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NCTA Picks Date, Posh Venue for ‘High Level’ D.C. Tech, Talk Fest

According to sources, Washington, D.C.-based NCTA: The Internet & Television Association is looking at April 27 for the event it signaled could be in the offing after the trade group pulled the plug on INTX, its annual trade show, which was to have been held in April in the capital.

April 27 would be the day after the Cable Hall of Fame ceremony in Washington, which features top cable executives from NBCUniversal, Discovery Communications, Cox Communications, HBO, Liberty Global and Scripps Networks Interactive, and those in town to honor them, so it would make sense to capitalize on that concentration of industry executive muscle. The event will be by invitation only, sources said, and NCTA targeted “very high level” guests, which sadly might rule The Wire out.

NCTA had signaled the event would not be a downsized version of INTX, so no convention center or display floor. An NCTA spokesperson had no comment at press time.

The source said NCTA appears to be looking at a mix of speakers and tech demonstrations — as well as a lunch — at a half-day, afternoon conference to be held at the event space at Union Market, which bills itself as a “unique warehouse event venue” with 22-foot tall ceilings and exposed concrete floors. Holding it in the afternoon could be an accommodation to Cable Hall afterparty revelers. This year, the Hall isn’t competing against other INTX-related events, so the afterparty, possibly including cast members from inductee The Sopranos, could be more popular than usual.

A cable-industry source who confirmed the date said it appeared to be targeted primarily at D.C. policymakers. That would certainly make sense for a trade group run by a technology and policy uber-wonk, Michael Powell, whose resume includes commissioner and chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Given the Washington location, and the current industry interest in what the Trump administration and new FCC chair will do about net neutrality, broadband subsidies, privacy, business data services and more, a policy-centric conference would be a good fit.

Assuming the venue is correct — and we have it from multiple well-informed sources — then the conference will be held “directly above the artisanal marketplace, which houses over 30 of the top food producers in the region.”
Count us in, and pass the focaccia.

Google Assistant Wasn’t Much Help At YouTube TV’s Launch Event
Google-owned YouTube put on a technologically glitzy presentation for the media introducing its new YouTube TV streaming service that will at launch offer 40 channels of live cable networks for $35 a month. The March 1 event, held in Los Angeles but simulcast to offices in San Francisco and New York, gave a detailed look at what You- Tube director of product management Christian Oestlien dubbed “a chance to reimagine television for the YouTube generation.”

After successfully showing gathered reporters the various technological features of YouTube TV — including simple search options, ease of recording to the service’s unlimited DVR and the ability to cast YouTube TV to a large screen through Chromecast-enabled devices — executives had less success with a Google Home-driven, voice-based innovation that is expected to debut a few months after the actual YouTube TV launch.

In theory, the Google Home integration will allow consumers to control every aspect of YouTube TV through voice commands, from recording favorite shows to changing channels, Oestlien said. But several attempts to use the feature during the press conference failed, ending with the computerized Google Assistant voice cryptically saying that “something went wrong” or “there was a glitch.”

Attendees politely giggled at the flub, but The Wire suspects YouTube will make sure that feature is purring at launch.
— R. Thomas Umstead

Split in the Ticket? Trump, Pence Differ On Anonymous Sources
The Trump administration has a bifurcated view of journalists and unnamed sources.

President Donald Trump, addressing a conservative conference in Washington, said journalists should not be allowed to use sources unless they name them.

But interestingly, that came while White House officials were planning to brief reporters on the president’s budget on the condition that they be identified as unnamed sources.

Then there is the source-protecting history of Vice President Mike Pence.

As a member of Congress, and as a former radio talk show host, Pence was a strong supporter of a federal shield law to protect reporters against government attempts to make them name unnamed sources.

It may have been an exercise in wishful thinking, but shield law backer Sen. Dick Durbin (DIll.) talked up the Pence connection in a speech to broadcasters in town to lobby the Hill and the Federal Communications Commission.

“Maybe Vice President Pence can persuade President Trump to work with us to finally pass a federal shield law that protects reporters’ sources in all 50 states,” he said.

As we said, wishful thinking.
— John Eggerton