Goodbye Western Show — Hello 'Broadband Plus'

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After the events and the slumping economy of last year, the California Cable & Telecommunications Associations had a choice to make — change the scope and nature of the Western Show or assume there wouldn't be a 35th anniversary of the convention in Southern California this year. Simple as that.

As a major industry show, we didn't feel singled out by this need to redefine. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, for example, has made a variety of decisions — including innovative changes to the exhibit floor — to shore up broad participation by important programmers at the National Show in New Orleans. The Atlantic Cable Partners and the Southern Cable Telecommunications Association, on the other hand, recently cancelled the joint Eastern Show that would have been held in Baltimore. And other industry organizations continue to reconfigure all future events and conferences toward the changing show marketplace.

So, is preserving another industry show a logical thing to plan for at this time?

CCTA is betting yes, but as a smaller industry
(not "regional") show that clearly puts a highly focused, important spotlight on how broadband technology and its new revenue opportunities impact our industry in the world. We are also betting that, in a state that includes both Silicon Valley and Hollywood, there will be unique synergies among high tech and content industries that will truly complement the NCTA's National Show.

With our industry facing business, regulatory and technological changes, there has never been a more important time to support NCTA's Cable 2002 in New Orleans. Aside from the obvious networking and educational benefits that industry shows bring, we cannot underestimate the importance of prioritizing one national showcase that highlights the contributions of the cable broadband industries. Last year's impressive list of federal officials who traveled to Chicago to witness cable's best is testament to the need for a strong National Show.

Focus group research by CCTA has shown that there continues to be room for a differentiated industry event that will support broadband industry goals. This research clearly identified the Western Show to be a "broadband opportunities show," which shouldn't be abandoned because of declining attendance at the last show.

The focus group concluded that the show's emphasis on new technology remains an invaluable resource for the overall industry. And, if it were further honed to focus more specifically on broadband initiatives, products and services, it would support, not detract from, national association goals. The record number of regulators and elected officials that came to Anaheim, Calif., last year showed that a well-targeted Western Show could continue to assist NCTA in one of its primary goals.

Because the show is the major means of support for CCTA advocacy efforts, our board reviewed with show exhibitors and participants the feedback from the focus group, attendee surveys and phone interviews, and decided to go for it.

The board decided "Broadband PLUS" should be the place to see and hear about high-speed modems, interactive TV, video-on-demand services, voice-over-IP telephony and the development of home networking. Plus, it will be the place where CEOs, chief technology officer's, business development, marketing and other management attendees listen to authoritative experts on:

  • how broadband will help cable operators maximize new revenue opportunities;
  • how broadband will impact the way content is provided;
  • how broadband will impact the financial analysts' choice of winners and losers; and
  • how broadband will help retain subscribers using cable services.

It will also be the place where excellence in delivering content over new broadband applications will be seen and acknowledged — for the third year — with The Bandies Awards.

In essence, everything in the new show will start from the viewpoint of the broadband wire. The great Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers technical panels will still be there, but overall, this show will be the place for the industry — particularly non-technical executives — to stay abreast of the latest developments in broadband.

Michael Willner, CEO of Insight Communications Co. and chairman of the NCTA board of directors, had it right last year when he said, "Our programming and marketing people need to understand all this stuff and this venue is different from SCTE, which is designed strictly for engineers. The Western Show is an opportunity for non-engineering executives to see, feel and understand the technological advancements they have to sell to customers."

The key to making the retooling of this show work will be Cable Television Laboratories Inc. — and expanding on its strong partnership with the CCTA that has existed since 1993.

For the past nine years, the centerpiece of the Western Show's broadband themes has been the CableNET exhibit, produced by CableLabs and CCTA. CableNET has offered cable operators, the media and industry analysts, elected officials, regulators and educators nothing less than the opportunity to see the future of the cable industry. And it has succeeded because it brings leading, innovative broadband providers, and their near-term applications, to the non-technical attendees in ways they can understand.

CableNET's targeted focus on emerging broadband technologies and the services they support will align perfectly with the broadband theme that will define the Broadband PLUS
show.

CableLabs has already announced that it intends to celebrate CableNET's 10th anniversary in Anaheim this December, as well as undertake new exhibits and events. CableLabs remains a critical component to the overall goals of an industry that must lead in order to succeed in a competitive environment. So we are pleased it continues to find value in partnering with CCTA to create high-visibility opportunities where the industry can showcase broadband's latest.

Building on the success of last year's CableNET, CableLabs has renewed its commitment to profiling the cutting-edge technology that will drive our industry's success in an increasingly competitive landscape.

I think back now to last November on the first day of the Western Show. It was sunny but a bit chilly on that Tuesday morning. Local officials and cable executives met at the front of the convention center, under the palm trees and huge welcoming banner (See Change!)
to cut a ribbon and warmly welcome the show back to Anaheim after a two-year absence.

That meant a lot to me! I was not only the chairwoman of CCTA's 2001 Western Show Committee, but also chairwoman of the board of directors of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. Needless to say, the foundation of our industry remains the relationships we build with our local communities and the contributions we make to local economies. For many years, this convention had been a reliable economic boost to this Orange County community. I was anxious for the show to begin, so that that past important relationship could get back on track.

The CCTA staff and board members worked hard, especially in a difficult post-Sept. 11 world, to make sure we shook up the 2001 show in ways that added value for attendees.

The newest cable CEOs were added to our sessions at the last moment; new topics were added; California's governor acknowledged the industry's contribution to the state and toured the exhibit floor; the CableNET exhibit was expanded to include a new interactive
broadband showcase; new events and participation categories were added.

But, as I stood next to the Anaheim mayor on that ribbon-cutting day, there was no mistaking that a dramatic change had occurred at the convention — most notably, after 34 years, our exhibit floor (without many programmers) had quickly evolved into a broadband technology showcase.

The CCTA has decided to turn what seemed like bad news into an asset — the new show will clearly focus on its niche and the strong momentum broadband companies have given to the event — complementing the broader goals of the National Show.

Last year — way before Sept. 11 — C.J. Hirschfield, the CCTA's vice president of Industry Affairs, listed all the changes planned for the 2001 show. She wrote in a Multichannel News
Forum piece that: "Those of us in the industry who help put on shows and events must accept the fact that — like our changing industry — a new marketplace for shows
also exists. I strongly believe the good news is that there's not only room
for the Western Show in this market, but an important need
as well."

With CCTA's first priority clearly being to support the National Show, we also believe there's a need for another kind of show six months later in California — a smaller, more focused show for anyone who wants to learn how broadband is changing the very chemistry of an industry and nation.

This year in Anaheim, we will be celebrating 35 years of broadband development, and we think Broadband PLUS
will be the place to marvel at our industry's innovations and opportunities.

We think there's a market for this one.

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