Editorial: Western Show Rides Off Into the Sunset

Dec 1, 2003  •  Post A Comment

This week marks the final Western Show, as the U.S. cable industry’s second-largest gathering of the year came to be called. It is not hard to figure out why this once-important trade event is coming to an end. When it began as a regional event in the 1970s there were more than 250 cable operators, both large and small, just in the western U.S. Today there are many more subscribers, but the great majority of them write a check each month to one of a dozen or fewer major operators-and that number continues to shrink due to consolidation.
There are other reasons for the show’s demise. The high cost of trade shows-both in mounting exhibits and bringing in executives-has become a concern in today’s cost-conscious environment. The big programming services no longer need to woo new operators because they have a large customer base and even the newest cable systems know what programmers offer. And the show’s purpose as a technical showcase, which was an imperative in the era of rapid growth of digital and broadband, now is less important as many multiple system operators have already built out new high-tech plants or have at least committed to vendors and systems.
The programming and technology needs, for both domestic and international customers, can now be met at cable’s National Show in July, or in direct contacts between the vendors and the handful of giant MSOs that now dominate the industry. There are other trade or regional shows as well, for everything from satellite to local issues.
Nevertheless, we are sorry to see the Western Show come to an end. Spencer Kaitz and the team at the California Cable & Telecommunications Association did an outstanding job over the years of keeping the Western Show vital, and of reinventing the programs and exhibit floor to make it relevant to that year and that era of the industry’s growth. They also made significant revenue from the show, which allowed the organization to hire a first-rate staff and contribute to numerous programs that help inform and improve the industry-including the outstanding work done in promoting diversity by the Walter Kaitz Foundation.
We will especially miss the always lively opening panel, which typically featured the top cable system executives in often pointed and candid discussions, giving us a glimpse not only into their thinking on issues but also into their personalities.
So we will see you in Anaheim for the final roundup. RIP, Western Show. It has been a good run.