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What's the NCTA Thinking?

Do NCTA officials have a secret death wish for their annual INTX show?

It certainly seems that way after learning that the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) intends to hold its struggling cable-plus show next spring during the very same week that the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will hold its much larger, more dynamic and highly successful broadcasting-plus show. The NCTA plans to stage the Internet & Television Expo in Washington, D.C. from Wednesday April 26 through Friday 28, while NAB will hold its NAB Show in Las Vegas from Saturday April 22 through Thursday April 27.

So what gives here?

Asked about the rather questionable show timing, an NCTA spokesperson replied that the cable trade group simply had a difficult time finding dates in the nation's capital next spring. "The show's dates in D.C. had to work around both Passover and Easter (and spring breaks around that time), the convention center's calendar, and the potential congressional calendar," the spokesperson wrote in an email exchange.

Perhaps. But that all sounds pretty lame. After all, Passover and Easter and spring breaks occur every spring and they've never caused NCTA any problems before in the long history of the event that was formerly known as the Cable Show. And the US Congress, while not known as the hardest-working legislative body in the world, doesn't exactly go out of session at the end of April.

The NCTA spokesperson also noted that INTX won't totally overlap the NAB Show next year, which is true. However, at a time when such traditional big vendors and programmers as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) have already slashed their booth sizes at the show, and such other major cable players as A&E Networks and Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA) are not even bothering to exhibit there anymore, the NCTA seems to be asking for trouble.

Last month's INTX Show in Boston, which took place a good three weeks after the NAB Show in mid-April, certainly couldn't give NCTA officials much cause for optimism. A "sleepy show" by most accounts, it clearly drew markedly fewer than the 8,000 or so folks who attended last year's already diminished show in Chicago. Not too surprisingly, the NCTA, for the third straight year, declined to reveal the show's official attendance figures after it ended.

"We are just more focused on the transitioning of the show (from the Cable Show to INTX) to be a wider, more open event attracting new and different speakers/attendees from companies beyond those just in the cable industry," the NCTA spokesperson wrote. Uh huh. Maybe Donald Trump should use that as another excuse for not releasing his tax returns.

So could the Cable Show's long and once-glorious run on the trade show circuit finally be coming to an end? I hope not. But the NCTA sure isn't helping its cause any with its curious scheduling plans for next year's event. Is it too late to rethink this one?

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

jbtombes 6/7/2016 | 1:15:34 PM
Re: It's DC The wretch is right. DC is important, esp. with a new administration and Congress, so government calendar is a factor. The Convention Center calendar is an unknown for us outsiders, but could have been critical. If you can get MSO C-level execs and their entourage, who may not go to NAB anyway, you can still satisfy some vendors. Attendance count is only one metric. 
Joe Stanganelli 6/6/2016 | 2:49:11 PM
Confidence? This could go either way.  Sometimes you have to take a risk and go directly head to head with your rival.  Perhaps NCTA really is feeling confident.
inkstainedwretch 6/6/2016 | 2:23:31 PM
It's DC The point of occasionally siting INTX in DC is to invite a few key Congressman to come in and schmooze. What happens on the show floor borders on irrelevant compared to that.

The show is shrinking and there's little to be done about that. Programmers haven't needed to showboat as part of a strategy to gain carriage in more than a decade -- thus decreasing impetus to buy enormous booths (nothing new there). The consolidation among The Bigs just exacerbates that. The increasingly diverging needs of The Bigs and the much smaller MSOs that are left seems to be keeping The Independent Show relevant for that crowd.

It was wise to try to expand out of the cable-only focus, but that's been a struggle. CableLabs' raising its profile in Silicon Valley helps a lot, but not enough to salvage INTX yet.

I would expect the show to shift back to a schedule in 2018 that won't force vendors to choose between two shows they might prefer to attend. 

-- Brian Santo 
Kevin Mitchell 6/6/2016 | 1:20:54 PM
INTX - productive show While I heard complaints of size of INTX, it was a great show for us. We had scheduled and improtu meetings that were high value and productive. There was solid exec level participation from big and small MSOs.

That being said, that timing in 2017 is not a good sign for the future. Will those cable execs attend INTX? Can vendors swing both events?
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