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Multiplatforms Embraced at NCTA

Don’t fear the multiple platforms—embrace them. That was the parting message for the cable industry from a panel of leaders that wrapped up this year’s NCTA National Show in Atlanta. The panel, Converging on Change: What’s in Store and Who’s Behind It, ended the three-day show, in which the mood was largely optimistic.

Executives representing the cable industry said that, by embracing services beyond TV—such as telephone and high-speed data services—cable had put itself in a healthy place to triumph over its telco competitors and evolve with viewers who want to access their content in new ways.

“The companies that look at all this change and get paralyzed by it are the companies that aren’t going to do well,” said Comcast COO Steve Burke, pointing to the video-on-demand/mobile horror network Comcast and Sony formally announced at the show as an example of a new business model—a cable channel without a linear component.

“It’s a brand-new business model, and one we can replicate and slice and dice and do half a dozen of those in a way that was unthinkable three years ago … You can sit there and wish for those days [of basic cable] or you can say, ‘What is the next business model, the next great way to create content and put it out there?'”

One big, although not cable-related, piece of news from the show was Disney-ABC's announcement that it would stream free ad-supported episodes of some of its own shows online. MTV Networks started doing that months back with some Nickelodeon shows and found the move just served to strengthen its content on other platforms, not to cannibalize their traction.

“Life didn’t stop as we know it … we’re still making linear television,” said MTV Networks Chairman and CEO Judy McGrath. “There’s more ways to access ideas and content, and one can fuel the other. It’s actually a pretty thrilling time to be at this.

“If you engage people and they want to share [content], forward it, blog about it, they’re more deeply involved with you. That increases the value chain.”