CES: A Big Celebri-tease

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How do you attract attention at a ridiculously sprawling event such as the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show?

Consider this: The annual Vegas confab this week will host an estimated 2,700 exhibitors spread over an exhausting 1.8 million net square feet and attract more than 140,000 attendees, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Just thinking about it makes our feet break out in blisters.

One time-tested tactic is employing scantily clad “booth bunnies.” But there’s a higher-brow option to turn heads: sprinkling on a bit of stardust. Here are a couple of celebrity — and, well, pseudo-celebrity — sightings expected at CES. And, of course, we mean besides Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, who’s delivering the Jan. 8 keynote at 9 a.m. in the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino’s Palazzo Ballroom.

  • Actor Michael Douglas will be “live and in person” to kick off the official launch of XstreamHD, a startup proposing to deliver high-definition movies on demand over satellite links to a proprietary set-top. “Now I ain’t cheap, but I can be had.” — Douglas, playing Jack Colton in 1984’s Romancing the Stone (Jan. 8, Venetian Resort Hotel Casino).
  • Comedian/magician Penn Jillette — the “larger and louder half of Penn & Teller” — will appear on behalf of Sony’s Crackle.com video Web site (Jan. 9, Las Vegas Convention Center, booth 14200).
  • R&B artist Mary J. Blige is scheduled to perform at Monster Cable’s concert, which the audio/video cable vendor unblushingly calls “the biggest social event” at CES. That may be true, but only if you eliminate “waiting in taxi lines” as a social event (Jan. 8, Paris Hotel).
  • Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Sean Parker, a co-founder of Napster and Facebook, will appear on a discussion panel (“Inside the Entrepreneurial Mind”) hosted by American Express to promote its financial services for small businesses. (Jan. 9, Las Vegas Convention Center, booth 12533).
  • Major League Gaming pro Tom Taylor (a.k.a. TSquared) will promote Panasonic’s new home cinema projectors specially optimized for video games (Las Vegas Convention Center, Booth 9405). Similarly, sound-card maker Creative Labs has enticed pro gamer Jonathan Wendel (a.k.a. Fatal1ty) to its booth (South Hall 3, booth 30642), where he’ll play Quake 4 with audience members mano a mano. We’re quaking already.
  • Miss America 2007 Lauren Nelson, in helping Symantec demo its PC security products, will “share her story about being approached by a potential cyber-predator when she was 13 years old.” We guess Dateline NBC’s Chris “To Catch a Predator” Hansen wouldn’t really have drawn the same foot traffic (Sands Expo Convention Center, booth 72643).

In N.Y.C., Even Bulls Get Cold

Midtown Manhattan last Thursday might have been a little too cold for man, beast and a publicity stunt called “Ford Trucks PBR Invasion of the Bulls” that aimed to kick up some interest for the Versus Invitational held at Madison Square Garden over the weekend.

With the temperature hovering around 20 degrees at about 9:30 a.m., amid the whooping and hollering of Professional Bull Riders cowboys, the bulls were released and just stood there for a moment, probably wondering why they were out in the frigid weather about to run down a length of New York City sidewalk. But after a couple of false starts, they finally loped down the fenced-in pathway.

Apparently, the low-energy “ambling of the bulls” alongside MSG was not as TV-friendly as was hoped. So the bulls were herded back down the runway for a second take.

Their second run was a little more energetic, and they certainly seemed rank enough during a lunchtime exhibition in which some of the top riders on the PBR tour tried to stay on bucking board for the requisite eight seconds within a corral constructed on the corner of 33rd Street and 8th Avenue.

And that’s no bum steer.

DirecTV Execs Lay Low at CES

DirecTV made a big splash at last year’s CES when it announced plans to launch more than 100 HD channels. But this year, it’s laying pretty low in Las Vegas.

The nation’s largest direct-satellite provider initially had a press-conference slot for Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, then cancelled it. Now it plans no announcements or news at CES, a spokesman said, instead scheduling a meet-and-greet event Monday night at the Venetian Hotel.

DirecTV might be keeping quiet as it waits for John Malone’s Liberty Media to complete its acquisition of News Corp.’s stake in the satellite-TV provider.

Rival Dish Network was still planning to hold a CES press conference on Monday, likely to involve Dish’s big acquisition of last year: Slingbox.