With a speaker roster that includes executives from MySpace.com and Yahoo!, this year’s CTAM Summit features a bigger focus on the new media business than any previous confab. Multichannel’s Steve Donohue discussed the Summit strategy recently with CTAM president and CEO Char Beales.
MCN: You’ve mixed up the schedule at this year’s Summit -- attendees no longer will have to work the weekend. Why the change?
Beales: Our members have been clear they don’t prefer to spend their weekend for a conference. We’d been hamstrung by convention centers and hotels who really want to squeeze two groups into one week. We negotiated hard and won so now The Summit starts on Monday evening and runs through Wednesday night and we’re able to accommodate our members’ wishes.
MCN: The competitive environment has changed significantly since last year's Summit, with the rollout of Verizon’s FiOS TV, and AT&T slowly beginning to deploy U-Verse. How does the new competition impact the focus of the conference?
Beales: Cable companies have been battling satellite for years and they’ve been preparing to face the RBOCs when they enter the market as the third or fourth provider. The Summit programs have focused on competition for a long time – remember the 1995 theme “Wake Up & Smell the Competition”? Perhaps the biggest change in this year’s program is focusing on the 4M’s – new media, new mobility, new management and new marketing. We think CMOs from MySpace.com, Yahoo! and Motorola for example will have a lot to teach us.
MCN: There seems to be a bigger focus from the large operators this year of marketing for basic subscriber growth and retention, rather than just pitching new products such as high-speed Internet and phone. Why do you think we’ve seen that change?
Beales: MSO marketers have been balancing growing basic customers with aggressively deploying new products for the past five years. We’ve seen digital cable numbers skyrocket as customers are anxious to take advantage of new goodies like on demand, DVRs, HDTV plus more programming. And, marketing the bundle allows marketers to pitch the new products at the same time as the basic video option.
MCN: Any other marketing trends that you think will stand out at the conference?
Beales: One of the goals of this year’s program is to get our members to think about their businesses differently. “Same old, same old” won’t work. That’s why you see an HBS [Harvard Business School] case on Best Buy’s shift to customer centricity on the program. You’ll see debates on research showing that customers don’t necessarily want more choice. You’ll hear Fred Reichheld posit that customer loyalty can be measured by just one question ... “The Ultimate Question.”
MCN: : I understand executives from cable’s telephone and satellite rivals are allowed to attend the conference, although they may not be permitted to attend certain tutorials about competitive marketing. How many attendees do you expect from companies like DirecTV and AT&T?
Beales: Maybe a handful. The Summit has always been programmed for cable company and program network executives.
MCN: There seem to be younger and younger cable executives attending the Summit the last few years. How has the profile of the typical CTAM attendee changed in recent years?
Beales: Our speakers frequently comment The Summit attracts a surprising number of younger executives, along with a high percentage of women compared to other meetings they speak at. I don’t think things have changed a whole lot on this front in the past few years.
MCN: What sector comprises the bulk of attendees?
Beales: Our audience is fairly evenly split between MSO corporate and field execs, programming players and those providing services to the industry.
MCN: It looks like there are more new media sessions schedule this year, with everything from “Anatomy of an OCAP application” to “Mobile Devices - Show and Tell.” Any concern that there may be too much of a focus on new media marketing this year?
Beales: You’ve got to be kidding! New media, along with new mobility and new marketing, is the new we’re all living in. This Summit is focused on gaining a better understanding of the trends and showcasing new partners.
If you were to recommend one session that all attendees should attend, which one would it be? It all depends on what an attendee is interested in. We’re helping everyone get to the right sessions with an interactive quiz on our www.ctamsummit.com – you put in what kind of a company you work for, your interests and it takes you to a set of sessions that fit your needs. You should give it a try!