CES 2014: It’s star time in Las Vegas, with celebs Nick Cannon, Kristen Bell and more

LAS VEGAS —With all of its keynote panels and speeches in the log books, International CES 2014 on Thursday is getting down to the nitty-gritty and ceding the main floor to the show’s real work — networking and deal-making.

But though the conference may be winding down, the Las Vegas razzle-dazzle is ramping up. The big event of the day is actually at night, with Variety’s Breakthrough of the Year awards bringing out the highest-profile stars attending the show. The awards will be hosted by entertainer Nick Cannon and honor folks who have “excelled in the fields of film, television, sport, music, comedy, technology and social media” in the last year.

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Award winners include actress Olivia Munn, actor Will Forte, musician Janelle Monae and comedienne Amy Schumer. Actress Kristen Bell will also be on hand to accept the award for Breakthrough Film of the year on behalf of the crowd-funded movie in which she reprises her role as Veronica Mars. Monae and Schumer will perform at the awards show in the theater of the Las Vegas hotel.

Meanwhile, there was plenty of splash on Wednesday.

T-Mobile announced that it will end early termination fees on its network and pay up to $650 to get other carriers’ customers to switch, footing the bill for up to $350 in termination fees and paying as much as $300 to customers to trade in their old devices.

The high-energy press conference was peppered with language as colorful as T-Mobile’s magenta backdrops as company chief executive John Legere announced that the firm had added 4.4 million customers in the fourth quarter of 2013. That, he said, was its best quarter the company’s had in eight years. Legere, known for being outspoken and plainspoken, criticized his competitors throughout the press conference and repeated his mantra that the current industry is “broken.”

Yet, at the same time he referred to competitor Sprint as a “pile of spectrum” that hasn’t been used properly, Legere stopped short of shooting down rumors that Sprint and T-Mobile are evaluating a merger. During a question-and-answer session, Legere said that T-Mobile would evaluate deals that might help it expand but added that he was committed to continuing the “uncarrier” path T-Mobile has pursued over the past year.

Wednesday also marked the CES debut of new Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, who sat down with Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro for a conversation on telecom issues in the coming year. During the event, Wheeler said the FCC would be willing to look into whether a sponsored data program recently announced by AT&T might violate open internet rules. But he said the agency has to take a close look at the program before it acts. That view was echoed in a separate panel that featured all the FCC commissioners.

Commerce Secretary Penny Prtizker also spoke at the show Wednesday, reiterating her support for startups and American innovation. She said that bringing a business background to the Obama administration is one of her biggest priorities.

And then there was Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo, who spoke about privacy issues as part of a wide-ranging keynote panel on the future of marketing with Publicis chief executive Maurice Levy.

Privacy concerns, Costolo said, all boil down to marketers establishing a trusting relationship with customers — and that having that trust comes with certain responsibilities.

He said that Twitter builds trust by making it clear that users can opt out of targeted ads. The social network has also implemented measures such as “do not track” and is among the major tech firms that use “https” -- meaning that data on Twitter are encrypted.

On the state of marketing, Costolo said that Twitter is eager to work with marketers to make ads and connections over the social network flow well into conversations. Making sure that ad messages aren’t too intrusive will get better responses, he said, and are better-received by consumers.

 
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