Vendors Are Going to San Francisco

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With a renewed interest from technology exhibitors and the return of several large programmers, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association appears poised for a strong convention this April in San Francisco.

The NCTA had sold 156,000 square feet of exhibit space by Thanksgiving, with booth and executive suite sales pacing 25% ahead of where organizers were the same time last year, senior vice president of industry affairs and chief administration officer Barbara York said recently.

“Everyone who has been in the past is in, and we have very little left to sell,” York said. “We’re encouraging any new companies who are out there to come in now.”

LAST THERE IN ’93

There was about 20,000 square feet of exhibit space available at Moscone Center, York added.

The National Show, which rotated between Chicago and New Orleans for the last several years, is returning to San Francisco for the first time since 1993, when it drew 16,348 attendees.

Last year’s confab, held in New Orleans, drew about 17,000 attendees. York said the NCTA expects to draw a similar head count to this year’s convention, which runs from April 3 to 5.

The NCTA began accepting online registrations for the convention last Monday (Dec. 6) on the convention Web site (www.thenationalshow.com). By registering online by Feb. 11, attendees can save $100 apiece, the NCTA said.

The trade association last week said the theme of this year’s conference is “Cable Puts You In Control,” emphasizing multiple service offerings across various platforms.

“Today, our industry is empowering consumers like never before,” the NCTA said in a press release quoting Steve Burke, Comcast Corp.’s chief operating officer and chairman of the National Show.

With the demise of the California Cable & Telecommunications Association’s annual Western Show convention in November 2003, the National Show is the cable industry’s largest annual get-together.

The convention, which draws cable operators, programmers and tech vendors, along with hundreds of journalists, market researchers, Wall Street analysts and regulators, had seen a decrease in technology exhibitors during the last few years.

But with the Western Show out of the picture, National Show organizers said they are seeing a return of some tech firms that had not exhibited during the past two years, including Harmonic Inc. and C-COR Inc.

'STRONG PRESENCE’

“Our focus is changing as the industry is changing, so we’re going to have a strong presence this year,” said C-COR spokeswoman Jo Ann Lehtihet. She said her company plans to pitch new content-management products to programmers in attendance.

The largest exhibitors will set up shop in the south hall, where Fox Cable Networks Group, Disney ABC Cable Networks Group, ESPN and Comcast Corp.’s cable-network group all purchased 8,000-square-foot booths.

NBC Universal Cable Networks bought a 7,000-square-foot space adjacent to the Comcast booth, and Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. has a 70 by 70 booth across from NBC’s booth.

Start-up programmers Here! and the Casino and Gaming Television Network are also looking to make a big splash at the convention. Both networks purchased large exhibits across the from the Disney ABC Cable/ESPN booth.

The NCTA was still finalizing speakers and topics for the conference sessions that will be held at the convention center, said York, but hot topics at the confab would be video-on-demand, Internet telephony, the transition to digital TV broadcasting and content-management issues.

GAMENET’S NEW

In addition to the return of the CableNET technology exhibit from Cable Television Laboratories Inc., the convention will feature several gaming companies at a new GameNET exhibit, which the NCTA will build with Shorecliff Communications.

The trade group also expects a good showing from international attendees, said York, thanks to marketing support from the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Buyers Program. It’s the first year NCTA is part of the program.

While the convention has kicked off mid-week in previous years, 2005’s opening general session is set for Sunday, April 3, at 1 p.m.

In another first, the NCTA will hold an opening-day happy hour on the exhibit floor that evening, at 4 p.m.

The closing general session is set for Tuesday, April 5, at 4 p.m.

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