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NCTA-lite in Louisiana

Attendance and exhibitions are expected to be down at the annual cable industry convention in New Orleans next month, but with the economic downturn in mind, conference organizers say they planned it that way.

"We paid great attention to expense management," said Maggie Wilderotter, chair of NCTA's convention committee and president of Wink Communications at a luncheon with press last week. "Our members said they wanted to control costs but still enjoy high-profile exhibits."

To accomplish that task, Wilderotter said, everything will be on the show floor, including executive suites, panels and the press room. That will give exhibitors maximum exposure to show attendees.

"It is a creative way to let our exhibitors downsize," she said, "while still having a presence at the show."

"I think it's helpful to have everything near the floor because before the meeting rooms were so disconnected," says Patricia Kollappalli, a Lifetime spokesperson. "This way you can go from your meeting at a booth to whatever event or session you need to go to. It's much more convenient and consolidated."

Added HBO's Jeff Cusson, "The NCTA delivered a nice option by creating the executive suites. It gives us a presence at the show without incurring the costs that we have had in the past."

NCTA President Robert Sachs said he expects attendance to be down from last year's show in Chicago, which numbered around 24,000 attendees, but wouldn't make any predictions.

The number of exhibitors is down by 20%, to approximately 200 from about 250 last year. But the floor will still host the major cable networks, including Discovery and its digital nets, ABC Cable Networks Group, Rainbow Networks and Fox Cable Networks. Tech companies, including Intel, Microsoft, Motorola and Texas Instruments will also have a presence at the show. Star attractions will be keynote speeches from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), a Louisiana native, and FCC Chairman Michael Powell.