NCTA: Digital Is Ready for Close-Up

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The National Cable Television Association is looking to
hold a "festival" of digital-cable programming in October that would showcase
its offerings -- from sports to Spanish-language services -- to Washington lawmakers and

The prospectus for the five-day "Digital Cable
Programming Festival" has been sent to roughly 50 cable networks -- including the
multiplexes of premium services such as Home Box Office and Encore Media Group -- to gauge
whether they are interested in participating.

For the event, the NCTA currently plans to conduct five
open houses and screenings at its Washington, D.C., headquarters, with each event covering
a different programming genre. Cable networks have until Sept. 3 to submit proposals to

The concept behind the festival is "to showcase to the
Washington opinion-leader community the wealth of digital programming available through
cable television," according to the prospectus being sent to programmers.

In addition to sports and Spanish-language services, other
genres that will be covered are children, movies and documentaries.

The NCTA plans to invite members of Congress and their
staffs; Federal Communications Commission commissioners and their staffs; local county
commissioners; Washington representatives from the NCTA's member companies; the Capitol
press corps; and groups such as the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic
Caucus and the National PTA.

NCTA vice president of industry affairs Barbara York
stressed that the Digital Cable Programming Festival's lineup isn't set in stone, and that
it may be changed depending on reaction and feedback from the cable networks. She added
that the idea for the festival came up at a meeting of the NCTA's senior staff.

Noggin -- an educational kids' channel and partnership
between Nickelodeon and Children's Television Workshop -- plans to apply to participate in
the program.

"It sounds great," Noggin general manager Tom
Ascheim said. "Digital cable has been a confusing topic for the world at large, and
the industry has a lot to offer."

At this juncture, the NCTA is planning to kick off its
digital festival Oct. 2 with "Wired World of Sports," which would most likely be
anchored by a sports event such as a college football, basketball or hockey game, or a
boxing match.

On Oct. 7, "Livin' La Vida Digital" would talk
about the proliferation of Hispanic cable networks and possibly be anchored by the
screening of an original production and an address by a prominent member of the Latino
entertainment community.

The third event, "Hook Up to Hollywood," would be
held Oct. 14 and feature a screening of a behind-the-scenes making of an original movie.
The NCTA wants to target the African-American community with this event because cable has
done so many African-American movies.

"Digitall-O-Ween" would be held Oct. 23, and it
would be a trick-or-treat party for guests and their kids during which digital networks
would tout their kids' programming.

And the final event, "Digital Docs," would be
held Oct. 28 and would screen an original documentary. The idea behind that session is to
highlight the quality of reality-based TV on digital-cable tiers.

Among the programmers that have been invited to participate
in the digital festival are Noggin; Fox Family Channel's boyzChannel and girlzChannel;
Discovery Communications Inc.'s digital services, such as Discovery Wings Channel;
Boomerang; Nickelodeon Games and Sports; Biography Channel; History Channel International;
Trio; AMC's American Pop; Lifetime Movie Network; Sundance Channel; CNN/SI; ESPNews; BET
Movies/Starz!3; Canales ñ; Toon Disney; the Encore Thematic Multiplexes; and the HBO

Digital networks are being asked if they would like to be
the "featured" presentation at any of the five nights.

Whether they are granted that "featured" status
will depend on the content and profile of their network, "as well as the network's
ability to create an entertaining package around the screening, including celebrity star
power, small giveaways and network support," according to the prospectus.