The ’07 Cable Show was nothing if not a bed of contradictions. On one hand, execs trumpeted cable’s triple-play execution in the last year, with Comcast chmn/CEO Brian Roberts so giddy that he got down in the trenches and did a broadband demo for the crowd. But then again, cable stock prices flatlined all week despite the hype, which—while always bountiful at the annual confab—was actually backed up by stellar Q1 numbers this time. Wall Street remains hard to please, even on cable’s best day. And let’s just face it: The Chris Albrecht situation at HBO was an unfortunate distraction for everyone, including those of us who felt obliged to cover it. When it came to Albrecht and Time Warner, what happened in Vegas just refused to stay there, growing into a national scandal and filling news holes that might otherwise have featured more convention coverage. It also dominated cocktail-hour chatter that could have been better spent talking about, uh… the cable business, maybe? As if being in Vegas wasn’t distraction enough. Albrecht, by the way, pleaded "no contest" on Fri, and agreed to a 6-month suspended sentence and $1K fine. That aside, the Cable Show offered several big takeaways: 1) Cable is no longer a "mature" industry doomed to single-digit growth; the triple-play, commercial, wireless, you name it… all of these new lines mean cable is officially a growth business. So even if Verizon and AT&T succeed in stealing lots of customers, cable can make much of it up with increased ARPU. Who’d a thunk it a decade ago? 2) The CoxABC plan to test VOD with the fast-forward feature disabled so people can’t skip ads is a big deal, even though it got overshadowed by other show coverage. If consumers react positively, it could ease advertisers’ minds and help bolster the industry’s pursuit of the network DVR. 3) CIOs are finally getting the respect they deserve after years of playing 2nd fiddle to the CTO crowd. The triple-play requires back-office integration, and these folks are on the front lines. The NCTA‘s ’06 addition of the CIO tract is looking more and more like a smart move. 4) Advertising holds the key. CAB‘s stepped up involvement in the show was an important development, as harnessing new ad dollars from the Web and VOD could fuel growth for years to come. 5) The long arm of Washington remains. While regulators no longer obsess over rising cable rates, FCC chmn Kevin Martin made clear in his speech that he won’t back down on mandatory a-la-carte or multicast. Good thing cable’s making lots of money. It will need it to pay all those D.C. lobbyists.

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