Skip to main content

NCTA 2013: Making Cable’s Digital Change

The Washington, DC-based National Cable Telecommunications Association is the foremost (and best-known and -recognized), among almost 20 cable-oriented national trade associations in the U.S. today. Its headquarters is located about a block away from Capitol Hill’s legislators, where on multiple floors it houses more than 100 employees whose mission it is to support industry, customer, legislative and governmental advancement on behalf of America’s cable TV operators, programmers, and related entities.   

The NCTA tends to focus on its core constituency, which is the “larger” cable companies in the U.S. today, which together serve scores of millions of subscribers. Indeed, from among the top five of the U.S.’s “larger cable companies” (i.e., approximately stated, Comcast with 22 million, Time Warner Cable with 12.3 million, Cox with 5 million, Charter at 4 million and Cablevision at 3.2 million. subscribers served), that total amounts to nearly 47 million.  From among 100 or so million U.S. pay TV subscribers today, those top five distributors represent almost a 50% subscriber share that the NCTA directly serves. Add another 20 or so “mid-sized” U.S. cable TV providers, and the NCTA’s share approaches (or exceeds) 60% of all U.S. pay TV subscribers and their operators represented, depending upon how one counts.

Put briefly, the NCTA is among the 800-pound gorillas in the pay TV trade association business these days, with prospects of getting even bigger, depending upon how aptly the NCTA leadership continues to play the “change card” during the next decade or so. Indeed, should the NCTA and its members continue to properly grow their strongest asset – the “digital bundle” of pay TV, voice, and Internet, and perhaps also their pay TV bundles of packages --  they may continue offering Americans their foremost access to their most dominant (and most cherished) content: video.  

NCTA Issues

Looking at the NCTA’s current list of “positions” on various issues, the verbatim list of six includes 1) “Closing The Digital Divide,” 2) “Fair Broadband Pricing,” 3) “Empowering Parents,” 4) “America’s Internet Leadership,” 5) “Energy Saving Innovation,” and 6) “Delivering Video Value.” From The Carmel Group’s forthcoming “Mixed Signals” interview of NCTA president and CEO, Michael Powell, high on this list of these six is managing a new and rapidly changing digital world (which is core to issues number 1, 2 , 4 and 6 above). Notes Powell….”I think of these efforts as ‘NCTA 3.0’ – learning new tricks that enable sustained advocacy in the digital age.”


Many are surprised to hear that among its 182 members, the NCTA also represents a hodge-podge of small and large programming and content entities, a sampling of which includes A & E, AMC Networks, BYUtv, Catholic TV, Current TV, Disney Media Networks, Fox Networks Group, the Game Show Network, HBO and Showtime. Under the “Miscellaneous” membership category, some would be surprised to see NCTA made up of constituents such as Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Great Lakes Data Systems, the accountancy, KPMG, the law firm, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Opeo, and the banker, Veronis Suhler Stevenson. Not surprisingly, core cable TV hardware providers, Google/Motorola and Cisco, are significant members of the NCTA community, as well.

Some interesting NCTA-supplied data further defines the parameters of this uber cable trade entity: 1) 1.8 million jobs accounted for/related to the cable industry 2) 638,000 cable industry jobs 3) 300 cable industry jobs, at minimum, per Congressional district (with some districts boasting 2,000 plus jobs) 4) more than 25 million digital-cable telephone customers served 5) almost 125 million homes passed by high-speed Internet service, 6) $3.2 billion cable franchise fees paid to communities 7) 80,000 schools served by Cable In the Classroom, and 8) 800 national cable programming services, offered by 9) 1,123 cable operating companies (See, 

Final Thoughts: NCTA     

One of the better ways to gauge an organization is to look toward its future events.

For NCTA, its 2013 NCTA Show will be held June 9-12, in its hometown, Washington, DC. This makes particular good sense, in that dialogue and participation from among our nation’s foremost political leaders will undoubtedly be enhanced when all they have to do is take a 15-minute cab ride from their offices to the WDC Convention Center in order to listen to – and get involved in – an important session or two.

As Mr. Powell also alluded to during his soon-to-be-published 1,300-word interview for “Mixed Signals,” exemplary communication and dialogue such as that described above, gets everyone -- both politicians and company representatives -- that much closer, and that much sooner, toward those all-powerful “…wise, insightful, and forward-looking corporate strategies.”  

After all (and especially during such a stunning time of change), shouldn’t that be the goal of just about every one of today’s leading industry trade groups? Indeed, “wise, insightful, and forward-looking” is a bundle we should all aspire to.  

Jimmy Schaeffler is a telecom author and chairman/CSO of Carmel-by-the-Sea-based consultancy The Carmel Group (