On the Circuit: Seth Arenstein at the Independent Show

Monterey, CA — It’s two shows now and the marriage between the National Cable TV Coop and the American Cable Association appears to be solid. At the very least, the partnership between NCTC and ACA has produced a top-flight trade confab, The Independent Show, where business actually gets done.

Simple reason for that—the small and mid-size cable cowboys who attend this 3-day show own their respective ranches. They don’t need to have several executives kick around a carriage decision for months. They can make the call over afternoon drinks here in Monterey, where it’s downright cold at night and a pleasant 65 degrees at day.

And the Indie Show’s smaller size allows its organizers to take all to interesting evening venues. Last night it was a Disney-sponsored soiree at Monterey’s aquarium; great fish (to watch and eat), plenty of drink, and a well-dressed mouse to take pictures with the kids.

While it’s true that the larger cable shows manage to snag the big gets, including the CEOs of major media empires, those big-picture execs generally are so tightly scripted that the big-name television journalists who interview them during general sessions are unable to generate much substance.

While Time Warner biggie Jeff Bewkes earned national ink with his call for all television to go VOD last week at the CTAM Summit, he was surprisingly ineffective answering the basic questions thrown at him by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.

Contrast that with The Independent Show’s opening session panel Monday with hands-on cable chiefs, none of whom is a household name outside his/her own household. Still, they moved effortlessly between issues, ranging from regulatory concerns to bandwidth questions. The Bewkes session was many things, effortless was not one of them.

Perhaps the Independent Show panel seemed so effective because its moderator was CableWorld and CableFAX Daily columnist Steve Effros. Sure we’re biased and the current professor (and former cable lobbyist and FCC attorney) certainly managed to plug his consulting firm more than once, but you have to hand it to Steve: he knows the issues thoroughly.

Imagine: someone who’s knowledgeable about cable, moderating a panel at a cable trade show. What a concept.

• Click here for more commentary by Seth Arenstein »

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