In Depth

Cable Gathering Thinking Big

Returning to New Orleans, NCTA Taps Volunteer Energy, Top-Name Speakers

“Think Big” is the theme of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s 57th annual Cable Show May 17-20, and it is an especially appropriate one for its host city of New Orleans, still rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina more than 2 1/2 years ago.

About 15,000 attendees are expected at the Morial Convention Center, where a wealth of sessions and panels on business services, advertising, information technology, management, public policy and development await them.

Continuing a tradition of featuring top leaders in cable and related industries, the general sessions will feature such heavy hitters as News Corp.’s Peter Chernin, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, Sun Microsystems’ Scott McNealy and Comcast’s Brian Roberts.
Throughout the proceedings, the spirit of the Big Easy will shine through.

“I think what’s unique about this is there is an emotional element about going back to New Orleans, given that we were supposed to be there in the spring of 2006 and everything that happened with Katrina, and we made a commitment to the city that we would come back,” said Kyle McSlarrow, NCTA’s president and CEO.

“A lot of the activities that we’ve generated that I think are going to be very successful are around that theme of “cable cares” and giving back to the community, and that’s going to be different,” he said. “I’m going down a day earlier than I normally do because we’re going to be building playgrounds. Along with all the usual sort of exhibit floor and public policy CEO-level sessions, I think there’s that additional element that I think is going to be pretty cool.”

The show gets under way Saturday with hundreds of attendees volunteering to help CableCares rebuilding projects at several New Orleans elementary schools (see separate story).

Also on Saturday, delegates have the option of attending the tru2way Developers’ Conference, a workshop that takes an in-depth look at the tools, traits and trends of interactive television, with marketplace updates and business forecasts from iTV industry leaders.

On Sunday, as the Cable Show itself kicks off, TelevisionWeek is hosting “60 Years of Cable,” a special luncheon panel event from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. in Room 344/345. (Separate free registration is required; go to www.TVWeek.com/NCTA.) The event will celebrate cable’s innovations past, present and future—and TelevisionWeek’s 2008 Cable TV Executive of the Year, NAMIC President Kathy Johnson, will be presented with her award.

The conference’s first general session focuses on what’s new in broadband media, an overall theme of the show this year, following a keynote by Mr. McSlarrow and a welcome from Debra Lee, chairman-CEO of BET Networks and Rocco Commisso, chairman-CEO of Mediacom Communications Corp.

With the accelerating pace of change creating huge opportunities in the digital media sector, some of the industry’s most powerful players will share their insights on the current landscape. Mr. Chernin, president and COO of News Corp., Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel, Philippe Dauman, president-CEO of Viacom, Yoshi Yamada, chairman-CEO of Panasonic Corp. of North America, and Mr. Roberts, chairman-CEO of Comcast Corp., will proffer their thoughts in a session moderated by William Kennard, telecommunications and media managing director at the Carlyle Group.

The Cable Show offers a wealth of information for people in all facets of the business, including tracks on public policy and information technology.

“The big focus is on digital broadband programming, and the approaching digital transition,” said Barbara York, senior VP of industry affairs for the NCTA. “There are a lot of sessions on broadband, the technology and high definition. People will be able to find information and trends on everything concerning that cable triple-play: video, broadband and voice.”

The exhibit floor, which opens Sunday afternoon, features about 200,000 square feet of exhibit space for more than 350 cable and technology companies and content providers.

“The floor will reflect a full snapshot of the industry. It’s not just hardware, software or content. It’s all coming together under one roof,” said Mark Bell, VP of industry affairs for NCTA. “New this year is the Korean pavilion, showcasing services to U.S. providers, and an ad sales area called ‘Ad Alley.’ There is also a large international business center on the floor where delegates can find office tools, and use it to network. We also have ‘Cable Courtyard,’ a place to check e-mail. They are all right on the exhibit floor.”

New technologies will be on display in a special area of the exhibit floor dedicated to showcasing tech innovations. “It’s a great way to get a peek around the corner tech-wise,” Mr. Bell said.

This year’s event marks the second time the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau is part of the Cable Show, with its own “campus” (second floor, Hall A/B Atrium) and sessions focused entirely on all facets of advertising. “This campus is designed to be one place where ad sales people can take classes, get professional development and reinforcement of sales training,” said Christopher Jones, VP of corporate communications for the CAB.

CABU, as the CAB section is known, features an executive learning series with panels on topics such as VOD, interactive advertising, multiplatform branding, selling in an uncertain economy, navigating the sales management cycle and selling against the competition.
On Monday night, the 26th annual Cable Advertising Awards will take place in the La Louisiane ballroom, where advertising’s best will be honored in 26 categories.

“It’s a black-tie, Oscar-like event,” Mr. Jones said. The awards ceremony will be hosted by A.J. Hammer, anchor of Headline News’ “Showbiz Tonight.”

The 2008 Vanguard Awards reception and ceremony will be held Tuesday evening, with nine of the cable industry’s most accomplished leaders being honored with the prestigious award, given to those who exemplify not only business leadership but personal commitment to their colleagues.

The Cable Show draws to a close later that evening with a benefit for the city of New Orleans, a gala “Battle of the Bands.” It’s being billed as a rousing, celebratory evening that will feature performances by cable industry musicians and judging by audience members and a celebrity panel.