It's no coincidence that the 58th Annual Convention and Inter-national Exposition of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association returns to Washington this year after nearly 40 years. With a new administration that has selected broadband as one of its key objectives, NCTA welcomes Obama's team with open arms and hopes they stop by the Walter E. Washington Convention Center from April 1–3.
"Since this is the first NCTA convention to be held in Washington, at least in the modern cable era, we are particularly excited about the opportunity we have to showcase cable programming and technology to lawmakers, regulators and the new administration," said Johnathan Rodgers, CEO of TV One, a cable channel targeting black audiences.
Rodgers is co-chairing the event with Michael Willner, vice chairman and CEO of Insight Communications.
The centerpiece of this year's show is "Broadband Nation," a 22,000-square-foot "Main Street America"-themed exhibit that will examine the technology's future.
The exhibit will encompass cityscape, suburban and rural areas and what is happening with broadband in each of these environments. Planned demonstrations include DOCSIS 3.0 high speed data, tru2way and enhanced TV applications, voice-over-IP solutions, broadband-enabled home appliances, WiMax mobile broadband and next-generation TV displays including 3D television.
Today, cable is all about broadband. According to the Leichtman Research Group in Durham, N.H., the nation's 20 largest cable and telcos—about 94 percent of the market—acquired about 1.3 million high-speed Internet subscribers in Q3 2008. These top broadband providers now account for nearly 66.7 million subscribers, with cable garnering 36.5 million broadband subscribers.
While subscriber numbers look good, the industry has not been immune from the economic downturn as evidenced by last month's announcement from Charter Communications—the nation's fourth largest cable operator—that it planned to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by April 1.
Will Workman, TV Technology Inside Broadband columnist said a prominent item cutting in to cable's financial woes is debt. "The big problem for operators is to find some way, any way, to pay off their staggering debt loads," he said.
Other problems include cord cutting and competition from telcos such as Verizon's FiOS and AT&T's U-verse video services.
Cable's one wild card is that it has a reliable revenue stream through its subscriber base, which could help them ride out the recession, Workman added.
The organization is expecting similar attendance numbers to last year's 12,000, but, because of the economy, won't be surprised if it's down. Barbara York, senior vice president, industry affairs, NCTA said the organization is very cognizant of the change. "A lot of our companies are hurting a great deal and may not be able to send as many people," she said.
York said if they'll be happy with 10,000, which is in line with the 20-percent decrease seen in similar events recently. She also said being in Washington may help with numbers because people will be able to come for one day, rather than flying to another city for three days.
Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., and Robert Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Co. are scheduled to keynote The Cable Show '09. A full slate of cable CEOs is expected to participate as well, including Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast; Glenn Britt, president and CEO of Time Warner Cable; and Pat Esser, president of Cox Communications.
Session topics include content protection and delivery, video encoding, wireless broadband and service bundling. Additional information on general, management and technical sessions can be found at www.thecableshow.com.
Two plenary sessions at the show will focus on strategies for increasing demand and success in today's economy. "Cable Technology and the Platform for Change," will include senior technology and strategy executives from top cable companies describing their plans to serve new customer demands while leveraging existing investments. "Welcome to the Jungle: Marketing to Win," produced with the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing, and moderated by Char Beales, president/CEO of CTAM, will focus on communicating cable's value to consumers and evolving products set in a competitive environment.
"The existence of these sessions at The Cable Show also reflects the synergy that results from the realignment of industry conventions, conferences and events under the 'Cable Connection' banner," York said.
This year the cable industry realigned its events calendar to launch "Cable Connection Week," which consolidates all of the industry's events into two weeks in spring and fall. Cable Connection-Spring includes the NCTA Cable Show along with other events geared for cable industry professionals, including Women in Cable Telecommunications leadership conference, The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) conference on emerging technologies, CTAM research conference, CableLabs' Law and Technology seminars. Cable Connection-Fall will run from Oct. 25–30 in Denver.
FROM THE FLOOR
Attendance is expected to decline, but the number of exhibitors at The Cable Show '09 will remain the same, according to NCTA.
Although NCTA is expecting the same number of exhibitors as last year, booths will be smaller. This year's exhibit square footage will total 170,000 net square feet, compared to 2008's 190,000. CableNet returns to the convention floor for its 17th year. The pavilion, run by CableLabs, is a technology showcase within the overall convention designed to glimpse into the future.
"We try to create a technology showcase that offers a hands-on experience for people who may not be familiar with all the technologies that are coming over the horizon to the cable industry," Mike Schwartz, senior vice president communications with CableLabs said.
Tru2way and DOCSIS 3.0 are among the higher profile initiatives this year. Tru2way is a consumer brand for CableLabs' OpenCable. UniSoft, Samsung, NDS, Biap Systems and Amdocs will be on hand to display their latest developments in tru2way. On the DOCSIS 3.0 front, Sigma Designs will showcase a client server reference design that allows downstream and upstream channels to achieve speeds up to 320 Mbps.