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Lindsay Gardner Fox Cable Networks President of Affiliate Sales and Marketing

Lindsay Gardner, Fox Cable Networks president of affiliate sales and marketing, expects the CTAM Summit 2006 to offer some pragmatic applications, real takeaway information, for his staff. Gardner is co-chairman of the confab this year. Multichannel’s Linda Moss interviewed Gardner last week.

MCN: How many people do you have coming to CTAM this year?

Gardner: In my department, 36 people, from all around the country.

MCN: Is that an increase from last year?

Gardner: A sharp increase, from 15 [last year], more than double. I’m the chairman, of course I’m going to support CTAM.

This is the best CTAM Summit ever. We’re doing so many things that are new this year. First of all, we’ve really got these marvelous, marvelous speakers. Two of the best will be Shawn Gold [CMO and head of marketing and content for] ….He’s an amazing presenter, and he’s really running that company day to day. He lives and breathes the Myspace brand, and extending the brand. He’s going to be doing one of the three big general sessions.
Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics [A Rogue Economist Explains the Hidden Side of Everything], he’s going to be doing the second of the big 2,500-2,800 people in the auditorium sessions.

Just those two sessions alone – before even doing on to the third session and the breakout sessions and the roundtables and the networking opportunities and the parties--- if people go to them, they’re going to leave CTAM believing this was worth their time and their money and dragging themselves into Boston.

MCN: Do you do follow-up on this with your staff?

Gardner: What we do is the very last day, and in this case it will be the evening, we will meet in an empty meeting in the Hynes auditorium. It’s a mandatory meeting, and every one of our attendees will go to this meeting and we’ll have a post mortem [on the CTAM summit].

And the way it works is it’s somewhat structured. It starts out with going around the room and people have a minute or two, people speaking up about something that really moved them, one way or the other, good or bad. The first eight people speak and they do their minute and it triggers a conversation. One will say, ‘I went to this thing, and really moved me, and it got me thinking we could work more closely with Echostar on such and such.’

Someone else will say, ‘I went to this thing, and it was really horrible, and let me tell you why I was really angry at the guy on the panel.’

And after about eight people go, it kind of breaks down and it turns into a free for all, but it’s a great two hours. We do it when people are right there, before they even leave and come back and there’s this Diaspora, if you will, back to their offices.

MCN: What is your biggest challenge you face on the affiliate-sales side, and do you think those issues be addressed at the show?

Gardner: I think among the challenges is operating in the new spaces that are developing: IP telco, keeping and making our products meaningful to all the distributors. They are pushing us for more VOD, for HD, for work with them on their mosaic applications and even interactive. They’re pushing us to consider more flexibility in what the device is that consumer views our content on. Will we let them view it on a PC? Will we let them view it on a wireless phone? That’s all under the category of keeping and making our content meaningful.

This is going to say clichéd, but it’s no longer enough to be a linear network.

MCN: So training your people how to deal with that out in the field?

Gardner: Training is a strong word. What we’re looking for from CTAM are nuggets.

MCN: Nuggets of what?

Gardner: Insights. If CTAM does it right, and some years it does it better than others -- this year I expect we’re doing to do it the best, I hope we’re going to do it the best – we come back from CTAM and people have ideas. And the magic of the culture of this place is that they can do them. They have some idea to do a tie-in campaign with Speed Channel and sort of a twist on something this Freakonomics author said, and they’ll apply it.

It’s like little nuggets. It’s sort of a piece here and a piece there.