National Show Sweep


San Francisco— Like Fabio unexpectedly sweeping me off my feet at the Oxygen luncheon at the National Show, once again, Cablevision Systems Inc. chairman Chuck Dolan surprised all when he announced he would make an all-cash $16.5 billion offer for Adelphia Communications Corp.

But unlike Fabio’s move on me — which was fun — Cablevision’s latest maneuver is not welcome news for Comcast Corp. or Time Warner Inc., who thought they were in the lead to purchase Adelphia for $17.6 billion in stock and cash.

Fabio’s riding into the women-only Oxygen lunch on a white horse and Cablevision’s surprise bid on Adelphia were among the many news-making events which peppered the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s annual conference held last week in San Francisco.

And as far as these shows go, this one had a lot of steak — and sizzle — compared to the relatively lackluster events of prior years.

By and large, there was something for everyone, everyone that is, except for cable’s female executives who were noticeably absent from the speaker rostrom of general session bigwigs. In several conversations I had with top women in our business, that did not go unnoticed. Consolidation, they concur, is driving women out of the spotlight.

Otherwise, this show packed a lot into a small time frame. I liked the general session on Internet protocol. The moderator, Fox News Channel’s Stuart Varney, was in over his head, but his panelists bailed him out. While no one really has any answers on how IP will shake out, Cox Communications Inc. CEO Jim Robbins summed it up in one word: Integration. None of these advanced services means a hill of beans unless cable can harness the power of the big pipe.

On that same panel, Sprint Corp. president and chief operating officer Len Lauer gave us a hint as to how cable’s future alliances with wireless providers might shape up. It was good to see that cable is racing ahead to soon elevate its successful triple-play offering to a four-product bundle. And it was good to see a wireless guy on a cable podium.

Next year, the road show moves to Atlanta. By then, I’ll wager, cable will be in the wireless arena.

But I won’t bet on what surprise Oxygen Media chairman and CEO Gerry Laybourne has in mind for next year’s lunch.