Hope This Doesn’t Happen to NCTA

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It’s getting tougher and tougher to get media heavy hitters to attend industry conferences these days. Last week’s SkyForum satellite conference was a prime example.

Usually well attended by the top names in the DBS industry, three key executives were conspicuously absent: EchoStar Communications Corp. chairman Charlie Ergen, Rainbow DBS chairman Chuck Dolan and ESPN executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Sean Bratches.

The three absentees did have legitimate excuses: Bratches was sick and Dolan and Ergen had scheduling conflicts. Both Bratches and Dolan sent replacements — ESPN senior vice president of national accounts Steve Raymond and Rainbow DBS chief operating officer Mickey Alpert (both who did bang-up jobs on their respective panels).

EchoStar did not send anyone, a point that was not lost on DirecTV Group Inc. vice chairman Eddy Hartenstein, who commented on those “who were invited but are not here,” an obvious dig at Ergen.

Attendance at the SkyForum, sponsored by the Satellite Broadcasting Communications Association, was off from previous years — probably due to the conference’s scheduling so close to the Easter and Passover holidays.

Perhaps attendance would have picked up a bit if SBCA mentioned another soiree going on at the same time. The Modeling Association of America International was holding its annual convention at the Waldorf-Astoria on the same day. One wire correspondent had to fight his way through a thronga of leggy blondes in evening gowns last Wednesday afternoon to get to the SkyForum conference room. Hey, someone had to do it.