CTAM 2011: Hot Topics
Instead, expect much of the conversation to be geared toward à la carte, advanced advertising and cable's growing love affair with the consumer electronics industry -– you know, things that could alter the way the cable guys do business.
Fun parties and target-rich schmoozing are a given at any CTAM event, but here's a list of some of the more substantive topics and debates we'll be paying close attention to as this year's event gets off the ground Wednesday afternoon.
Dining à la carte
Last week's Reuters story about increasing MSO interest in moving toward an à la carte programming model should provide tremendous grist for an event such as this. (See A la Carte Coming to Cable's Menu? )
While no one expects cable operators and programmers, which want to continue to bind together their stable of networks, to ever go with à la carte in the truest sense of the word, there's growing interest in untying those bundles in a way that gives MSOs more flexibility on how they can price their packages. The idea is coming to a head as cable operators continue to lose video subs by the hundreds of thousands quarter after quarter because consumers, hard hit by the crummy economy, are seeking out less expensive options than what they can get from their providers now. (See Q2 Video Scorecard: Cable, Satellite Get Creamed .)
It'll be a hot topic throughout the event, but I could see it bubbling over on Friday's closing session, which features ESPN Inc. President George Bodenheimer, who runs the most expensive cable network of the lot, and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) EVP and Chief Strategy Officer Peter Stern, whose company has pledged to expand the availability of a no-frills, ESPN-free TV Essentials tier. The show should end with a bang, or so we hope.
Making a CE love connection
People seem genuinely excited about rumors that Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Xbox 360 is about to be turned into a video streaming device that supports not just AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s U-verse but with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s FiOS TV and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s Xfinity On Demand, as well. But that's just one expected example of how MSOs are starting to show more love for the CE guys as it becomes increasingly clear that precious few will be sad to see the CableCARD era fade to black ... someday, anyway. (See Microsoft Sees Xmas Debut for Xbox TV .)
Most of the conversation this week on cable's pursuit of broadband-connected TVs and broadband players will focus less on the how and more likely on the why. [Ed. note: Death to AllVid, anyone?)
Certain to be a don't-miss (for us, anyway) is a Thursday afternoon panel featuring Pandora Media Inc. VP of Business Development Ian Geller; Comcast Interactive Media Co-Founder and Comcast Interactive Capital Founding Partner Sam Schwartz (the guy behind the MSO's Web-TV Xcalibur project, by the way); LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) Director of Smart TV Innovation and Alliances Kurt Hoppe; and Roku Inc. VP of Marketing Charles Seiber.
Advanced ad advancements
Marketing is the "M" in CTAM, so advertising, and specifically advanced (e.g. interactive and targeted) advertising, is sure to be high on the agenda.
And some cable folks have already primed the pump for what's to come. On Tuesday, Cox Communications Inc. announced it is working with Visible World to deploy addressable advertising to more than 6 million customers, an indication that cable's done the talk and is ready to walk. Ready to run? Hey, let's not get carried away just yet.
But we'd be surprised if Canoe Ventures LLC , the cross-MSO advanced ad J.V., doesn't offer an update on its progress.
Cloudy with a [great] chance of marketing
OK, when marketing people start spouting off about cloud at a marketing-focused event, then you know it's arrived. But rest assured that the discussion will hinge on how cloud can help cable sell services and not delve too deeply into the techno-babble.
But on Wednesday afternoon, showgoers will get to hear from R. Brooks Borcherding, president of NaviSite (Nasdaq: NAVI), about six months after his company was purchased by TW Cable. (See TW Cable Nabs Navisite.)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable