It's Arnold's Last Texas Cable Show

Texas' cable guys will converge this week at the state's annual trade show in San Antonio and they might well be talking about the future leadership of the Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The 2001 show will mark the last hurrah for retiring association executive director Bill Arnold, who has helmed the trade group since 1982. Last year, he announced his intent to retire by year-end.

Only two association chiefs-Spencer Kaitz of the California Cable Television Association and Richard Alteri of the Cable Television Association of New York-have represented the industry at the state level as long as Arnold.

Arnold said there hasn't been much discussion about his replacement. The focus instead has been on the show, which runs from Feb. 28 to March 2. Afterward, the association board will likely draft a list of possible candidates.

"We don't have a set process. We haven't had to," Arnold noted.

The Texas Show itself fared well in the face of consolidation-inspired cuts in convention participation. Showtime Networks Inc. and Starz Encore Group LLC withdrew from the show floor, as they did from the recent Western Show.

But the gathering attracted 25 to 30 vendors that were new or haven't booked booths on the floor for years, Arnold said.

"We're very close to sold out. We're very lucky in that regard," Arnold said. The show will attract about 2,000 attendees.

One operator executive said he thought the biggest buzz would be a familiar topic: programming costs and their impact on subscription prices and new product deployment.

"In my world the challenge I constantly face is [that] customers want more services but they don't want to pay more," said Robert Dunham, manager of Longview Cable Television in Longview, Texas. Programming price hikes "make everything I want to do more difficult."

There aren't any burning legislative issues at the moment, just simmering ones. A Texas Legislature committee is still studying open access. Because a new legislature has just convened, other cable-related issues have yet to surface.

As a result, the convention program will focus on ongoing business, such as interactive television, launching digital services in rural markets and improving ad sales.

On Feb. 28, half the day will be devoted to training system-level employees to communicate effectively with the media. Kelly Morris, vice president and director of public relations for the Center for the Persuasive Arts in San Antonio, is the featured instructor.

The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing will sponsor a panel discussion in conjunction with the show. That session will focus on retention of a system's most valuable customers and will address customer evaluation and loyalty building; how to market differently to various customer niches; and leveraging the demographic data an operator already possesses.