Spurring growth of new products and reviving old ones will be the center of discussion this week when cable marketing executives gather in Seattle for Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing's annual "summit." CTAM has themed this year's convention "The Art and Science of Marketing."
CTAM hasn't seen the dramatic collapse in attendance that most other industry trade shows have experienced. The group expects around 2,300 attendees, off a bit from last year's show in Boston (a location far more conducive to last-minute drop-ins by East Coasters) and down around 10% from CTAM's largest gatherings back when the economy was strong.
But other conventions more dependent on attendance by vendors and their booth bunnies, such as NCTA and NATPE, have seen attendance plunge 25-50%.
Hot issues at CTAM will include fighting telcos' new price cuts for high-speed Internet services, packaging of video-on-demand services, and operators' rollout of personal video recorders in the face of the difficulties of existing players.
"Our advice has been to the marketers, don't talk about the technology; talk about the product," said CTAM President Char Beals.
CTAM's focus is on education and training, so speakers from outside the industry are encouraged to emphasize what lessons their companies have learned that can be applied to cable. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
But the big speakers, of course, have something to sell to cable operators. Opening the convention Monday will be Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who is once again trying to persuade operators to incorporate his company's software in set-top boxes. The software giant has badly flopped in past attempts.
Tuesday will feature Rob Glaser, CEO of streaming company RealNetworks, which is trying to persuade operators to incorporate its RealOne package of news, sports and entertainment video into cable's high-speed Internet deals.
Other non-cable speakers include Michael George, chief marketing officer of PC maker Dell, and Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman, global brands for ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.