NCTA spotlights changing cable industry

Jun 11, 2001  •  Post A Comment

As everyone from programmers to financiers and executives to engineers gathers in Chicago for Cable 2001, the 50th annual convention hosted by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the industry has rarely seemed so full of promise-much of it technological-or so unsettled.
There’s the larger economy, of course, and those tightening advertising budgets that everyone is so concerned about. That may be one reason attendance is expected to be down from last year’s NCTA by some 3,000 people to about 30,000, according to a convention spokesperson.
And with upfront lingering in its entr’acte phase, the pressure is growing on cable to strike first and make its advertising deals before the broadcast networks. Speculation is rampant that major cable-network players are poised to offer substantial cost-per-thousand discounts for increased market share-this despite the indisputable fact that advertiser-supported cable continues to increase its aggregate audience and advertising-dollars share in comparison with the broadcast networks.
On the buyers’ side, one major agency, according to sources, has already contacted up to a half-dozen cable networks suggesting CPM rate rollbacks and a willingness to deal on that basis.
And then there’s the belt tightening that’s still widely expected to follow the past year’s round of mergers and acquisitions. Rumors already are rife that one of the mega-companies is about to downsize its cable-related work force.
This year’s convention theme is “We’re Making Broadband Happen,” but still unanswered is who exactly “We” are: Now that cable is moving rapidly from being a one-way delivery system to becoming a high-tech purveyor of two-way interactivity, are the telephone companies and the satellite-program providers still the enemy-or are they under the same tent, too?
Should, for example, cable operators refuse to provide local advertising opportunities for the telcos to advertise digital subscriber lines (DSL), the telephone companies’ competitor to cable’s broadband? That question is certain to be debated at NCTA.
But if the present looks unsettled and short-term shakeout is in the cards, the near- and medium-term future looks positively golden. And this year’s NCTA is focused firmly upon that future, with sessions and seminars about the value of Internet properties, call-center strategies and other computer-telephony issues, privacy issues in the digital age and enhanced TV, among others.