Liz Claman wanted more CES in 2020. The highest-rated female business anchor on TV has covered the giant technology convention 13 times for Fox Business Network and before that for Cleveland station WEWS.
Claman thinks CES is a big business story that gives a glimpse of how technology will change the future. But for the last few years, her bosses at Fox were cutting her down from three days in Vegas to two days to one day.
Claman got a new boss in September when Lauren Petterson, who had overseen the Fox & Friends morning show was named head of the business channel. Petterson OK’d two days at CES and Claman was ready to roll, with her CES reports sponsored by Lexus.
“It was the best CES I’ve had maybe since our first year,” said Claman. “I was inspired by all the tech.”
Claman said her crew knows she’s not going to fly 3,000 miles to Las Vegas just to sit at an anchor desk. So she was off and running, with the convention floor mapped out so she knew what exhibits she could get to before a commercial break ended and in time for her next hit.
In addition to her own show, The Claman Countdown, she did CES stories for several Fox Business and Fox News shows including Fox & Friends (early in the morning, New York time), Varney & Co., Cavuto: Coast to Coast, Making Money with Charles Payne, The Evening Edit, After the Bell and Your World.
Claman said one of her highlights was arranging to get the first TV tour of Allegiant Stadium, which will be the home of the NFL’s Raiders when they move to Vegas next season. Cox CEO Pat Esser showed Claman around.
“I would argue that Allegiant Stadium will be the biggest technology in sports story of the whole year,” she said. The $2 billion arena is being wired with 227 miles of fiber and copper lines to give it 1,700 WiFi access points. “They said if you are building a new building in this day and age, you better make it social media friendly,” she said. She also got a shot of the stadium’s ultimate selfie location, a 90 foot tall window at one end of the stands where the background is a panoramic view of the famed Las Vegas strip.
Claman met with Matt Zielinski of Lenovo who showed off the company's new foldable laptop. Naturally, Claman wondered how fragile the device was. “They said ‘go ahead Liz, on live TV, and drop it.’ And I dropped it. It was just perfect. Did I stand on it with my Louboutin’s spike heel. No. But to me that product is a game changer,” she said.
She interviewed the CEO of Impossible Foods, who handed out 25,000 plant-based pork sliders. “That’s a different disruptive technology,” she said.
Other cool products included Samsung’s Sero TV set that rotates allowing viewers to shift from a traditional horizontal TV screen to portrait mode to watch TicTocs and other social videos. “That’s going to sell for the millennial crowd,” she said. There was also the LG TV set that was so thin and flexible it gets rolled down into a cabinet for storage when it’s not being watched.
Harman International showed off a device it called a podcast in a box. Claman plans to take it with her to the Super Bowl (being broadcast by Fox) to produce her new podcast Everyone Talks to Liz.
There was also the flying taxi from Hyundai and Uber that will be able to fly 500 feet above traffic. “It’s either the greatest invention of the future or the biggest air disaster you can imagine. I’m going with the former,” she said.
Unlike some conventions, like four or five years ago when everyone was racing to make 3D TVs that didn’t need special glasses--the technology never really took hold, the technology on display this year could interest real consumers.
“I could pretty much guarantee that people are going to want that Galaxy foldable phone and the foldable laptop the rollable television when it becomes affordable,” Claman said. “If my 15 year old had his way, we’ll be owning one of the rollable TVs.”
During the conference, there was one relatively new product Claman did not get a lot of questions about: the film Golden Globe winning film Bombshell, about sexual harassment at Fox News.
Claman said that while Bombshell didn’t come up with the tech geeks in Las Vegas, her family in Los Angeles was all over it. “Everyone was asking me about it,” she said.
Many members of her family are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, or the Screen Actors Guild or BAFTA, so review copies were available. And her sister, the one whose husband ran a studio, invited 15 family members over to see the film in their screening room. That included Claman’s 18-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son.
And the family had a Q&A about the movie afterwards.
At certain points while watching the movie, “just stared at it, thinking they got that right, they got that right,” Claman said. “Some of it was a little over-the-top, but it was it was on point factually in a lot of areas.”
But while Bombshell depicts harassment at Fox News, Claman said she didn’t encounter it personally.
“Many of us at the Business channel, we’re so busy trying to get our shows on each day,” Claman said. “We’re also in a different part of the building.”
When the first reports about Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes surfaced, “to me it was a true shock.”
But she insists: “I never saw anything. I mean Roger Ailes hired me. I had multiple one-on-ones alone in his office. And never once did anything happen.”
She notes that unlike some other women in TV, “I wasn’t vulnerable” because she’d had the No. 1 show at CNBC before Fox News tried to hire her away.
Still, “It was terrible for all of us. It was really upsetting,” she said, adding, “today [Fox] is a better network. We’re even higher rated than we were and the business channel has rocked it.”