SCTE enters 2015 Cable-Tec Expo with clarity of purpose, unclear attendance expectations

Situated in New Orleans next week, will SCTE's Cable-Tec Expo 2015 be able to halt attendance declines, which reached 7 percent last year when the show was based in Denver, right in the heart of cable country? 

In a conversation with me, SCTE President and CEO Mark Dzuban declined to provide attendance expectations for this year's show. According to Multichannel News, the final attendance tally for last year's event came in at around 9,100, down from 9,800 for the 2013 event, which was held in Atlanta.

Dzuban said he had enough to worry about this year with potential hurricanes, noting that the Society of Cable & Telecommunications Engineers even took out insurance to avoid such weather calamity. 

"Look, the industry may be consolidating, but we've created partnerships with the MSOs to be even more of a valuable asset to drive training and results," Dzuban said. The org's confidence, he added, stems from an emerging clarity of purpose.

Several years ago, he explained, SCTE officials sat down with CableLabs and the National Cable Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and hammered out turf: The NCTA would handle regulatory policy; CableLabs would deal with science, specifications and technical development; certification, deployment, training and operational results would fall into the SCTE's bucket.

"We've evolved nicely over the last couple of years," Dzuban said.

In terms of cable industry engineering star power, the SCTE continues to draw big names.

Focused on a range of topics -- cyber security, DOCSIS 3.1, the SCTE's pet power-saving initiative, "Energy 2020," just to name a few -- the expo will kick off Wednesday, with a general session panel moderated by Cox Communications President Pat Esser. The tech-focused event will feature Comcast CTO Tony Werner; Bright House Networks President Nomi Bergman; CableLabs President and CEO Phil McKinney; and Balan Nair, executive VP and CTO of Liberty Global and the Cable-Tec Expo 2015 program committee chair.

Signifying the trade-org synergy Dzuban is touting, the show will not only feature CableLabs' McKinney, but also NCTA Chief of Staff K. Dane Snowden, who will brief show attendees on how his group is positioning the industry in regard to topics including OTT video transport and net neutrality.

There are also key events occurring outside the SCTE's purview: These notably include the FierceCable and FierceTelecom exclusive executive breakfast, Strategies for SDN and NFV: How cable MSO's can benefit from network virtualization. On Wednesday morning, FierceTelecom editor Sean Buckley will moderate what promises to be a lively discussion, featuring Jeff Finkelstein, executive director of strategic architecture for Cox Communications; Manish Jindal, VP and head of technology, strategy and portfolio management for Ericsson; Justin Paul, VP and head of network and PBU marketing for Amdocs; and Andrew Smith, distinguished engineer and chief architect for cable MSO networks for Juniper Networks. 

Noting the struggle to stay relevant amid quickening changes in the cable industry -- both in terms of business and technology  -- Dzuban quoted executive training guru Marshall Goldsmith, from whom he receives coaching: "He likes to say, 'What got you here won't get you there." --Daniel