Why the CEDIA Sale Might Work

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There has been a ton of talk through the social media channels (yes, on Twitter, it’s mostly the same 20 people who always talk about the same things to each other, but on Facebook and LinkedIn there are some really progressive discussions) about the CEDIA sale to Emerald Expositions — a giant trade show company. You can read my story about it here.

So everyone seems to have it wrong — or is pandering to Vin Bruno. Or, maybe they’re afraid to say what they think in fear of being black-balled by CEDIA? Who knows. There’s no question we, as a publication, are an outsider from the “CEDIA Insider” group as we aren’t given the favors that other “insider” pubs are given at the CEDIA Expo — so, of course, we’re ecstatic that a new organization will run the show.

Thus, take all I say with a grain of salt.

That said, here’s the truth about the pitfalls of this deal as well as the potentials for something awesome.

Vin Bruno, CEDIA’s CEO, is either a genius or bailing out on a dying show. I’m not sure which. I tend towards the former. Vin is a fantastic communicator — one of the best I have ever seen in the AV industry. And I think he’s actually a pretty darn good a strategist. So, I think he’s thought all this through. So none of what I am going to say is likely new to him — but it may be to some of the narrow-minded CEDIA old-timers. And, I say that with great affection as I have been to ALL but two CEDIA shows ever held. So, let’s be frank here — I, too, am a CEDIA old-timer.

CEDIA was dying on the vine, as a show. The incredibly awesome parts of the show were the networking experiences, the parties, the people and the education. Those were solid — some of the best in the industry (way better than what you get at CES, for example).

But the show exhibits were hackneyed, uncreative and there was little clear direction of where the high-end home market was going. And the CEDIA Expo, itself, was a dichotomous mix of smart-home apps and $45,000 projectors and a few $2,500 turntables. The latter is supposed to be at CEDIA, by the way.

Don’t get me wrong, if you go look at our coverage of CEDIA over the past four years you will see that we, of all the publications, covered MORE new CEDIA products than ANY other publication in the industry. That’s a fact. Can’t be denied. In fact, we shot over 2,200 videos of CEDIA products in the last four years alone. And, we took more members of the press than ANY other publication in the HomeAV market — so we spent more money covering CEDIA than any other publication.

So, we loved the show and felt as though it should be covered.

And we gave the little iPhone app companies the same coverage we gave Crestron (oops, sorry, Crestron pulled out last year — more on that later); so, yes — we have the little iPhone app companies the same coverage we gave Control4 and LG and Russound and SpeakerCraft. We covered everyone. We went to every booth.

But, companies like SnapAV have shown what’s wrong with the CEDIA Expo market right now — it’s devoid of uniqueness and a clear direction. CIs walk around the show and, of course, they look at all the new gear from their favorite 20 suppliers and partners, but they aren’t finding anything new or innovative — at least, that’s profitable.

And, that’s the key. Profit.

Apple, Samsung, Facebook, Netflix, Roku, DirecTV and the like have destroyed the upper part of the high-end residential AV market. Sure, there are still smart homes, but there are fewer. And, now we don’t need a $100,000 to have a dang gone good theater — we can do it for $4,800 thanks to Epson, Sonos, Marantz and URC.

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And, CEDIA — the Expo — wasn’t helping. They didn’t turn anyone away (or, at least, it didn’t seem like they did) from exhibiting so they had a ton of, well, app-based companies that make $1.99 apps that do what Crestron Pyng said it was going to do.

Speaking of Crestron, CEDIA — the Expo — didn’t seem to care they left. In fact, I was specifically told that it didn’t affect the show. But, all the while, AMX — at the same time — went from having a booth at the show to having a table. Yes, a table — with two people manning it — representing the company that was a $100 million home control company. So, the number one and number two custom control companies disappeared, without CEDIA — the Expo — caring (or, at least, publicly caring). Yet, everyone I ran in to at the show was perplexed and frustrated they weren’t there.

Oh, and in case you didn’t think it matters, if you’re a CI, just have your accounting department print you a report of the MOST profitable vendors (by margin) too your LEAST profitable vendors over the past five years. The top (most profitable) will include a few wire companies as we can all change whatever we want for cables, but when the big-dollars show up, you’ll see AMX and Crestron right there. Towards the middle and bottom will be filled with the all the exhibitors that still showed up at CEDIA — the Expo.

But CEDIA — the organization — has the opportunity of a lifetime now!

Now that they are divested of the dying Expo, they can HELP the CIs that are trying to find a clear direction and identity — and brand positioning — to those homeowners that don’t want to control their homes from an iPad or iPhone.

The best part about this — and here comes the Vin-is-a-genius-moment: CEDIA (the organization) gets to hold all the things that were the best parts of the Expo — mainly the education and the meetings — for FREE. They don’t have to pay for meeting room space to hold all their conferences, their seminars, their workshops, their volunteer meetings or anything else, for that matter (at the newly Emerald-owned Expo). When NSCA sold its show to InfoComm way back when, this was a huge mistake that NSCA made — when they have their meetings, conferences and events, they have to still pay for the venue. CEDIA pays no fees to be at the events — HUGE win!

So, CEDIA — the Expo — won’t look much different to most of the attendees — especially if Emerald Expositions has no clue which direction to take the show and keeps allowing a plethora of app-based companies to pepper the floor. And, for the hard-core CEDIA’ites, they will still have what makes their industry awesome — the networking, the education and the events.

So this is a win-win.

Unless, of course, you are Emerald Expositions. In that case, they desperately need to figure out how to keep making CEDIA more relevant than CEs. Most of us hate going to CES as it’s a giant fun-house. CEDIA — the Expo — should be more specialized and cater to the truly custom-home market. And, unless they get AMX and Crestron back — it ain’t gonna happen.