Recently, there's been talk and speculation about the role of regional shows. Are they necessary? Do they provide a service to the industry? Should they be consolidated or eliminated?
We've been hearing those rumblings for years and the unanimous position of the four state associations that run East Coast Cable has been pretty much the same as the industry's response in the forced-access debate: let's allow the marketplace to make that determination. If there's no demand for these shows, exhibitors will stop paying for booths and the operators will stop sending their employees.
Several years ago, we made a commitment that as long as we're in business, we owe it to the industry to make East Coast Cable the best show it can be. We took such steps as contracting with the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing to help us design and market the show's program. We changed management companies, signing with Dobson & Associates Ltd., which has years of valuable experience working with a variety of cable industry trade shows. We've retained public-relations counsel to help us better tell our story and we've done exhaustive research on how to better meet the needs and expectations of attendees.
As more than 5,000 cable operators, programmers, educators and industry leaders gather in Baltimore for the 20th anniversary of the East Coast Cable show this week, they'll not only network with their colleagues from across the industry. They'll also further educate themselves and gather new ideas on the opportunities and challenges that face our ever-changing industry.
As the largest regional show in the area, East Coast Cable continues to grow, attracting industry leaders and offering interesting and groundbreaking sessions on a number of "hot topics." These include the convergence of technologies, launching new services, and effective marketing.
East Coast Cable 2000 is also proud to boast participation by an impressive lineup of some of the industry's most respected pioneers who will share their insights and experience during the sessions. Among this year's participants are: William J. Bresnan, president, Bresnan Communications; Julian Brodsky, vice chairman, Comcast Corp.; Steve Burke, president, Comcast Cable Communications; Charles Dolan, chairman, Cablevision Systems Corp.; Alan Gerry, chairman and CEO, Granite Associates Inc.; and other industry leaders.
Show attendees will also have the opportunity to visit more than 170 exhibiting companies on the show floor, covering more than 40,000-square-feet of exhibit space. To reflect East Coast Cable's growing presence as the largest show east of the Mississippi, more than 30 new exhibitors will be featured, along with several who have increased their floor space over last year. These include Arguss Communications Group Inc.; Bloomberg L.P.; E! Entertainment Television; ESPN; Fox Family Channel; Motorola Broadband Sector; Oxygen Media Inc.; Philips Broadband Networks; Power & Telephone Supply Co. and WorldGate Communications Inc.
This year, East Coast Cable 2000 will focus on general managers and senior executives who are striving to handle the challenges of launching exciting new products and services, while continuing to provide their customers with outstanding core cable product and high-level customer service. Session themes include current public policy challenges, the newest cable technologies (such as video-on-demand, interactive services via digital set-tops, and tele-phony) and the most effective strategies to help cable companies compete with an ever-growing list of new competitors.
Our focus on general managers will be highlighted at Wednesday morning's general session, which will be led by some of the region's leading GMs. Those sharing their thoughts about the future of our business include: Jaye Gamble, regional vice president, Comcast; Pam Mackenzie, area manager, Adelphia Communications; James Rigas, president, Adelphia Business Solutions; and Barry Rosenblum, president, Time Warner Cable.
Tuesday's "State of the Industry Address" by Peggy Binzel, the National Cable Television Association's executive vice president, will focus on the issues facing our industry as we strive to offer groundbreaking new services in the face of new and old competition. Her insights on the industry and the NCTA's ongoing efforts will help showcase our exciting present, as well as the future challenges and opportunities we face.
To encourage more general managers to attend the show, East Coast Cable 2000 has a special MSO pricing offer-those systems that pay the regular registration fee for 25 employees get show admission for the rest of their employees at no additional cost.
In addition to the variety of technical, marketing and educational sessions to take place this year, East Coast Cable 2000 will focus on two very important issues affecting our industry and the communities we serve: effective system management and new interactive services. More than ever, these two issues will allow us to succeed in our industry and influence the positive role it plays in the communities we serve.
East Coast Cable 2000 will also examine effective system-management techniques and tactics in the face of growing competition from other technology providers. From large-cluster markets to small independent and rural systems, informative panels will examine innovative management and marketing solutions that allow cable systems to successfully compete against wireless and other competitors.
As the so-called "digital divide" and forced access continue to be issues in some markets, many cable businesses are taking the lead in creating successful strategies that allow cable to deliver digital, broadband, and other new services to their customers.
Effective management not only means communicating with your customers and employees, but also communicating a clear and meaningful message with your local and state political leaders, regulatory officials, and franchising officials with an eye on your business. Delivering a strong message to these vital contacts will help ensure that your business runs more effectively and smoothly, especially in the face of increased competition and future franchise negotiations.
As the issues continue to get more difficult with future acquisitions and mergers, our informative sessions will deliver the latest success stories in grass-roots strategies for working with your elected officials.
Additionally, cable's emerging new interactive services will take center stage at the show. The opening general session will examine how the cable industry's entrepreneurial focus is laying the groundwork for the development of today's cutting edge digital products and services, which are helping to revolutionize our society.
Our panel of leaders will examine the benefits and challenges our industry faces as it works to take advantage of cable's broadband pipe, which leads the industry in providing both delivery and new forms of enhanced and local content for our customers.
A variety of other sessions will focus on understanding emerging technologies and launching bundled services, the various public policy issues brought on by the convergence of technologies and the telecommunications industries, and effective marketing of new services.
East Coast Cable 2000 will examine the "hot topics" that will shape our industry in the years ahead. From the benefits and dangers of bundled services to what the industry has learned in early launches and testing of VOD services and the advanced digital set-tops hitting the market providing electronic mail and Web access.
East Coast Cable looks forward to continuing to provide a thoughtful exchange of ideas and to helping to educate attendees about the latest issues affecting our businesses, both nationally and locally. We are sure these forums will help our industry succeed and help all of us better serve our customers and communities.
William J. Cologie is president of the Pennsylvania Cable & Telecommunications Association.