New Faces Gear Up For Show

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The departure of three programmers from the floor of this month's Western Show in Los Angeles means that 58 companies will jump off the waiting list and into exhibit space.

Showtime Networks Inc., Starz Encore Group LLC and Playboy Enterprises Inc. opted to participate in the show, but not to exhibit. That set off a chess match, as conference organizers started contacting companies to fill the space with less than two months to go.

The California Cable Television Association has a list of new exhibitors, as well as current vendors who've asked to expand their booth size. As expected, many of the new or expanding entrants are technology firms, reflecting the changing focus of a regional trade show that this year is dubbed "Broadbandwagon."

Beneficiaries of the veteran programmers' departure include America Online Inc., personal-video recorder firm ReplayTV Inc. and AT&T Corp.'s Headend in the Sky. Startup programmer NUE.TV, a venture backed by musician-producer Quincy Jones, and business-services providers such as the Credit Protection Association have also helped to fill the void.

There are still 20 companies on the CCTA's waiting list, according to the trade association. Some will get their chance next year, when the show returns to the refurbished Anaheim Convention Center. Home Box Office has already given notice that it will drop its booth in 2001, freeing up more space.

More departures are possible as programmers continue to reassess the value of trade-show exhibition amid vast industry consolidation.

"Look at the move to focus on revenue-generating units," such as telephony and high-speed data, said Ken Rice, president and COO of International Channel Networks. "Content is old."

International Channel dropped its booth at the Western and National shows last year. Participation ate up a "significant portion" of the total marketing budget, he said.

Rice's company used those dollars to attend regional shows, such as the Eastern Show, and to stage its own multicultural marketing summits. These were held in Washington, D.C., to target Comcast Corp.; and in San Francisco, luring AT&T Broadband executives.

Key affiliates were treated to a "teaching and recreational" opportunity in Vancouver, B.C., Rice said. Executives traveled from as far away as Cairo, Egypt, and were offered culturally specific tips on how to attract ethnic-minority customers.

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