CHICAGO--As the INTX trade show here winds down today, it's worth taking a look at the lighter side of the show.
To be clear, there was plenty of heavy talk during this year's event. Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) failure to acquire Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), over-the-top video, skinny cable bundles, 1 Gbps services--executives across the cable spectrum descended onto INTX to hash out these complex topics during keynotes, panel sessions and closed-door meetings. And as the event comes to a close, conclusions remain elusive.
But as with any trade show, much of NCTA's emphasis was directed on INTX's show floor. While it was clearly smaller than it was in the heydays of the 1980s--attendance then spiked at 30,000 and this year it was more like 10,000--the show floor remains a key gathering place for top cable executives.
And this year, in an effort to drive interest to the show floor, NCTA placed a massive stage in the middle of its McCormick Place space to draw attendees to the venue and highlight its executive speakers. Perhaps even more noteworthy, the group offered a happy hour each afternoon to entice show-goers back to the show floor in the waning hours of the day.
But what exactly did the INTX show floor look like? What wild and wacky ploys did exhibitors use to attract attention? And what elements fell flat? Scroll below for our anecdotal tour of the INTX show floor to get a feel for what it was like to be on the ground in Chicago:
Breaking from years past, NCTA this year offered topical areas, like this one focused on TV Everywhere. Other topic areas included an Internet of Things spot, a Navigation area, a "streaming pavilion" and a games pavilion. Connecting these areas were pathways with delightful names like "Connected Causeway," "Digital Drive" and "Interactive Alley." Sadly, the yellow brick road was nowhere in sight.
NCTA's layout and street names were cute, but they did not hide the notable amount of excess space between booths at the show. One top executive from a major programmer, who declined to be named, pointed to the shrinking booths at this year's show and the declining attendance and was unsure whether her company would participate in the INTX show next year. She said the Consumer Electronics Show in January has grown into a major event to rival the annual INTX show.
Of course, top vendors like Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) remained omnipresent at the INTX show. In its booth, Ericsson made it impossible to miss its focus on cloud technologies.
And, as in previous years, cable channels were out in force. Here, CSPAN shows off its rolling broadcast fortress.
At its massive booth, which sat at the entrance to the show floor so that no one could possibly miss it, Comcast showed off a variety of new technologies, including a display of its X1 "real time analytics engine." The screen showed national usage trends from the company's X1 service, and how those trends change over the course of a day. For example, in the morning bubbles representing popular morning news programs surfaced to the forefront of the screen, while late in the evening one could discern the titles of a few programs that were clearly for adults only.
Starz, at its booth, used a cheap but effective trick to promote its new "Survivor's Remorse" show--all trade show attendees, no matter who they are, can't help but enjoy the diversion of a quick carnival game.
Similarly, one western-themed cable channel made sure to make its content clear, with two cowboys showing attendees their mad roping skills. Above, some INTX executives showed off their mad skills right back.
And all of the companies present made sure to use their popular content to underscore their new offerings. For example, Comcast made sure to cover its Xfinity Studios announcement with plenty of Minions.
Of course, no trade show is complete without a few nice meals. Here, FierceCable Editor Daniel Frankel worked to make the rest of Fierce's editors jealous with his giant INTX steak.