Three Programmers Shed Western Booths

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Showtime Networks Inc., Starz Encore Group LLC and Playboy TV Networks confirmed last week that they will not be on the floor of this year's Western Show.

Dropping the booths is a bid to cut costs by the three programmers, who will participate in this year's annual event in Los Angeles but won't have their usual presence among the exhibitors.

In an era of consolidation, "the exhibit floor, per se, is not the best way to meet our customers," said Showtime Networks Inc. executive vice president of sales and affiliate marketing Jeff Wade.

The networks said they've made an effort to place their affiliate-representative offices as close to their major clients as possible. That move has made costly show booths-though none of the networks would disclose those costs-an expensive luxury.

"Our shareholders win because we're deploying our money in other areas," said Starz Encore senior vice president of marketing and business development Mike Hale. The programmer will exhibit only at the National Show in the spring, he said.

Playboy TV Networks will give up its 50-foot-by-50-foot booth, said Playboy executive vice president of sales and affiliate relations Brian Quirk. However, Playboy has contracted with the California Cable Television Association to host a hotel suite at the show.

Other shows will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Playboy participated in this month's Atlantic Show and was disappointed by the traffic, Quirk noted.

But other events have become valuable stopovers. For example, Playboy sends its entire field staff to the Cable Television Association for Marketing's digital pay-per-view conference, he said.

Without the booth, Quirk said, he might do something unheard of at prior shows: attend a panel session.

Recently, many vendors have complained that trade shows are too frequent. A National Cable Television Association committee, whose members include state-association executives, has discussed trimming the number of regional events.

In a convergence environment, programmers would like to participate in trade shows outside of the wired-cable world, such as Internet, satellite and electronics-industry events, exhibitors noted.

All three networks said they have not turned their backs on the Western Show. And executives who have scheduled "meaningful meetings" will still attend several events. Even the Western Show booths may be revisited in the future, as circumstances change.

Because the Western Show has evolved into a cable-technology showplace, there are many companies seeking floor space, including non-programmers. Twenty-five companies are on an exhibitor waiting list, said CCTA vice president C.J. Hirschfield. And 20 other companies, such as Microsoft Corp., want additional space.

Although the association is disappointed to see its legacy supporters leave the floor, new participants will make up for the lost revenue, Hirschfield said.

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