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New England’s Cable Show Forecast: ‘Bright Future’ for Newport Gathering

The New England Cable & Telecommunications Association convention in Newport, R.I., this week (July 13-15) “is looking great in its 45th year,” longtime NECTA CEO Paul Cianelli told The Wire.

“We’ve come a long way from, ‘One of the main questions is, can we support 12 channels of programming?’ to where we are today, focusing on innovation, integration, motivation, which is the theme of our show this year.”

He said the outlook was for 521 attendees: 362 registrants, 103 spouses and 56 children among them. Sixty-six companies are registered. “It’s important that this New England show has developed into a family show” since around the mid-1970s, Cianelli said. He’s in his 41st year with the association, which represents cable interests on policy matters in the six states.

Get complete coverage of the NECTA convention.

Various traditions will be observed: CNBC’s Ron Insana, as he has for about the past two decades, leads an opening panel session that includes regular attendee Comcast  senior executive vice president David Cohen, along with Atlantic Broadband CEO Richard Shea and Stanley M. Besen of Charles River Associates. Comcast-owned NBCUniversal is the convention’s biggest sponsor, another key to its longevity. Disney & ESPN Media Networks is No. 2 and MAV TV is No. 3, followed by some 20 other entities, mostly programmers.

The opening night party will be hosted by NESN as it has since 1989 and since 1990 at the same location, the Gas Lamp Grille (or whatever else it’s been called over the years). NESN is also bringing Red Sox announcers Dave O’Brien and Jerry Remy to the network’s booth on Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

At its peak, in the early 2000s, Cianelli has said previously, the NECTA show drew upward of 1,200 people. It was one of several strong regional cable conventions, which have dwindled with industry consolidation.

“We are the last of the Mohegans, so to speak, the last significant convention that’s not the national INTX show,” Cianelli said. “And I think that has to do with a number of things. One is the model that we use, the substance that’s there for all members. And New England being New England, which is a pretty tight, unique area, we’re able to bring in many of the legislators, policymakers to participate and to learn, and we in turn learn from them. Many of our significant panels are taped and then subsequently put on New England Cable News.

“Obviously, every year we take a hard look at [the show], but it’s been such a significant tool both for the operators and for the policymakers that I think we have a bright future.”