Suite Deals at Western For ABC, NBC Cable

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The upcoming Western Show will have some key cable programmers on hand in Anaheim, Calif., after all.

ABC Cable Networks Group and NBC Cable Networks walked through the door last week, committing to prefabricated executive suites on the Anaheim Convention Center floor. They're comparable in size and ambience to those used this past May in New Orleans at the National Show, run by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The ABC and NBC arrangements were confirmed by Spencer Kaitz, president of the California Cable Telecommunications Association, which runs what's now officially called Broadband Plus: The New Western Show. Organizers also unveiled their opening speaker roster and other vitals, including the exhibitor count, now at 198.

Seven Comcast Corp. executives, led by president Brian Roberts, will participate on various panels at the Dec. 3 through Dec. 6 event. Roberts will jump-start the show on Dec. 4, with a one-on-one interview before the opening general session.

It could mark Roberts' first public appearance as the leader of AT&T Comcast Corp., if the Comcast-AT&T Broadband merger is completed by Thanksgiving, as anticipated.

"We are committed to serve our local communities, both as quality communications-service providers and as good corporate citizens, and the Western Show is an essential tool for accomplishing that," Roberts said in a statement.

In the recent past, Kaitz has conducted many of the one-on-one interview sessions himself, but that won't be the case with Roberts.

"We'll have someone from CNBC or another major cable news organization do it," he said.

Other Comcast executives committed to session appearances include senior vice president of new media development Steve Craddock and digital TV vice president Mark Hess.

Jerry Yanowitz, the CCTA vice president overseeing Western Show activity, said the abundance of Comcast executives lined up will eventually be balanced out by representatives from other MSOs.

"We got on a faster track with Comcast than with the other operators," he explained. "We put invitations out to everyone at the same time. In a way, the situation is by design.

"Comcast is the largest company in both the industry and California."

Indeed, officials from Charter Communications Inc. and Cox Communications Inc. also are on the roster of confirmed MSO panelists. Charter CEO Carl Vogel will be on a general session, along with Michael Willner, his counterpart at Insight Communications Co.

Yanowitz is trying to work out ways for AOL Time Warner Inc. and Time Warner Cable senior staff to participate in sessions as well as the show, even though the MSO is holding key corporate meetings away from Anaheim.

"We're working it out the best we and they can," he said.

Programming speakers include Disney/ABC Cable Networks president Anne Sweeney, Fox Cable Networks executive vice president Lindsay Gardner, Home Box Office senior vice president Bob Zitter and Mag Rack executive vice president and general manager Matt Strauss.

As of Sept. 25, the show had signed up 147 companies for its main exhibit halls. Some, including Broadcom Corp., Juniper Networks, Microsoft Corp. and Nortel Networks Inc., are among the 51 represented in Cable Television Laboratories Inc.'s CableNET 2002 showcase.

New to the main area from the tech community: Cisco Systems Inc., Dialogic Communications Corp., ICTV Inc., Net2Phone and SeaChange International Inc. Twenty-seven companies are first-time exhibitors.

"We're happy with the exhibitor turnout now, given both the economy and the state of the industry," Yanowitz said. Indeed, space inquiries have picked up over the last two weeks. "There's more reaction now than for all of August."

Show organizers are approaching programmers with three choices — booths, pre-fabricated suites and a "Broadband Living Room," a show area where they can demonstrate video-on-demand, interactive TV and other new-media ventures.

Several other programmers are leaning toward suites, while some are interested in the Living Room proposal, but there have been no takers there yet.

Western Show organizers will wait another few weeks before deciding whether to proceed with the Living Room, which some programmers felt would have too small a presence.

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