December 2, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: B8ta is reinventing QVC-style TV shopping, and CES may itself be ripe for reinvention. Also: Really old … cereal?
When retail innovator b8ta saw its foot traffic crater during the early days of the pandemic, its staff began experimenting with video to bring hands-on product demonstrations to people cooped up at home.
Those experiments have since turned into b8ta TV, a 24/7 stream of product demos and shopping videos. “We’re all in on video, it’s been huge for us,” said b8ta CEO Vibhu Norby during Protocol’s expert discussion on holiday shopping this week.
There’s a resurgence of shopping TV, and b8ta is just the latest example. Video-driven social commerce has been huge in China, and everyone has been trying to figure out how to replicate those success stories in the West.
Amazon Live is molded after Twitch, which isn’t surprising, given that Amazon owns the livestreaming platform. B8ta, on the other hand, resembles something more akin to a hip version of QVC.
In a way, b8ta is approaching video shopping like its take on retail: Instead of building out a traditional network of stores that sell what everyone else is selling, the company has been working both with small startups and big department store chains to lower the barrier of entry to retail. B8ta stores and b8ta TV feature speakers, wearables and coffee makers you may not find in any other store.
Expect more to come along those lines. “Video shopping works,” Norby said. “It’s the future of experiential.”
Check out a video of the entire event, also featuring senior Foursquare strategist Emily Owayni and Woot co-founder Darold Rydl, on YouTube.
Big Tech and gaming platform wars
Big Tech is more interested than ever before in trying to own and define the platforms of tomorrow, but game companies have their own unique visions for how we’ll play and socialize in virtual spaces in the future. Join reporter Nick Statt at 10 a.m. PT Dec. 14 for a discussion on what new platforms and business models might replace the old guard, which companies might stay on top and who risks losing out on the next wave.
“Holy shit. ‘Red Notice’ is now the most watched film in Netflix history.” — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, celebrating that his latest movie has dethroned “Bird Box” as Netflix’s most popular film yet.
“The problem with comparing two films that debuted on Netflix roughly three years apart ... is that Netflix has grown substantially in that time.” —The Verge writer Catie Keck, putting those numbers in context.
Payments infrastructure provider Nium is playing a key role in the future of how we pay for items and transfer money. Nium's Chief Revenue Officer Frederick Crosby explains all.
“Are you planning to be in-person in Vegas this year, especially in light of the new COVID variant?” The question came via email this week, a day after I published a story on Protocol about the fate of CES during these uncertain late-pandemic times. It’s one of many I have received in recent weeks, with people cautiously asking about my plans. I’ve sent a few similar emails, and received a lot of TBDs, as many people seem to be waiting until the very last minute to make up their minds.
CES 2022 will be in person, unlike last year’s all-virtual show, and will have vaccine requirements and mask mandates. People won’t even be able to catch a shuttle ride if they’re not fully vaccinated.
CES 2022 will also once again have a virtual component, for which you will be able to sign up on Dec. 9. I will be among those people tuning in from afar; I haven’t skipped the in-person part of the show since 2013. I’ll miss being in Vegas, wandering the floor, stumbling across weird and wonderful gadgets and randomly bumping into people between meetings.
Part of me wonders whether the show as we know it has run its course, and whether it’s time to reinvent CES in a smaller and more focused fashion. And don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those people who loved going.
How should CES look instead? To be honest, I don’t know. Maybe it’s time to break up the event across verticals, and not assume that TVs, cars, phones, drones and massage chairs are all equally relevant to the same audience. Maybe putting on live keynotes doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anymore, especially now that companies like Apple introduce their new products with what effectively amounts to hour-long promotional videos without celebrity meltdowns. Or maybe we’ll just have to re-create Las Vegas in the metaverse.
Comcast’s cable TV bundle is getting more expensive. Get ready for another bump in cord-cutting numbers, as the cable company is raising prices across its markets come January.
Sonos is preparing to launch a smaller subwoofer. The smart speaker maker’s mobile app leaked news of an incoming “Sub Mini.”
Apple’s AR/VR headset will launch next year, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has been right about these things more than once. Kuo thinks the high-end headset will feature processors as powerful as Apple’s desktop computers, which should significantly raise the price tag.
The Quest is getting better mixed-reality recording. A new update allows people to record themselves in their favorite VR apps and games, which should help promote VR to people who haven't tried it.
The backlash against NFT fandom is here. BTS fans aren’t happy about the group’s decision to get into NFTs, and they’re not the only ones upset about collectibles becoming investment vehicles.A VR diversity training company used white actors for Black characters. The company justified the decision by saying the practice was necessary to scale its business. Yikes.
Being a fan isn’t easy these days, especially when it comes to merch and collectibles. Sure, there are plenty of NFT projects competing for your money and attention. However, there’s always a chance that other fans will turn on you, or scammers will steal your tokens, or pirates will, well, pirate them. And what if the NFT itself is a copyright violation? If you want to avoid all that hassle, I’d suggest you buy something more old school. How about cereal, for instance? Netflix is selling some limited-edition breakfast flakes for “Stranger Things” fans, complete with a missing person’s ad for Barb. Just be mindful that the actual cereal may have expired in 1986.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!