Smaller network operators have their own pressures, but they also have their own release valves, one of which is the NCTC, which co-sponsors the Independent Show with the American Cable Association. This year has been a particularly active one for the NCTC. On the programming side, the organization has just hammered out two major programming deals.

“I can say unequivocally that this year, 2014, is the most significant year we’ve ever had from a programming contract standpoint,” said Frank Hughes, SVP of Member Services at NCTC. “We’ve got five of our major deals up this year. We’ve been through a couple, we’ll have a third we’re working on now, and then one in September and one in December.”

The process might be tougher than usual, because for the first time the combination of on-demand, TV everywhere, and multi-screen rights have to be negotiated.

“This one we’re getting ready to close is a key, important deal, and it will have all of the advanced rights that our members feel are critical to remain competitive in their markets,” he said.

The NCTC has recently secured rights for a few individual channels on its WatchTVEverywhere (WTVE) platform, including the Tennis Channel – just in time for the U.S. Open.

WTVE was developed by MCTV (formerly Massillon). A year ago, MCTV agreed to allow the NCTC to transfer the approach to other NCTC members. Over 100 NCTC members had adopted WTVE by November, and that number has only grown.

Earlier this year, the NCTC also signed a master agreement with Rovi, securing the rights for any of its members to use the Rovi DTA Guide on their digital terminal adapters.

Next week at the Independent Show, NCTC members will have the option to attend a variety of sessions that will include updates on their TV Everywhere options, more on how to handle the transition to IP, and recommendations on how to manage the customer experience.

 “We try to touch on all aspects – technical, legal, marketing, programming issues are at the top of our members’ minds,” said Hughes. “We’ll have break-out sessions for everything from sports rights to customer service. These things might be mundane, but you want to pay attention to blocking and tackling.”

 “First thing out of the chute will be the members meeting, we’ll elect board members and give members an update on our audited financial statements. On the programming panel, we’ll hear people more from the technical space, talking about TV everywhere, what everybody is doing, and how we can brand it better, and get into making it more seamless.”

Hughes noted that this year’s show will have a record number of vendors (143, up 5 percent) and prospective attendees (up 30 percent from last year).

 “We’re celebrating our thirtieth year in business, so we thought we’d do it in our home town,” Hughes said. He noted that many former board members, many of whom are now out of the business who will be attending the show. “It just shows their commitment to the organization,” he said.

 “And we’re all in the entertainment industry. We know it’s not all work and no play,” Hughes noted. One session will feature Captain Sig Hanson from the show “Deadliest Catch,” another will have celebrity chef Bobby Flay, and a third will be with Bill Self, head coach of the Kansas University basketball team. “A little something for everybody.”

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