Thu, 05/31/2007 - 8:15pm
Brian Santo, Editor

Previous shows seemed hyperkinetic, and this one felt almost subdued

It was the first time back in Las Vegas for the NCTA in years, and there seemed to be a bit of unease around the reunion. Nobody really expects fear and loathing anymore, certainly not at a shiny new hotel/casino/convention center with a vast wave pool, live swans, and complimentary soaps with exfoliating sea salt from Gilchrist & Soames, London, England.

But The Cable Show 2007 was marked by a bomb going off in the parking lot next door, a visit by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the arrest of an attending executive, and a performance at an in-hotel club by a lip-synching, re-buffed and bewigged Britney Spears. Between all that and 7/07 coming on hard, it was almost enough to make one pine for the days of dubious pharmaceuticals and overweight Samoan attorneys.

Previous incarnations of this show seemed hyperkinetic, and this one felt almost subdued in comparison. But in a way, that might be a good sign. In the past, the show was one company after another, in booths and in sessions, frantically trying to get someone’s, anyone’s attention.

This year it seemed as if fewer people were waving their arms, fewer were wandering around looking to be dazzled, and more were hunkering down either doing business or laying the groundwork for future business.

In other words, this Cable Show seemed indicative that the industry is moving beyond exploring what’s possible to making what’s possible actually happen.

Of course, there’s a lot to make happen. CableCARDs, digital simulcast, VoIP (popular but far from ubiquitous), on-demand technologies, interactivity, DSG and OCAP, games, business services, and technologies and applications that bridge TVs, PCs, set-tops, mobile handsets, game consoles and any of dozens of other devices....

It’s an embarrassment of riches, but that’s something of a problem, too. What to choose?

During the OCAP Developers Conference, the developers in the audience were begged with what’s becoming an increasingly heard plaint by cable operators: don’t just tell us what you’ve got. Show us a business model that demonstrates why we should pick what you’ve got over something that somebody else has.

Last winter I was in a pharmacy looking for children’s cold medicine. I was practically paralyzed by my choices: at least five different brands; aspirin or acetaminophen; different flavors; liquid or tablet (chewable or non-chewable); and endless combinations with and without antihistamines, cough suppressants and decongestants. Oh – and different prices. And I had a budget to get one, and maybe a second, just in case.

I do not envy cable executives for the choices they have to make.

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