News

Going to Denver: A 'Capital’ Idea

8/22/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

For more than 40 years, Denver, Colorado — known as The Queen City of the Plains or the Mile High City — held another title: Cable Capital of the World.

Along Interstate 25 south of the city, with magnificent views of the snow-capped Rockies, were the world’s biggest cable operators: Tele-Communications Inc., American Television & Communications, Jones Intercable and United Cable TV. Just north, in Cherry Creek, Bill Daniels — the father of cable TV — held court.

Scattered about were smaller cable companies, brokers, consultants, trade publications and satellite offices for programmers, hardware manufacturers and other vendors.

Today cable has many capitals: Philadelphia; New York City; Long Island, N.Y.; Atlanta; and St. Louis are among them. But Denver remains the home of CableLabs; The Cable Center; Comcast’s West Division, Media Center and Headend in the Sky; Time Warner Cable’s National Division; Liberty Global, Liberty Media and Starz; and the man once dubbed “the King of Cable” — John Malone.

This fall, Denver will host a major event, the first Fall Cable Connection Week. For many years, cable operators got together about every other month for the National Show, the Western Show, the Texas Show, the Southern Show, the Great Lakes Show, CTAM, SCTE, CATA, etc. All the major players attended to do deals, brag about cash flow, pitch new networks, check out the latest technology and to party hearty.

Cable threw some of the best parties ever: the launch of the Disney Channel, where liquor was first served in Disneyland; the Arabian-themed tent city erected outside Las Vegas — complete with goats — to launch the short-lived CBS Cable; and the annual HBO extravaganzas, each of which seemed to surpass the previous one in over-the-top opulence.

The world is different today. In the current economy, there is no reason to spend shareholder money on lavish parties and unneeded travel. But cable has always enjoyed one special advantage over most other businesses: Because cable companies don’t compete with each other, they can learn from each other. It would be a shame if justified belt-tightening put a damper on the ability of cable operators to share ideas.

The organizations participating in the Fall Cable Connection do just that: help people share ideas so they can do their jobs better.

From the opening Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit session Oct. 25, featuring Comcast president Steve Burke, to the closing reception at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Cable-Tec Expo on Oct. 30 honoring the “Loyal Order of the 704” (check Web site for qualifications) attendees will be peppered with the latest ideas on how to offer better products more efficiently.

The ideas come not just from within the industry. Facebook founder Chris Hughes will keynote the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications Conference. Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz will speak at the Association of Cable Communicators Forum. Attendees will honor industry pioneers at the Cable Hall of Fame dinner, support diversity at the Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner and salute (and steal from) the best marketing and public-affairs campaigns at CTAM’s Mark Awards and ACC’s Beacon Awards ceremonies. And they will rub shoulders with the industry’s top generals, front-line officers and foot soldiers.

But here’s a little secret: Business isn’t the only reason to come to Denver. Our city is the most diverse, energetic, and scenic in the country. What other major city has elected as mayor, in succession, a Hispanic, an African-American, and an Anglo-American bartender while being represented in Congress by women?

Where else — after a night of bar-hopping in LoDo — can you get your bearings from the 14,000-foot Mount Evans and drive an hour west to see a herd of buffalo, hike above the tree line or pan for gold?

This fall Denver will reclaim — for five days at least — its former title as Cable Capital of the World. Join us for Cable Connection Week.

Discover a bit of cable’s past, peek into its future, make new friends, tell old ones they look the same, and enjoy this great city and the breathtaking scenery that is its backdrop. See you there.

September