Cable Show Returns to Washington

 “imagine Park,” a live-events stage where about 40 start-up companies and technology providers demonstrate early-stage products and introduce new services, returns for the third year to the cable show.

WASHINGTON—When the annual Cable Show comes to the nation’s capital next month, a primary goal is to bring policy and technology together. A top staff member of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association enthusiastically expects “hundreds and hundreds” of congressional staff members plus officials from the FCC and other federal agencies to look around the exhibits during the June 10-12 convention, getting a guided tour of cable’s approach to multiscreen delivery (beyond “TV Everywhere”), big data, gigabit ethernet, home networks and internet protocol strategies, plus an array of copyright concerns.

All three sitting FCC commissioners—Acting Chair Mignon Clyburn plus Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai, along with NTIA chief Larry Strickling and a roster of commission and Capitol Hill staffers will speak at the convention, part of a conference program that includes 40 sessions ranging from financial and operations issues to the Spring Technical forum.

Prime Location

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will speak to the convention, and other government officials and entertainment celebrities were expected to be added to the agenda. All three mornings of the Cable Show feature a general session at which a mix-and-match group of executives from different industry sectors will converse on stage. Among the participants are Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav plus Anne Sweeny of The Walt Disney Company, Ken Lowe of Scripps Networks and Ali Rowghani of Twitter.

“I’m thrilled that my third Cable Show is back in D.C. where we have the opportunity to communicate directly with policy makers about the incredible innovation, exciting new services and creative dynamism that exists in cable,” NCTA President/CEO Michael Powell told TV Technology. “Our industry has a great story to tell and will take full advantage of the Cable Show platform to showcase the benefits we deliver every day to American consumers.”

Specially targeted to policymakers and industry newcomers is “The Observatory,” a large exhibit (and the starting point for VIP tours) in the center of the show floor. It replaces the “Broadband Nation” showcase that served as the “big picture” introduction to current and future cable services at the last time the show was in Washington in 2009. The exhibit, built with the support of ARRIS (which is in the process of acquiring Motorola’s cable TV products division), Comcast, Cox Communications, CommScope, Ericsson, Time Warner Cable and others, includes demonstrations of new interfaces and services in a “360 degree theater in which we’ll tell cable’s story from end to end,” explains Barbara York, senior vice president-industry affairs, who oversees all Cable Show activities.

“Our goal is the help the Washington audience understand where the business is and where it’s going in the connected future,” she says, echoing Powell’s objectives.

Across the aisle from The Observatory is “Imagine Park,” now in its third year, a live-events stage where about 40 start-up companies and technology providers will demonstrate early-stage products and introduce new services.

Mark Bell, NCTA’s vice president for industry affairs, says that “much of the innovation” in Imagine Park fits into three categories: “better interfaces, cable-to-go and cable on the device you like.” The Imagine Park program will also include system analytics, featuring research presentations from Parks Associates and PricewaterhouseCoopers about using new measurement tools.

In a park-like environment amidst benches, refreshments and casual discussions, a dozen sessions (typically 30 to 45 minutes each) will be spread over three days. Individual developers and small panels will show their wares and describe developments in cutely-named segments such as “Second Screen Scene,” “Guide Garden,” “Slap App-y,” “Startup Alley,” “Navigation Station” and “Big Data Bazinga.” There will also be broader discussions in Imagine Park on topics such as “TV on the Device You Like,” “Internet of Everything” and “RDK [Reference Design Kit] in Action.”

Spring Technical Forum

Some of the topics will also be explored in greater depth during the Spring Technical Forum. Dan Pike, chief technology officer at GCI Cable in Austin, Texas, is chairing the Spring Technical Forum again this year. More than 30 papers will be presented during eight sessions, including new ones on interfaces: “The Intersection of Intelligent Devices and Intelligent Consumers.”

“We’ve got familiar topics and two new subjects: big data and software-defined networks,” Pike told TV Technology. He pointed out that as cable operators continue to identify new approaches to information science—especially topics such as “how to make the best use of a channel, encryption and modulation” — the Forum takes on new dimensions. There will be a significant focus on wireless operations for features such as home networking.

The annual CIO.IT agenda will also focus on big data, looking at topics concerning cable’s use of the data deluge for analyses and enhanced research. Sessions will include “dashboard approaches” for big data analyses and how to use findings for identity management and personalization.

Other general program sessions will address “emerging business services powered by broadband,” cybersecurity, advertising and “Best Practices for Operational Efficiency.” A panel of investment analysts will offer their outlook on cable’s economic future.

York expects about 10,000 attendees, approximately the same number of people who came to the last two years’ shows in Boston and Chicago but down significantly from the 13,000 who attended the 2009 Cable Show, which was also held in D.C. The number of exhibitors, about 250 companies, will be about the same as last year, although—as usual—many companies are opting not to rent cement on the show floor and will demonstrate their wares in nearby hotel suites.

Among the projects on the show floor is a “Hire Our Heroes” job fair, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help military veterans find employment. York says that the NCTA initiative is the first time the “Hire Our Heroes” program has taken place on any industry convention show floor.

More Cloud, Remote Service Technologies

Several exhibitors are bringing new cloud and interactive products to the Cable Show.

EchoStar Technologies, a unit of the company that owns the DISH satellite service, will unveil “Symbi,” a cloud-based personal technology management system. Symbi provides customer service and technical support that, according to EchoStar, will allow “call center agents to resolve support issues with greater efficiency.” The Symbi product suite, based on a SaaS (software as a service) platform, uses a Semantic Knowledge Management System, which itself is a dynamic intelligence engine.

ActiveVideo is accelerating its cloud-based user interfaces, demonstrating an enhanced “CloudTV H5” platform that can deliver video as an application to any connected device. The service will enable network scalability and will allow operators and service providers (some of whom will be unveiled during the show) to accelerate the rollout of “UIs that support guides, navigation and rich media applications,” according to Jeff Miller, ActiveVideo’s president/CEO. ActiveVideo will also introduce a group of thin client software aimed at the multiscreen environment; it includes CloudTV Nano, CloudTV Nano Lite and CloudTV Trimware (name has been changed).

BlackArrow, which sells advanced advertising solutions for TV platforms, will demonstrate systems to handle customized ad insertion and alternate content that “will support the monetization of linear content on IP devices by service providers and programmers,” according to BlackArrow President Nick Troiano. The company plans to announce new customers for its IP-based TV infrastructure products, which leverage SCTE 35 and other standards.

Features of the new “BlackArrow Linear” software enable dynamic ad insertion of local or national ads within linear streams, linear replication of original broadcast ads within linear streams, linear addressability for targeted ads based on subscriber data and “audience unification.”

Amdocs, which handles customer management and billing for Comcast and many other distributors, will showcase a “Net Promoter Score” process that will encourage existing subscribers to use online social media to promote their provider. Amdocs will also demonstrate features of a system it has proposed to ESPN for subsidizing wireless connectivity—with suggestions on how cable operators can adopt similar processes.

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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.