The cable industry is feeling pretty good about itself on
its 50th birthday, and that positive spirit will be in ample evidence at the National
Cable Television Association's 47th Annual Convention and Exposition in Atlanta May 3
"Things are going awfully well for cable,"
declared John O. "Dubby" Wynne, president and CEO of Landmark Communications
Inc. and the NCTA's convention-committee chairman, "and the program reflects
Coming off a banner year highlighted by soaring stock
prices; launches of systems featuring digital tiers and high-speed Internet access; a $1
billion investment in Comcast Corp. by Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates; and the
outright purchase of Marcus Cable Co. L.P., the nation's 11th-largest cable operator,
by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the industry has plenty to celebrate.
In fact, Gates will outline his vision of cable's
future as the convention's opening general-session speaker Monday at 9:30 a.m., in
the ballroom of the show's site at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Many in the industry also expect Allen to attend the
convention. "I wouldn't be surprised if he did come," said Barbara York,
the NCTA's industry-affairs vice president, adding that the Portland, Ore.-based
billionaire had not yet registered.
Telephony and interactive platforms will also be in
evidence on the exhibit floor, according to York, who expects to see new equipment on
display from major industry vendors such as Antec Corp., General Instrument Corp. and
York also said she expects attendance at the show to equal
or top last year's record of nearly 28,000 in New Orleans. While registration is down
from last year's number several weeks before the show, York expects a high number of
walk-in registrations because several large companies such as Cox Communications Inc., S-A
and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. are based in Atlanta.
The 372 exhibitors that have registered, however, have
already exceeded last year's total of 366.
The show's 50th-anniversary theme will be celebrated
in high style beginning Tuesday night at 9 p.m. at the World Congress Center, with a
blowout closing-night bash featuring three stages with continuous music;
"birthday-present" giveaways of exhibitor-donated prizes for attendees; and a
3-D laser-light show.
Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard
will address a special breakfast session Tuesday at 8 a.m. Monday at 11 a.m.,
Kennard's colleague, FCC commissioner Susan Ness, will deliver a special address at a
digital-programming session with speakers including Josh Sapan, president and CEO of
Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.; Mark Rosenthal, president and chief operating officer of MTV
Networks; and Tom Rogers, president of NBC Cable and Business Development.
Digital technology will be highlighted throughout the
convention. A "Digital for Dummies" special seminar will be offered at 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, and the entire general session Tuesday morning will explore digital
technology's "redefining" the cable business. NCTA president and CEO Decker
Anstrom will address the session, and speakers include the heads of two of the
industry's largest MSOs: Leo J. Hindery, Jr., president and chief operating officer
of Tele-Communications Inc.; and Chuck Lillis, president and CEO of U S West Media Group.
The cable industry's growing interest in telephony
will also be reflected in the program with a session called "Cable Phones are
Ringing" Monday at 11 a.m., featuring three MSO executives spearheading their
companies' push into offering telephone services.
The convention closes Wednesday afternoon with a luncheon
featuring the presentation of the NCTA's Vanguard Awards and, appropriately,
talk-show host Larry King interviewing Time Warner Inc. vice chairman Ted Turner.