CES 2018: Blackout in Vegas

LAS VEGAS—On the first day of CES, Tuesday, a record 1.33 inches of rain fell, the wettest one-day downpour since the Weather Service began keeping records in 1937.

On the second day of CES, at about 11:15 am, the lights flickered and went out in the massive Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center where the sprawling booths of Samsung, LG, Sony, Intel and hundreds more exhibits went dark. Thousands of visitors pulled out mobile handsets, hit the “flashlight” app, and edged out of the building; authorities said there were no injuries. Parts of the connector between Central and South Halls were also affected.

Initial reports indicated that Tuesday’s downpour affected the LVCC transformers and also the back-up generators; officials continue to investigate the cause for the blackout. Others shrugged at the streak of bad luck in Vegas—rain and a blackout—wondering what might happen next.

Many attendees admitted immediately that when the lights went off with a small pop, their first thought was terrorism, while others discussed the irony of a high-tech exposition knocked low by fundamental electrical technology. A few wise-guys conjectured that it happened because someone said, “Alexa, turn off the lights.”

By the time, power returned at about 1 p.m., the crowds jamming the building’s periphery exploded in applause. But some exhibitors—such as Samsung—barricaded their booths for at least another hour while they rebooted devices (rather than have visitors see non-working products). 

Gary Arlen

Gary Arlen, a contributor to Broadcasting & Cable, NextTV and TV Tech, is known for his visionary insights into the convergence of media + telecom + content + technology. His perspectives on public/tech policy, marketing and audience measurement have added to the value of his research and analyses of emerging interactive and broadband services. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the long-time “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports; Gary writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs.