Cable operators were invited to come out and play at a new annual conference connecting consumers with the companies impacting their media, lifestyle habits and needs, but opted instead to stay at the office. More than 25,000 members of the general public and 460 journalists attended Ziff-Davis’ Digital Life event, held in New York’s Javits Center Oct. 14-17. But area operators Time Warner Cable and Cablevision both declined to participate. Among the Digital Life exhibitors were EchoStar, RCN, Time Warner subsidiary AOL for Broadband, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google. Scientific-Atlanta passed up the opportunity at the last minute, although Motorola seized the opportunity to promote its HDTV digital cable set-top boxes. So what did Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and S-A miss? More than just booth after booth with demos of cutting-edge technology that allowed Joe and Jane Public to push buttons, poke gadgets and ogle cute robots. Manhattan’s local cable companies could have showcased their wares in the same venue as their aggressive competitors: Overbuilder RCN offered demos of HD and high-speed videogames, while DBS provider EchoStar pitched a tent for its digital wares. The Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing had encouraged MSO participation, and even planned an Only Cable Can pavilion for cable’s advanced services. "Timing and logistics did both situations in," says Anne Cowan, CTAM’s VP of communications. "We had a month to put it together and we couldn’t make it happen right." CTAM instead used Digital Life’s opening day as a backdrop for live satellite interviews with local morning newscasts in 10 markets, hiring tech journalist David Green to highlight cable’s deployment of DVRs, telephony and high-speed access. Cowan anticipates more operator participation at next year’s Digital Life. "I’d think that operators would want to convey among an audience like this that they want to be more than a video provider," says Digital Life producer Jim Hasl. "It’s an easy message to convey."