Packing It All In - Multichannel

Packing It All In

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Cable executives will pack for fewer trips next year, now that the industry's top events are themselves being packed into a week each spring and fall starting in 2009.

The consolidation of events, driven by the board of directors of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, will change long-term how a dozen industry organizations, from The Cable Center to Cable Positive to the Walter Kaitz Foundation, manage their streams of revenue. A likely answer: less reliance on revenue from galas and more on services to organization members. For their part, programmers, operators and vendors will be able to save travel costs — and concentrate more on business. The number of times each year executives are called away from the office to attend industry-related meetings would be minimized.

In 2009, for instance, New York is out, and Washington, D.C., and Denver are in.

In the immediate future, revenue of charitable groups will not be affected. The NCTA board has assured groups that revenue levels earned through events, such as the Women in Cable Telecommunications gala, will be guaranteed for at least two years. (See “Access,” page 23.)

Other details, such as how the groups will charge for and divide proceeds from these jam-packed weeks, are yet to be determined. One suggestion: an “all-access pass” that would allow convention attendees admittance to all the professional events each summer and fall, with the proceeds divided among organizations.

“By putting so many interests together, you're guaranteed critical mass,” said Lynn McReynolds, partner in the public relations firm McReynolds Elek Communications and a long-time attendee at industry events.

Under the reorganization, The Cable Show — put on by the NCTA — will anchor the spring week. In 2009, that will begin on April 2 in Washington, D.C., and will be called “Cable Connection — Spring.”

Events that will be consolidated into that week include the CableLabs Conference, The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers' Emerging Technologies Conference, The Cabletelevision Advertising Board's annual conference (integrated into The Cable Show), the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications annual awards breakfast, the WICT Leadership Conference and Gala; the Cable Positive Power Awards Dinner and the Cable Pioneers annual dinner.

The second week of events will be called “Cable Connection — Fall.” In 2009, that will start on Oct. 25 in Denver. The anchor event will be the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit. Events built into that week will be a CableLabs seminar, the SCTE CableTEC Expo, the NCTA board of directors meeting held jointly with the NAMIC and WICT boards; the Walter Kaitz Foundation Annual Dinner; the NAMIC annual conference, the Cable Center Hall of Fame dinner and the Association of Cable Communicators Forum.

The reorganized schedule will cause real change for some organizations. The Kaitz dinner has always been in September in New York; now it will be part of the fall activities in different locations around the country. The WICT Gala has been a standalone event in Washington, D.C.; now it may be a luncheon or a dinner in the spring block.

Association executives acknowledged there are details to be worked out, but indicated they were pleased with the consolidation.

Cable Positive CEO Steve Villano said the change will minimize his time as an event planner and get him back to focusing on AIDS awareness. The organization's Power Awards dinner has raised an average of $1.4 million annually over the last three years, and he feels secure, with the assurances of executives on the NCTA board, that cable operators will continue that level of support, he said. The organization has no outstanding deposits with hotels or service suppliers that would be lost with a change of venue, he said.

WICT CEO Benita Fitzgerald Mosley said the uniting of events offers “an awesome opportunity” to reach a lot more people. Initially, there was “a mourning process” over the end of the independent events, but she and her board have realized change is necessary. The organization is more focused on “serving members where they live,” she said. She and other executives indicated there might be an uptick in chapter events and Internet-based virtual gatherings.

With the CTAM Summit as the anchor for the fall meetings, group CEO Char Beales hopes the meeting will actually grow in attendance. One wrinkle to be worked out is the issue of ancillary revenue. For instance, organizations individually sold signage and program listings to sponsor. She said she couldn't imagine that networks and other past sponsors would buy multiple sponsorships for each organization participating in Cable Connection, so new models of sponsorship and pricing may need to be designed.