This year's Cable Show, which starts tomorrow in Los Angeles, assumed several degrees of importance last week when FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski took off the gloves and said broadband services deserve some telecom-like regulatory oversight.
That should add a bit of drama to a show that was already determined to attract more than the normal attention of a cable industry slipping into the dual worlds of content and delivery.
Mark Bell, vice president of industry affairs for the NCTA had what some might consider the unenviable task of overseeing the development, planning and construction of the "My World" exhibit, the industry's focal point. He discussed the purpose of the exhibit and how it came to be.
FC: For an industry that should be so focused on the consumer, cable's trade show generally locks out anybody who's not an industry insider. Why build an exhibit that preaches to the choir?
Bell: There are a lot of people that are the intended audience. While a number of us in the industry are very much in touch with what's just around the corner, not the entirety of the cable ecosystem has seen all the products and services that are coming down the pike that cable is evolving to support.
FC: We're guessing that this year's focus will skew a more to a different audience. Last year in Washington you had regulators and politicians traipsing all over the floor. This year, while politicians like Genachowski will be on hand, it your audience might be a bit hipper than the Washington gray suits.
Bell: The NCTA Cable Show committee (guided by co-chairs Glenn Britt, chairman, president and CEO of Time Warner Cable and Matt Blank, chairman-CEO of Showtime Networks) suggested there was an opportunity for the industry to rebrand or re-launch what cable is to Hollywood and Silicon Valley audiences. The show hasn't been there since 1996 and we thought it would be a great opportunity to show what we've accomplished since then and peek around the corner as to where the platform is taking us.
FC: In the end, though, shouldn't your target audience be the consumer?
Bell: We do it from the consumer's perspective. We show not just what cable's doing today but around the corner in personal, portable, findable and shareable entertainment and information. Then ultimately, we portray that through the press to consumers.
FC: So describe the exhibit a little bit.
Bell: You get the sense that this is a cityscape with homes and a theater and hotel and outdoor area for wireless broadband. Last year we had a focus on broadband and all the benefits for consumers along the lines of healthcare, education and transportation, the whole connected community. This is very much the next iteration; it's very much applications-based.
A bird's-eye view of the NCTA My World exhibit at The Cable Show.
FC: The big electronics push for consumers has been 3D TV. Will there be 3D demos and aren't you worried about some of the side effects? Will you be putting a warning label on My World--not safe for pregnant women and those who've been out on a three-hour martini lunch?
Bell: (With a laugh.) We're going to have 3D but it's not going to make anybody sick. We'll have the neighborhood 3D digital cinema where we'll be showing movie trailers and video clips with the point being, "coming soon to a living room near you." Then we'll actually show 3D running live over Time Warner's cable plant in the single family home.