Cable Shows It's Still in the Game

NCTA's annual conference focuses on the proliferation of platforms

Conventions aren't supposed to be fun and games. But that's okay with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association this year. Its National Show will feature a 7,000-square-foot pavilion exclusively for broadband games, showcasing game makers, publishers and platform providers.

The pavilion is one way the group hopes to help the 17,000 industry attendees make sense of the potential of “multiple platforms,” which promise a new life for cable's product.

The “Cable Game Arena” houses a “Mobile Gaming Lounge,” with drinks and games for cellphones, an “Online Alley,” featuring the latest broadband-enabled action-adventure games, and a “Racing Theater,” where attendees can compete from inside cars. Co-presented by NCTA and Turner Broadcasting's broadband gaming service, GameTap, the pavilion may remind conferees that cable-enabled gaming is one reason why operators still matter.

Moreover, the show offers a chance for networks to reaffirm their commitment to the operators.

“We care about what they care about,” says Fox Cable Networks Executive VP, Affiliate Sales and Marketing, Lindsay Gardner, noting that Fox will spend “close to $1 million” on its presence at the show this year. “They want this show to be healthy so we step up.”

Gaming aside, 19 of 35 panels this year directly address digital platforms, with breakout sessions on personalized and portable media, video-on-demand, online gaming and broadband video distribution, culminating in a final general session titled “Converging on Change: What's in Store…And Who's Behind It.” Scheduled for that, MTV Networks Chairman/CEO Judy McGrath, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia President/CEO Susan Lyne, Time Warner COO Jeff Bewkes and Comcast COO Stephen Burke will discuss how new delivery platforms will affect entertainment programmers and producers.

AOL Video's VP Fred McIntyre will participate in a panel called “Portal Promise: Video Distribution in a Broadband World” to discuss the profliferation of video on the Web. Scripps Networks Interactive Senior VP Beth Higbee will represent cable programmers on a panel called “Getting Out There: The Profit, Promise and Peril of Portable Media,” where she expects to discuss the challenge of matching content with the appropriate platform.

“You can put anything you want on a mobile device, but that doesn't mean people are going to use it,” she says.

At the “Next-Gen Media: What Tomorrow's Customers Want Today” panel, Todd Cunningham, MTV Networks' senior VP of brand strategy & planning, will ask a panel of Atlanta-area college students how they access their content, marking the first time NCTA will survey the demographic at the show.

“Today, the focus is on the technology and devices,” Cunningham says. “But the consumers are lost in the mix.” Meanwhile, he says, “the industry is making these sweeping assumptions about what consumers want.”

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