Some cable networks are gracing Anaheim hotels during next week's Western Cable Show, but there won't be many networks on the show's exhibition floor itself.
The California Cable Television Association, which presents the show, is estimating total attendance will be off 30%-35% from last year's record 33,000 attendees. The decline among cable programmers is even more palpable. Only NBC Cable, The Golf Channel, The Outdoor Channel and C-Span are exhibiting. Bloomberg TV recently converted its space from a booth to a simple floor lounge. (Bloomberg decided last week to pull out of the upcoming NATPE show altogether.)
In early November, the CCTA made a last-ditch move to bring some networks back. For $14,000, programmers get a hospitality suite at nearby hotels and access to the convention hall and the chairman's reception.
In recent weeks, 10 programmers—including USA Networks, Fox Cable, Lifetime Television, Game Show Network and HBO—snapped up the new option.
"They love and support the show, but they can't spend huge amounts of money to fabricate, ship and man the booths," said C. J. Hirschfield, CCTA's vice president of industry affairs.
Although Western Show booths are typically smaller than exhibits at the NCTA show, networks still spend between $100,000 and $500,000 on their displays.
"We're still in distribution mode. and we wanted to respect the CCTA," said Anne Droste, Game Show's senior vice president of affiliate sales. "Spending $14,000 to have access seemed like a very reasonable compromise."
Network execs say meeting operators in the hotels will eliminate the noise and chaos of the exhibition hall. Participating networks also get access to the press room, which is closed off to companies that, like ABC Cable, Discovery and Turner Broadcasting, are not coughing up any fee.
CCTA officials say they won't "police the press room," but the networks that are staying away are costing the association. Seventy percent of Western Show money goes to fund the group's operations and lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., and California.
NBC Cable decided to stay on the floor to push the upcoming Salt Lake City Olympics and new digital net CNBC World, says Director of Marketing Erica Conaty. Its booth also features CNBC, MSNBC and Shop NBC.
The Golf Channel stands at about 42 million subs and hopes its presence on the floor helps spur more distribution. "The operators remember who their partners are, and, in a tough time, we stood up," notes Bill O'Donnell, Golf Channel's vice president of affiliate sales and marketing.