Committed to the First Amendment
Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/12/2002 8:00:00 PM
Brought to you in living HDTV
We were prepared to roast some peacock this week after seeing a story elsewhere suggesting NBC was planning to leak false fall schedules in an attempt to keep us poor media types from stealing its upfront thunder. NBC flatly denied the charge, so, absent any independent evidence of our own, we will take the bird at its word. Had the story been true, however, we would have pointed out that lying once is like adding a drop of black paint to a can of white. You can't take it back, and it irrevocably taints the product, which in this case would be the network's credibility. Enough said.
Instead of roasting, we want to toast the network for its decision to add more HDTV to its prime time lineup this fall. NBC wouldn't say exactly how much. The same thunder-protecting secrecy that prompted the report about false schedules may also be behind its reticence on HDTV details, but our recollection of earlier conversations with executives on this topic is that it will be a large portion of its prime time lineup. We hope so.
As we said last week in this space, programmers must step up to the plate. Although NBC has done the kind of big-ticket sports event—Super Bowl, Triple Crown, basketball—that is arguably the best advertisement for the technology, it's in broadcasters' best interests to get in the habit of HDTV.
Upbeat in New Orleans
If you look simply at the numbers, you might conclude that last week's NCTA convention was a downer. At 17,000 and change, attendance was down 30% from last year in Chicago, 45% from two years ago. But focusing on those numbers is a mistake. It's like saying the whole band didn't show up, just Wynton and Ellis Marsalis. The crowd was small, but good. With a few notable and excusable absences, cable's top executives turned out: operators, programmers, hardware vendors, Washington reps, everybody. Even billionaire cable investor Paul Allen cruised up the Mississippi to hold court on his yacht. John Malone and Ted Turner would have made the show complete, but only for old time's sake.
With NATPE's demise and NAB's inexorable transformation into a professional audio-video show, NCTA has emerged as the premiere TV convention. If you tired of cable, you could talk broadcasting with Karmazin (CBS), Chernin (Fox), Kellner and Parsons (The WB), and Eisner and Iger (ABC).
NCTA would have preferred more people in the seats and aisles (and the revenue they represent), but it accomplished what it wanted. Through the panels and exhibition, it declared to the world, particularly Washington and a skeptical Wall Street, that cable is healthy and a technological leader pushing deeply into high-speed Internet access, HDTV and VOD. It sent the message. Now it must wait to see if it was received.
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