Jeff Baumgartner
By Jeff Baumgartner Editor
“Here’s hoping the National Show keeps the momentum going…”
I'm not Gordon Gekko and I don't play him on TV, but growth, like greed, is good.

The growth I'm referring to is the attendance at last month's Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia. According to SCTE officials, the 2003 confab welcomed about 10,600 attendees, up six percent from 2002's showing.

A six percent increase in 1999 or 2000–cable's most recent "steak days"–wouldn't be much to write home about. In today's economy, it's something to crow about.

The show floor, even on the third day, was buzzing again. The booths were crowded with operators. Many of cable's top technical guns were there, searching for products that could help them today.

I stopped by the BigBand Networks booth and could barely squeeze my way in to see the company's "switched broadcast" demonstration. The maneuvering ability of the Segway at S-A's booth was put to the test as it weaved its way through a thick crowd of showgoers.

By the end of the confab, people were smiling again. Optimism seemed to be flourishing and finding its long lost way back into the cable industry.

But before this turns into a mushy love letter, it would be wrong not to mention that this is not how it all began. Before the show even got under way, I heard more than a fair share of hemming and hawing about the timing of the show, as most everyone had to give up their weekend, and Mother's Day, to boot.

On top of that, some exhibitors were put in rather sour moods before the big kickoff thanks to the exorbitant fees and time-consuming protocols of the local union. City of Brotherly Love, my foot.

But thanks to a strong showing on the floor and an equally strong lineup of panels and workshops (not to mention some pre-stamped Mother's Day cards supplied by SCTE), all was apparently forgotten–or at least forgiven–by the time everyone bid the 2003 Expo adieu. Even the Tasty Cakes were tastier than they were four days prior.

Those shiny, happy feelings will be a tough act to follow for this month's National Show in Chicago, which will tout everything from VOD and PVRs to HD to Wi-Fi, because these days, it seems, every uptick the industry enjoys is quickly matched by some setback.

And it's not like Chicago is known for being home to the most gentle and compassionate union on Earth. The horror stories I've been told about completed work on exhibits having to be undone and then redone because it wasn't left for the union to do have tested the patience of even the most ardent exhibitor.

A lot of us will be working through the weekend again this month. Here's hoping the National Show bucks the trend, keeps the momentum going, and everyone again goes home smiling. I just hope I'm not being too greedy.