It’s been just about 10 years since I went to my last NCTA/Cable Show. Apparently the last time I went to the show which was in Dallas, it was still in its hay day. Unfortunately, the Cable Show just didn’t feel the same to me this year, for a few reasons:
The money just isn’t being spent like it used to. The show was lacking the incredible energy it used to have. Last time I ran the trade show promotion at the Cable Show for VH1, we had an American Bandstand stage and dancers dancing in our 60′ x 90′ booth promoting the re-launch of the classic TV show. I borrowed the actual neon sign from the show from Dick Clark Productions, our booth was filled with Clients and there were lines around the corner to enter our contest. Flashbulbs were flashing and the VH1 booth (as a part of MTV Networks) was all the buzz. My counterpart at MTV was running a make-your-own-video booth, with people lined up around the corner to dance their hearts out. That type of promotion, in my eyes, has nearly become extinct at the show (If you saw something really engaging, please comment). Networks like CNBC, Logo, MTV and Outdoor Channel were definitely in promotion mode of their shows like CNBC’s Street Signs and Logo’s Robert Verdi, but the buzz wasn’t nearly as intense or exciting. In my mind, Programmers are just not spending the money they used to.
Attendance is down. My guess is, and I don’t know the official numbers, the attendance seems to be declining year after year for the show. One of the complaints I heard from a long-time attendee is that the MSOs (Multiple Systems Operators) are just not showing up en mass and with the economy the way it is, they are sending less and less people. The challenge there for my Programmer friends (the Networks), is that they are there to work with the Providers/MSOs (The Comcasts, Time Warners, and DirecTVs of the world) and some of them are sending very few people, if at all. So, if you’re a Programmer, who are you exhibiting for then? Not your competition for sure. The Cable Show was considered a schmooze fest in years past, and now it seems to be dwindling. It’s also because the model has changed. The landscape of the entire business is truly centred around Broadband, delivery and other measurement technologies. Gone are the days when you were just promoting tune-in to boost your Nielsen ratings, now, it’s not just an on-air numbers game, you now have an online numbers game. And, what are those numbers? Can you monetize your content to your subscribers, without biting the hand that feeds you (the Provider, or the Pipe as they call it)? Is there a new and better way for the networks to garner additional ad revenue and subscription fees from their audience, without losing the audience? Many models of delivery, monetization and measurement were discussed. No one seems to have the right answer yet.
Technology. So, this is really what’s taking over. It’s moving so fast. This is the big Cahuna! At the show was a section called Broadband Nation and CableNET, where the Cable Show created an entire area that was staged as a typical American neighborhood, with facades of homes and a school. In that section, a lot of types of delivery, measurement, hardware, software and general entertainment companies from all over the world displayed their best of the best…from Dolby Labs, to Motorola, to Opentv, to NDS to Samsung. It was a great educational experience, and I would imagine will have more of a presence as years go on.
Consumer Technology Shout Out: So, I’ll tell you what consumer technology blew me away…The Dolby Labs 3D technology. You walked in to this theater-type space and they handed you a pair of 3D glasses. Well, I’ve had 3D glasses…like from Burger King promotions and such. I’ve felt over the years, that the home experience could just not compare to the 3D theater or Imax experience. Well, I was dead wrong. This was a totally amazing home theater experience! Dolby was broadcasting a U2 concert (I’m a fan, yes) and it was just mind blowing. As I tweeted real time on Twitter that day, “I could have stayed at the Dolby theater all day!” I could not peel myself out of that booth. Honestly, that was the most fun I had had at the show this year. So, thank you!
Social Media is very much in its embryonic stage in most of the Cable industry. Which actually, I was a little surprised at. From a B2B perspective, a colleague and myself were in a panel about 360 Degree marketing. Ann Cowan from CTAM was moderating the panel. When the panelists were asked if they were using Social Networks or Media, you could hear a pin drop…except from the folks at A&E. Mark Garner spoke to their program around the show Hammertime, with MC Hammer. Hallmark spoke to how they were dipping their toe, and TV Guide wasn’t using Social Media at all. Then Ann asked if anyone in the audience was tweeting….and out of close to 2o0 people, only 2 hands went up. Mine and my colleauge’s. It actually was incredibly surprising to me. This room was filled with Marketers listening to Marketers. It was just a testament to me how the space is still very much new and uncharted, but is ripe with opportunity!
Lastly…a Thank You. Thank you to the Walter Kaitz Foundation for creating an opportunity for small and women-owned businesses to attend the conference! It is very much appreciated (I also thanked @CableShow on Twitter as well, and was retweeted!). I really look forward to the next Cable Show in Los Angeles in 2010. I wonder what another year will bring?