But one of the keynoters from last year’s show was Sarah Zenz of Amazon. Why wasn’t it George Walter of RAYVAJim Carroll of Savant Systems or  Adam Levy of SnapAV? These are the ones innovating residential AV now. Not Amazon. (And yes, I know those are all men, and diversity in AV is a big issue. I proactively campaigned for Heather Sidorowicz when she ran for a CEDIA board spot last year, which she won. Right now we’re just talking about a different issue, which is whether CEDIA Expo is still for the custom install market.)

John Penney, the 2018 keynote speaker, of 20th Century Fox was a good “PR draw,” but come on, really? He headed up Starz, HBO and is about to launch a service that they claim will make streaming on your phone and tablet better and faster than at home. He’s not looking out for the best interest of the residential AV integrator either.

I realize adding this will likely piss off a few old-timers who will be defensive about how they “have a plan” for making sure the show is relevant. But, if 2017 and 2018 was part of the plan, you may want to consider a plan B. This average-at-best show is floundering.

Gary Kayye

About Gary Kayye

Gary Kayye, founder of rAVe Publications, is one of the most prominent personalities in the audiovisual industry. He has been a contributor to WIRED magazine and a technical advisor and columnist for Sound & Communications magazine as well as an opinionated columnist for rAVe [Publications] since 2003. In addition to his writing and market analysis, Gary has been a product, marketing and business operations consultant to dozens of AV companies in the U.S. and overseas. Clients have included companies such as Sony, Sharp, Epson, Lutron, InFocus, Sanyo, Mitsubishi, NEC and Philips.   Gary, who has been involved with the audiovisual market for over 20 years, was the recipient of the InfoComm 2003 Educator of the Year Award and the 2007 NSCA Instructor of the Year Award. Over the years, he has donated much of his time as an active volunteer in the AV industry’s trade association and served as chairman of InfoComm’s Professional Education & Training Committee (PETC), chairman of the ICIA Design School Committee and chairman of InfoComm’s Installation School Committee. In addition, he has served on the InfoComm board of governors. He also helped grow the InfoComm Projection Shoot-Out as the premiere AV industry trade show special event serving on the committee from 1991 through 1997, and was instrumental in launching the Shoot-Out in the European market at the Photokina Expo in 1994 and 1996 as well as the Asian market at the 1995 and 1997 INFOCOMM Asia shows.   Prior to founding his own company, Gary was vice president of sales and marketing for AMX Corporation (www.amx.com), a manufacturer specializing in professional AV and residential AV control systems. Prior to AMX, Gary spent nine years at Extron Electronics (www.extron.com), rising to the position of vice president of sales and marketing. Gary earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1987 from the University of North Carolina and is currently Adjunct Faculty at UNC in the School of Journalism teaching a class on how future technologies will affect the future of advertising, PR and marketing.   He is also the founder of Swim for Smiles, a non-profit that raises money for the N.C. Children’s Hospital through swimming and other fitness-related events for kids. You can contact him at gary@ravepubs.com..

  • Jim McGall

    The CEDIA EXPO has come off the rails due to high costs, poor timing and crappy logistics. San Diego is not the easiest nor most convenient destination for such an event (even if I did enjoy the town, venue, restaurants and the ever present BIRD scooters). We experienced greater support and dealer attendance with the previous shows based in Indy and Denver. – centrally located and generally easier to fly to and from. Also the show costs are escalating and for us smaller manufacturers, it’s tough to generate any real ROI from this annual event. We experience much more consistent results from the regional Tech Summits (now also a part of CEDIA) since we get to be closer to the dealer community in each given region, and with smaller shows that are keeping costs in line. (Eh, message to CEDIA – don’t mess it up!). As to your comment about subversive technologies “invading” the traditional CE and custom space, I say bring it on… such technologies either force slower companies out of the game, or challenge them to become more nimble to survive.