It’s never easy to spend a few days at a luxurious ski chalet with friends and colleagues. Seriously, it’s really hard. But in this case, the torture we all endured at Vail’s Cascades resort was worth it. That’s because last weekend’s 18th annual SkiTAM, er… sorry… I mean, Adaptive Spirit… event raised a whopping $1.1 million for the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team. This annual fundraiser remains a cable treasure that must endure despite its necessary name split from CTAM, which recently disbanded most of its regional groups. More than 900 attendees from all walks of life mixed a bit of business with some snow-covered pleasure to raise all that money, with execs forming some 52 racing teams with the paralympic attendees. And out of the 260 total racers, 34 were kids!
The industry has changed in recent years. Multiplatform and OTT means that cable’s clubby bubble was long ago pierced by interlopers from Silicon Valley. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing considering that cable must evolve and think differently to survive in the current environment where consumers demand everything everywhere. And right darned now. I was lucky enough to moderate a Thurs panel (yes, we got some work in) that included cable veterans like Cox svp Joe Rooney but also included the perspective of Facebook’s head of global performance solutions Dhiraj Kumar, who brought a completely different and welcomed perspective to the group. In a bit of serendipity, Facebook had just that morning announced Facebook Home, which brings an integrated “skin” to some smartphones based on Google’s Droid operating system.
But the discussion about personalization of content and services confirmed that the traditional tech and cable communities aren’t as far apart on this as you might think. Both sides want to target advertising and services directly to customers while weeding out irrelevant data that would only waste their time. This applies to content as well. Rooney noted that Netflix constantly suggests he watch back episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy”—only because he uses the same log-in as his Grey’s Superfan daughter. Recall that Cox—in partnership with Cisco—in Jan unveiled at CES a new 2nd screen app and EPG that allows for up to 8 identities to customize their content recommendations and preferences. That’s the future. And now even Facebook wants to more seamlessly integrate friend recommendations into the mix. So do cable operators. There’s a lot for cable and tech companies to talk about, to be sure.
The information didn’t stop there: Friday morning included what could only be described as brain-picking sessions in which attendees could pepper top cable execs like Bright House Networks president Nomi Bergman with questions about the business. But yes, sooner or later, it was all about the slopes. Teams of execs and paralympic athletes spent Friday honing their chops before Sat’s big race for charity. A raffle held Sat night raised $23,750, and this year’s silent auction ended up raising $59,396. It’s enough to make you proud that cable has maintained this great tradition, no matter what we end up calling it. Adaptive Spirit? How about AdSpir? Catchy, eh? No? Alright, I’ll shut up now. The important thing is that SkiTAM lives, and it has never been stronger and more vital to ensuring that cable keeps giving back to the communities and to the people it serves.