Cable Tech

Cable Show Changes Its Look

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Western Show, an annual convention put on by the California Cable & Telecommunications Association (CCTA), is setting aside the belly shirt and hip-hugger jeans for a navy business suit with matching attaché.

Actually, the show is looking to be less a cable show and more of a show about how cable operators can use telecom and networking technologies to offer new services. The show, once known for outrageous booth brigades and wild parties, has become a bit more serious minded, and organizers hope the wider focus on broadband technologies versus traditional cable programming opportunities will help dig it out of the doldrums.

Now in its 35th year, The Western Show's new theme, "BroadbandPlus," and the wider swath of exhibitors, is also designed to fill the void left by the broadcast network exhibitors that provided glitz and pomp a-plenty at Western Shows of yesteryear.

Show organizers aren't in the mood to make attendance projections. "It's hard to know, because we usually have a significant number of walk-up registrants," says Jerry Yanowitz, VP of federal affairs for the CCTA.

The shyness surrounding ticket sales is not surprising. Between 2000 and 2001, the show's attendance fell from 33,000 to about 17,000. In that time, several cable programmers decided that the big displays and celebrity-stuffed booths weren't paying off. This year, several television networks, such as HBO, are still sponsoring the show, but with signage rather than exhibition space.

Now, thanks in part to the show's changing mix, show organizers are expecting a more somber bunch. "People aren't coming out here for parties or frivolity," Yanowitz says. "They're coming to see people they want to do business with."

Even the CCTA itself has taken on a new look. Just a year ago, CCTA stood for "California Cable Television Association." "Telecommunications" was added to signal the group's acknowledgement that the cable business is becoming about much more than video services.

Among the companies planning announcements around the show is Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which says it will announce "several new innovations that will help [cable operators] meet their customers' service and reliability requirements." Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) are among the listed exhibitors.

Other exhibitors, say attendees, plan to use the show's spotlight to tout their own viability. Optinel Systems, a vendor providing optical networking elements for the cable operators, is expected to announce additional funding this week. The company had raised at least $2.8 million from two investors in the third quarter of this year, according to information published in the MoneyTree Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Venture Economics, and the National Venture Capital Association.

"This really shows an evolution of the business," says Yanowitz. "The growth for operators is in areas outside the traditional cable business, and CableNet [The Western Show's technology and demonstration area] has always been about leading technologies."

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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