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Whole Lotta Convening Going On

It's finally summer on the soggy East Coast. Now that our first barbecues and, in my case, the first forays into Pennsylvania's trout streams are out of the way, thoughts inevitably turn to — cable conventions.

Coming up soon (July 20 to 23) is the CTAM Summit. Seattle — a default site chosen after Internet-boom San Francisco ruled itself out — now seems an inspired location, with registrations running 10% ahead of the norm this far out. (Party update: Matchbox 20 has been confirmed for the opening-night party that Sunday, Char Beales says.)

So is the NECTA show (July 16 to 18) in Newport, R.I., which a cable-network friend described last week as "the show to go to" — I think more for the clambake and family fun than for the always-interesting policy discussions.

The big shows go on. Below the CTAM and NCTA and Western Show levels were several regionals that used to be hot stuff, but now aren't even around anymore. Remember the East Coast Cable (Atlantic) shows and the Eastern Show? Our staffers do: we used to produce show dailies there.

Nancy Horne does, too. Her management company, which works for the South Carolina and Georgia cable associations, used to put on the Eastern Show. "I look back to the early 80s," she said last week, pulling off the road on the way from Atlanta to Florida for the holiday weekend in order to return a call. "The Eastern Show had 10,000 people there. It's incredible. The industry has changed a lot."

MSO consolidation, travel and trade-show exhibition cutbacks all played a role, and people don't really have time any more to attend shows like those.

Below that level of trade shows, state and regional conventions continue to populate the calendar.

Horne's involved in one such convention, coming up Aug. 10 to 12, in Asheville, N.C. It's a convention that's been growing and now includes this year's host North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, the last being the latest to join the fun.

North Carolina association manager JoAnn Davis says support for the summer meeting, in terms of systems and executives participating, "has been pretty consistent" despite operator consolidation. Registration is about 75% to full so far, which is pretty normal with more than a month until the convention starts. The two Carolinas generally draw around 300 people to the summer meeting, Horne said.

Getting the four associations together isn't really fighting consolidation with consolidation, as I suggested to Horne. The two Carolinas had held joint meetings for years; Georgia joined in because it had been dovetailing directors' meetings with South Carolina; and Tennessee joined in this year.

But regulatory actions that affect operators in one state tend to spill over, so it makes sense to combine and conquer. Topical matters this year include bills that would establish a legal basis for municipalities to overbuild franchised cable operators, Horne said. "That's a very hot issue in Georgia, and Tennessee, as well."

Or course, awards banquets and golfing are important parts of the mix, as well as educational business sessions. Outside attractions in Asheville include whitewater rafting and tours of the historic Biltmore Estate.

At the end of our call, Horne invited me to the show. I might take her up on it. After I check the travel budget.