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Vendors Balk at Regional Shows

The National Cable Television Association will convene a
special task force to study the effects of industry consolidation on state and regional
cable shows.

Industry sources told Multichannel News last week
that equipment vendors -- looking to shed the expense of exhibiting at small shows that
don't attract industry decision-makers anymore -- are pushing the review.

NCTA president Robert Sachs downplayed the possibility that
the association's review may spell the end for some shows.

"The review, at its earliest stage, is an effort to
take a hard look at whether the exhibitor portion of regional shows is resulting in as
many business transactions as they once did," Sachs said. "Vendors more and more
are transacting at the corporate levels. [The review] is a look for an alternative means
of funding [the associations]. It doesn't mean that they go away."

"It used to be that a vendor went to one of these
shows and saw 40 or 50 CEOs," said Texas Cable Telecommunications Association
president Bill Arnold, who expects 200 exhibitors at the 40th Anniversary Texas
Cable 2000 show this month.

"But with the industry in 10 hands now, those people
don't come to trade shows," he added. "If you want to sell AT&T
[Broadband & Internet Services] something, you go to their corporate
headquarters."

With sales no longer made on the show floor, some vendors
exhibit only out of fear that their competition is going to be there, Arnold said.

But without exhibitors, some cable shows could go under,
putting a crimp in the annual budgets of the state associations that sponsor the events.

"I think some [vendors] would like to do away with
state and regional shows," Arnold said. "But you have to ask yourself, 'Are
they providing the necessary sales or leads to justify the [exhibitors']
expense?'"

Others weren't quite so understanding. Rob Marshall --
who had a record 140 exhibitors at his annual Mid-America Cable TV Association Show in
Overland Park, Kan., last year -- said potential new customers are emerging for exhibitors
as convergence attracts telephone- and computer-industry executives.

"These are people who have never attended a cable
show," Marshall added.

Surprisingly, reaction among vendors has been mixed.
Excite@Home Corp. spokesman Matt Wolfrom preferred not to comment. "I don't
think we're appropriate for your story," he said, adding that Excite@Home
concentrates on national shows.

Com21 Inc., however, has found that as the company has
grown, the regional and state shows have become more important, vice president of
corporate marketing Buck Gee said.

"Because Com21 is getting bigger, we would be more
likely to attend the regional shows," he added. "The smaller shows are important
because an increasing number of regional companies are buying Com21's products, and
it's important for the company to know the people they are dealing with."

Gee continued, "Clearly, the national MSOs can be
reached through national shows. It's the regional MSOs that we don't know."

He added that while a significant amount of business is
conducted at the corporate level, business can be conducted at shows without the
headquarters' blessing. "I think you can go a large way toward influencing
decisions at the shows," Gee said.