NCTAUnveils2008Cable Show Agenda

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association Thursday unveiled most of the itinerary for 2008 version of The Cable Show, the cable industry’s marquee convention, slated for May 18-20 in New Orleans.

This year’s edition will feature a hearty jambalaya of speeches, panels and sessions focusing on emerging technologies, multimedia content and advertising as well as a healthy serving of altruism.

New Orleans was originally scheduled to host the annual confab in the spring of 2006 but had to be relocated to Atlanta in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At the time, the NCTA committed to returning the show to the Big Easy in 2008 and has followed through in its return by planning several philanthropic endeavors to coincide with this year’s event.

The general session will kick off with an opening welcome from convention co-chairs Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET Holdings, and Mediacom Chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso as well as a state-of-the-industry speech from NCTA President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow.

Following the introductory addresses, a panel titled “Generation Next: What’s Now and What’s New in Broadband Media” and moderated by former FCC Chairman William Kennard will feature Peter Chernin, CEO of News Corp.; Intel CEO Paul Otellini; Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Yoshi Yamada, CEO of Panasonic North America.

Barbara York, the NCTA’s senior vice president of industry affairs, said the constant evolution of technology, content and advertising in the cable industry made it more difficult than in years past to find and receive commitments from industry experts willing to share their expertise.

“Things are always changing, people are always changing,” she said. “But we’re dead on track compared to previous years in terms of timing and scheduling. We’re moving and grooving.”

Last year, the NCTA released an initial list of just four executives participating in one general session panel 85 days in advance of last year’s convention in Las Vegas. It would issue several more releases throughout February, March and April detailing additional participants, sessions and events.

However, the organization released a more comprehensive list of panelists, sessions and participants on March 28, 2007, only 43 days before the 2007 show’s debut in Las Vegas.

Thursday’s release comes 54 days ahead of the show’s return to New Orleans.

York said any perception that this year’s show is running behind schedule is likely due to the fact that the NCTA decided against holding an official press conference this year to announce The Cable Show lineup.

“We usually do the announcements and hold the press conference about six to seven weeks before the show,” she said. “There’s no press conference this year because people will just take the press release, so there’s no need to do it.”

York added that she didn’t sense any type of delay this year, rather “I sense a tremendous amount of overwork due to the charity events.”

On Monday, May 19, the general session theme will be “Bit by Bit: Convergence Creates the Picture.” The panel, which includes the likes of Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt and Sun Microsystems Chairman Scott McNealy, will take turns discussing how cable and its technology allies are harnessing the power of IP technology to create the next generation of voice, video and data businesses.

Tuesday’s session, dubbed “Getting Engaged: Advertising’s Quest to Connect” will primarily focus on advertising and will feature a keynote address from Deborah Wahl Meyer, vice president and chief marketing officer of The New Chrysler.

The advertising panel will include Cox Communications President Pat Esser; David Verklin, CEO of Aegis Media Americas and Tony Vinciquerra, President and CEO, Fox Networks Group. This panel will be moderated by Sanford C. Bernstein cable analyst Craig Moffet.

In addition to the three general sessions, there will be six plenary sessions featuring panels of senior executives designed to address “big picture” issues such as monetizing digital platforms, international marketplaces, sports programming and video on demand.

York said she expects to receive firm commitments from other industry executives, particularly on the content side, in the days and weeks ahead. She added that registration for this year’s show so far is on par with last year’s event when more than 15,000 attendees participated.

“We have sold between 95% and 96% of the floor space and have 330 exhibitors signed up so far,” she said.

Ahead of The Cable Show, the tru2way Developers’ Conference will be held on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19, giving attendees an opportunity to check out the latest tools, traits and trends of cable’s interactive TV platform.

Individuals and corporate volunteers-- a couple hundred at least according to the NCTA-- are also scheduled to help wire a New Orleans elementary school with a cable network, computers, equipment and educational programming. Another pair of schools will be repainted and landscaped and another two schools will have playgrounds built from scratch.

Finally, rather than hiring Paul McCartney or Billy Joel as other industry conventions have through the years, the NCTA this year has opted to hold a “Battle of the Bands” fundraising event Tuesday night to close out the convention. Cable industry musicians—of varying talent levels—will perform including the Paul Allen Band, with Charter Communications Chairman Paul Allen on guitar, and a Time Warner Cable-backed group calling itself “More Cowbell,” featuring Carly Simon’s niece, Julie.

The event starts at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20. One ticket comes with a Cable Show registration and additional ones can be purchased at $50 each. Proceeds go to Cable Cares, which will be helping to pay for vital recovery projects in New Orleans.