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The Cable Show 2011

The 2011 Spring Technical Forum proceedings are now available for purchase. The CD-ROM features all of the papers that were used as the basis for the Spring Technical Forum sessions at The Cable Show 2011.

This year’s Spring Technical Forum sessions featured various subjects and authors:

The CD-ROMs are $75 each and can be purchased at the Spring Technical Forum Store. To purchase audio recordings of the sessions, visit our Conference Recordings Store.

The Call for Papers for the 2012 Spring Technical Forum will occur later this year during Fall.

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Dr. Jill Biden speaks before The Cable Show 2011 audience during the Thursday General Session.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President, spoke during the Cable Show general session about Joining Forces, a program she and Michelle Obama created to recognize, honor, and support military families.  At the National PTA Convention earlier this month, a National Guard general spoke about the hardships and struggles of military families when loved ones are deployed.

Unless you have a close family member serving in the military, you can’t understand what these brave and dedicated Americans experience when the nation is at war.  I found my thoughts drifting to my brother-in-law, a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, leaving his wife and 2 children in Illinois to serve in Afghanistan. I’ve always been in awe of how strong, capable and resourceful my sister is when her husband is deployed.  Joining Forces holds special meaning for me because it’s shining a spotlight on these families.

Dr. Biden went on to praise the cable industry for their efforts to highlight the challenges and triumphs these families face through PSA’s, TV programs, and other initiatives such as History’s Take a Veteran to School and a new one by Discovery that helps teachers understand the unique challenges military children face.

If you know anyone who is a member of our armed services, or their family members, take a moment to think about their sacrifices and be sure to thank them for their service.

– Kat Stewart, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Cable in The Classroom

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This blog post was re-posted with permission from Kat Stewart and Cable in the Classroom. To read the original post, visit the Cable in the Classroom Blog.

Brian Roberts Demonstrates Next Generation Xfinity TV Experience

Amid all that has been written about Brian Roberts buttoned-down and tight-as-a-drum demo of Comcast’s new Next Generation Xfinity TV, I offer these few additional observations.

  • Once again, Roberts have proven to be a surprisingly effective pitchman and presenter, particularly on camera, and seems to be comfortable in that role in a way many CEOs simply aren’t.
  • After listening for three days to a number of Cable Show speakers equate the word “cloud” with “security risk,” it was nice to see Comcast place the word back in a favorable light.
  • From a design perspective, one thing that really jumped out to me is the guide’s pull-down menu. A lot of experts this week talked about the importance of new applications and product wrinkles that relied upon and leveraged established consumer behavior. Given that, is there any more well-established humanbehavior these days than moving a cursor across a screen that walks, talks and acts like a website?
  • This is just a hunch, but watch what the new Xfinity cloud’s Pandora application does for the internet’s “music genome project.” Pandora is one of those web-based services that, once someone’s tried it, becomes addictive.

My sense is, all it needs is broader exposure (and access) to elevate its standing in the public consciousness and to have it start to gain traction with even casual music consumers. And, let’s be honest, if there’s one thing an application on a Comcast state-of-the-art, billion-bits-a-second cloud guide would qualify as, it’s broader exposure.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Paula Zahn; shame on me for that.

I should have known Oprah was not going to talk about reach and penetration.  She wasn’t going to talk about launch dollars or affiliate fees.  She wasn’t even going to talk about advertising revenue or cable households.

She was going to talk about one thing, and one thing only; the power of the Oprah brand.

In fact, right up front when asked by Zahn about the Oprah brand, she prefaced her answer with the admission, “I guess I have to admit it, I am a brand now.”

What made Oprah’s talk with Zahn so perfect was because, just like everything else in her ever-expanding empire, she poured so much of herself into it.  The Day Three General Session opening act was part The Oprah Winfrey Show, part girls’ night out, and part old-time revival meeting, with the Queen of Daytime preaching to high heaven about her passions and the things that have made her successful.

And it was great fun.

Among the highlights:

  • Oprah, who has the uncanny ability to make every person she ever interviews (or even meets) seem like her friend, calling David Zaslav, “Zas” and “Z Man.”
  • She told the audience that if she had to do it all over (starting a network) she would have built it one night at a time, nesting shows and building viewers on a night-to-night basis, rather than launching 24/7 right off the bat.
  • After shuttering her old show, she said she needed some “time away from the trenches.”  Oprah then said, “After Australia we came back and I thought that’s it. It’s over. There’s nothing more we can put under your chair.  There’s not another thing we can give you.”  She then looked over the the General Session hall full of thousands of chairs and hundreds of Cable Show attendees, took a beat and said, “That goes for y’all too.”
  • After Oprah admitted that patience was not a virtue she had in deep supply, Zahn smiled and quipped the same could be said for a lot of cable executives.
  • Oprah admitting the two guests she wishes she had gotten during the run of her show were two notorious killers; Susan Smith, the young mother of two who murdered her small children, but who first claimed they’d been abducted, and Mr. White Ford Bronco himself, O.J. Simpson.  “I have a dream of O.J. confessing to me,” she told the crowd.  “And I’m gonna make it happen.”
  • Her hellfire-and-brimstone tone, telling the audience that her greatest gift is her ability to connect with people, and then saying the world doesn’t need just another cable network.  It needed a network “where hearts could be opened” and “lives could be inspired.”  A network where viewers’ lives could become “more enhanced, more awakened, more alive.”
  • She followed that up with: “I have committed everything I have to this cable venture. It is my heart… my soul… everything,” before looking out into the audience and saying,  “And I wouldn’t bet against me.”

FCC Chairman Genachowski and Michael Powell, President & CEO of NCTA speak before the Wednesday General Session at The Cable Show 2011.

Even though I was already looking forward to the Day Two General Session, featuring the one-on-one conversation between Michael Powell and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, I was surprised at how much I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here were two men clearly at the top of their games, representing a wonderful study of both parallels and opposites: both lawyers, but with different backgrounds and political leanings; one a successful entrepreneur from the private sector now working as FCC Chairman, the other a former FCC Chairman now representing an industry launched by some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world has ever known.

As I watched the two men, I noticed how much fun each seemed to be having.  Both smiled regularly throughout; both spoke freely and rarely if ever paused to measure their words; even their respective body languages seemed to indicate that both men were being open and honest with each other – and us.

As for the content, I found that once again the notion of broadband as an agent of social and economic change ended up being the headline.  Just as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday called for the cable industry to help bridge the bridge the digital divide, Genachowski focused much of his attention on the very same subject.

He said there were three major gaps when it came to broadband: the deployment gap, the spectrum gap (today’s mobile devices are spectrum hogs, compared to the basic cell phone of yesterday), and the most critical of all gaps: the adoption gap.

Currently, only two of every three homes in America have chosen to adopt broadband. As Genachowski said, “67% is so far from good enough; we cannot be satisfied with just showing incremental change.”

He also said that full-scale adoption of broadband “will get the economy out of our hole,” noting that broadband-based Groupon added 8,000 jobs to the Chicago economy and that 80% of the Fortune 500 companies do all their job postings online – meaning that if you don’t have access to the Internet, you can’t even apply for most jobs in this country.

Genechowski said his next order of business as FCC Chair was going to be to launch a task force to explore new and innovative ways to develop public/private partnerships designed to bridge all three of the above gaps; Powell responded that the cable industry would be key partners in that effort (Fortunately, the cable industry has long focused on encouraging broadband adoption).

One last observation: I heard Mr. Powell – again, a former FCC Commissioner – say that government needs “appropriate humility” when acting on behalf of the American people.  I don’t know that he’d ever used that phrase before – I know I’d never heard him use it — but I found it so interesting and beautifully turned that I made a note of it.

As Genachowski was making a point about the FCC’s role in the shaping telecommunications policy, he referenced the very same phrase and even cited his NCTA colleague for having used it.

As noted in B&C‘s write-up of the session:

[Genachowski] said there aren’t really any “pre-cooked answers” to hard problem and that the agency needed to weigh costs and benefits that have, again to borrow from Powell as he acknowledged, “appropriate humility about what government can accomplish and what the risks are if government makes a mistake.”

Privacy, Please panel session at The Cable Show 2011. From left to right: Jules Polonetsky (Future of Privacy Forum), Lou Mastria (Canoe Ventures), Paul Rubin (Technology Policy Institute), Maneesha Mithal (Federal Trade Commission), Daniel Weitzner (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) and Moderator: Susan Israel (Comcast Cable Communications).

Policy talk turned to consumer privacy at the Cable Show as representatives of the FCC, White House, think tanks and Canoe Ventures came together to discuss the need for privacy protection for consumers.

The Administration and Commission focused on ways to streamline privacy notices, make privacy policies more transparent, implement “do not track”, and identify ways to make privacy easier for customers to understand.  Daniel Weitzner of the White House Office of Science and Technology commented that the goal is to allow consumers to understand how their personal information is being collected and used.

A number of questions were raised including the definition of “commonly accepted practices”, which have given some companies pause, and the difference in requirements between regulated an unregulated industries.

Paul Rubin of the Technology Policy Institute noted that the government changes are fairly significant, and he has seen no cost-benefit analysis to assess the burden on companies.  Rubin noted that the legitimate use of personal data has never actually generated a consumer harm.  There is, he says, no data to indicate that legal use is a problem.  While he acknowledges that people don’t want stuff known about them.

He pointed out that it is possible for information to be known, but not by people.  He says we are incapable of understanding that the “knowing” only occurs as aggregated in databases.

Rubin went on to suggest that the government should spend less time regulating and more time educating people on how this information works and the fact that nobody sees the data.

Drawing a clear line between legal use and illegal use, Rubin also noted that inadvertent data disclosure through hacking is a security problem, not a privacy problem.

Jules Polonetsky challenged Rubin’s position and said it’s not about harm.  It seems, he says, that privacy has gone beyond a question of harm and what must be addressed is the value proposition.  Consumers should be made to feel that they are in control, and that the data is in service of the customer’s needs, rather than the company’s.

Polonetsky says the focus should be on data optimization, not data minimization.

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Michael Turk is a Partner in CRAFT | Media / Digital, a full-spectrum communications agency.  Learn more about CRAFT at www.craftdc.com.

From left to right: Moderator: Maria Bartiromo (CNBC), Bill Tucker (MediaVest USA), Tim Spengler (Initiative) and Bill Koenigsberg (Horizon Media).

It’s always befuddled me a little how the worlds of cable ad sales and cable operations seem to sometimes run on parallel tracks.  I know I’ve had personal conversations with cable ad sales people here in Chicago, a Comcast town, in which I use the name “Brian Roberts,” only to find it draws some blank stares.

Similarly, some of the most powerful and important people in this industry – namely, the media buyers at some of the biggest agencies in the country– are sometimes unknown to the at-large cable population.

Today, I saw an example of this disconnect.  At the final segment of the Day Two General Session, CAB’s Sean Cunningham introduced a panel of three of the most important media buyers on the planet, Bill Koenigsberg of Horizon Media, Tim Spengler of Intiative and MediaVest’s Bill Tucker, along with moderator, Maria Bartiromo.

What I found most ironic was the fact that for two days I’d been hearing people speculating on how new technology, wireless devices and mobility might influence consumer behavior. Yet, by the time three guys took the stage  – key folks who are so good at what they do that advertisers give them significant dollars every quarter to invest on their behalf – some audience members had left.

It turned out to be my single most enlightening session of the show so far.

Among the highlights:

  • When asked, generally, where the money was headed, Tucker said it was clearly moving to cable, adding that a significant portion is also moving to digital.
  • Koenigsberg agreed, saying that during this year’s upfront, cable outperformed broadcast for the first time ever.  He then added that there’s also dollars being poured into online video and “the social bucket.”
  • Spengler said demand is up, so prices are up.
  • All three called for caution moving forward. For the second half of 2011 and early 2012, Tucker said there’s a “soft patch” in the road ahead and that consumers – and advertisers – will be cautious.
  • Koenigsberg said the jury’s still out on the second half of the year and that he sensed “fear in the scatter market.”  He added that while the auto sector is strong, job growth and unemployment remain a concern for advertisers.
  • He also said that while the ad market remains strong, that strength is relative to some major cutbacks that advertisers made a few years back.  What’s more, he said the upfront’s strength should not be mistaken for a barometer of the future, which remains a little hazy.
  • Tucker said that measurement is not keeping up with technology, and it needs to – especially in a three-screen world.  He also said social media must become embraced more fully by the measuring metrics.  “The digital bread crumbs are there,” he said.
  • Spengler said it’s not who’s watching, it’s who’s taking an action based on what they’re watching: “We’re investing heavily in trying to find that data.”
  • He also said that social media are helping define brands, and that those brands are now operating, as we all are, in a mobile and social world.
  • Koenigsberg called for a common social currency.  “What are we trading on?” he asked;  “In a world in which billions are being invested, we need consistency.”
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