Cable Show ’08: Programmers to Strut in Big Easy
Strong Ratings, Critical Acclaim, Multiple Platforms Raise Their Profile
By Anne Becker -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/18/2008 8:00:00 PM
As cable’s biggest players converge at The Cable Show ’08 in New Orleans, programmers pumped up by strong ratings have much to celebrate.
The show, this year called “Think Big!,” will host programmers from cable’s content giants -- including Lifetime Networks, Discovery Communications, Comcast and News Corp. -- on panels and exhibitions on the more-than-200,000-square-foot floor.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet with both the developers of technologies and the distributors of content to see where the opportunities are to align ourselves,” Lifetime executive vice president of digital media and business development Dan Suratt said.
Cable networks are heading into the show strong in the wake of the protracted writers’ strike, which left their broadcast counterparts hobbled. Many cable networks posted their best-ever ratings last quarter, soaring with original programming as broadcast networks scrambled to ready goofy reality shows in place of viewers’ favorite scripted dramas. At the same time, cable in aggregate continues to broaden its share of the total TV-audience pie, as broadcast’s dwindles.
Network executives made this point abundantly clear to the advertising community at this year’s round of upfront presentations. Now, they will look to bring the message to operators, driving home the point that record-rating programming, in addition to innovative ways to distribute that programming, makes them invaluable partners.
Comcast plans to showcase its Style through a branded bus that will visit a Cox Communications call center, a local mall and other sites, as well as booth meet-and-greets with talent like E! Entertainment Television’s Kardashian family, PBS Kids Sprout’s Barney, Style’s Thom Filicia and Versus’ hockey legend Gordie Howe. Meanwhile, Fox Cable will showcase FX this year through a booth appearance by Glenn Close, star of its Damages, to show attendees that “this is a network that’s arrived,” FX president John Landgraf said.
Comcast’s thePlatform, a broadband-video-management company, will partner with PBS to power its new online video initiative, which will greatly increase the amount of PBS video available on both PBS.org and local PBS station Web sites.
Lifetime will spotlight its HD, video-on-demand and digital products by sponsoring a Sunday Women in Cable Telecommunications event, hosting talent like Army Wives’ Sally Pressman at its booth and introducing its new brand through “Flying Tigress, ”a Lifetime-branded plane, at the chairman’s reception.
“The world has changed in terms of how people access content and interact with it,” Lifetime Networks executive VP of distribution Lori Conkling said. “It’s really not about linear channels. It’s about how people can access Lifetime no matter where they are or what they’re doing.”
Discovery plans to focus on three key areas: the June 4 launch of its Planet Green channel, content from which has already been previewed on VOD; its HD service (with Green, Discovery will boast five channels in HD); and new ways to program VOD, including this summer’s content about NASA’s 50th anniversary, some of which will premiere on-demand before it runs on linear TV.
Said Lori McFarling, division marketing officer, domestic distribution and enterprises for Discovery Communications, “The big message for us is that whether it’s linear or HD, or no matter what platform it is, this show gives us an opportunity to delve into conversations with distributors about how we can optimize our content to drive new value with their customers.”
While the confab is mostly a hardware showcase, several panels will focus on programming. These include Sunday’s “Seeing Green: Practical Approaches for Environmental Stewardship,” including The Weather Channel’s Debora Wilson, Discovery’s Eileen O’Neill and National Geographic Channel’s Steve Schiffman.
For more on The Cable Show ’08, click here.
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