The Cable Show

INTX Verdict: Still a Cable Show

CHICAGO -- INTX -- The new Internet & Television Expo still looks a lot like a cable show. Or maybe more accurately, it looks a lot like a Comcast show.

Indeed, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) Chairman & CEO Brian Roberts stole the spotlight in the opening keynote session. Then the company pulled reporters off site on day one for an exclusive event; and Comcast news dominated the newswires throughout the conference. (See Comcast Readies D3.1 & RDK-B.)

Despite efforts by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) to rebrand its signature trade show and invite in newcomers, the event was primarily a reminder that the traditional cable industry is shrinking rapidly, and that, merger or not, Comcast is still the main focus of attention.

The NCTA hasn't released attendance numbers yet -- and a spokesperson said it may decide not to do so -- but the show floor felt overly spacious, and the energy level muted. Programmers joined cable operators and traditional cable vendors in the exhibit hall and on stage, but over-the-top service providers, not to mention telecom and satellite companies, were woefully under-represented.

Hulu LLC and Sling TV both participated on one panel relegated to the 9 a.m. time slot on the last half day of the show. An AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) executive presented in a session on gigabit networks. And DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) had a representative speak at the Imagine Park showcase on advertising trends. But there was no apparent evidence of Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) or Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), among others.

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EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS) did have a booth at the show to highlight its upcoming Sage smart home platform. But it was so tucked away in a corner that finding it in the easy-to-navigate exhibit hall still required a map.

The most glaring evidence that INTX didn't accomplish its goals was the line-up of main-stage speakers. The one major service provider panel included the CEOs of Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Cox Communications Inc. , Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) and Charter Communications Inc. -- five well-known cable leaders, zero cable competitors. (See Cablevision Chief Plays the Dating Game.)

And it wasn't much of a nod to diversity either.

The NCTA is right that the Cable Show had to change. Unfortunately, that may ultimately mean it gets swallowed up by a bigger event… kind of like the smaller cable companies who are now on the menu for their larger brethren.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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