The Western Show — More Relevant Than Ever

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I have been fortunate to be part of this industry for more than 12 years, and have seen the changes during this time from many different perspectives.

Having just returned from two extremely productive days at the Western Show in Anaheim, Calif., I would like to share some of my impressions for those who did not attend, and offer an opportunity for those who did attend to gain some confirmation of, or contrast to their experience.

My time was primarily spent on the show floor, in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel, in two very informative sessions, and meetings in suites. I had meetings offsite during the general session, but was able to get a sense of the discourse from others at the show, having watched the Brian Roberts session online at C-SPAN, and picking up the form to get the other sessions on tape.

From my arrival on Wednesday morning, through my departure Thursday evening I was able to cross paths and connect with many of the people I would have wanted to see, and was able to have quality and substantive conversations even in the midst of the people around us.

And I have a long list of follow up opportunities to pursue as a result.

During the video-on-demand and high-definition panels on Wednesday I was able to observe real leadership from the moderators and panel participants. Thoughtful responses to really relevant questions produced exchanges that kept me busy writing down notes. People looking at these issues from their particular point of view were able to establish a common focus and overlap in priorities and opportunities that I found to be refreshing and meaningful.

To be sure, there are real issues and conflict points between increasingly powerful companies. And leverage is a key point in escalating the visibility and ultimately the resolution of any one situation.

But the thing that felt different at this event was the focus on competition beyond our intramural relationships and meeting it head on as an industry, rather than going at it on a fractured basis.

As for the turnout at the show, "rightsizing" is a term of dubious distinction. My impression was that the number of people, and the ones who where there, were a terrific balance that allowed for meaningful exchange without undue distraction and frenetic activity. I remember the days when people's attention spans were six minutes or less, and that eyes continued to wander past the immediate conversation to the badges of others passing by who just might be more important to go speak with.

During the last several years I have used the analogy that our industry was becoming like Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds
film, and that at least from the operators perspective, that they were Tippi Hedron and the various programmers and product and service providers were all of those birds trying to get a piece of her. Not pretty perhaps, but probably not far from the truth.

This year, I saw CEO's walking the floor freely and members of their senior staffs exploring with their teams the various opportunities that were available for them to see.

On the floor, I observed leaders of our industry looking seriously at new and established companies with products and services that address what our customers want and could be ours to provide.

These conversations were thoughtful and collaborative in nature — and yes, focused on generating orders and real business.

I am not qualified to speak to the success or economics necessary to sustain such an initiative in this venue or the scale or scope of what it needs to be in order to justify the expense. There are plenty of others looking at those issues and opportunities.

What I can say is that the collegial nature of our industry remains intact, and that what I saw and felt could in fact be a turning point in our industry from what many have seen as malaise, or in VCR/DVR terminology as "pause" mode.

This is an industry that creates friendships through collaboration, and yes, even competition — and the war stories we get to share about the "good old days" only get better with time.

We are poised to execute on many different opportunities. The consolidation that is happening within and beyond our industry is affording us all with fewer partners with which we can find common ground and purpose to build the next generation of successes and demonstrate the market leadership that is ours to lose.

I waffled as to whether I was going to make the trip to Anaheim, all the way to the day before my flight. I can say that the Western Show is indeed as vital and vibrant and valuable as it has been since I joined this industry and in fact may be even more so in the future.

These too are the good old days. Enjoy them.