Ah, Philadelphia in the summertime. What a heat wave. Walked out of my hotel one morning and was startled – startled – to actually "see" the air. Wet, hot, heavy air. This here air down near the sea level is heavy I tell ya! Meanwhile, a couple cable friends got robbed at gunpoint (not, as one wag said, by an ex-Comcast executive still "used to taking everything from vendors") in a tony downtown neighborhood. Still and all, a terrific CTAM. Nice convention facility. Lots and lots of attendees. Lots and lots of meetings spread around the convenient tables and chairs that all looked like folks were doing more than just talking … like doing deals or setting follow-up meetings. Good panels. Gutsy, mega-pro opening speaker in Shelly Lazarus … even if she did say the same thing we’ve heard for 29 years, she sure said it better. But it might take another 29 to really sink in (let’s hope not). Cable’s leader, Comcast’s Brian Roberts, threw down the gauntlet at the feet of the oncoming telcos … as CableFAX reported, he "dissed the telcos for, well, being telcos … As far as the telco price cuts, he didn’t sound concerned, noting that offers typically have a lot of strings attached. ‘I’m not sure that the way you want to build a business is through discounts, he said." I strongly agree with him about so-called "telco price cuts." They aren’t. They’re merely promotional come-ons. And it isn’t like cable isn’t a bit guilty, too. The "price wars" aren’t (yet); what is, though, are promotional wars. And they’re getting serious with EchoStar’s aggressive $19.95/month for 60 channels for 1 year … plus three months of HBO, Showtime and Starz. (Worth a question about their promotional contribution, folks.) Maybe they’re trying to do cable a favor by soaking up the incipient non-pay disconnects? Sure, and pigs fly. One of the best things about CTAM is that it draws folks from other disciplines and the fringes. This year, I sat down at length with some fringes that are making some sense … for cable in particular. Akimbo’s Joshua Goldman says he’s close to making a deal with an MSO to test his service over cable … sharing revenue and making the TV (connected to cable via the Web) behave like a PC picking and downloading video content. Like a "better his server than ours" logic, Akimbo can expand cable’s capacity while providing serious glue to faster broadband speeds. While not yet fully ready for prime time, the concept is more than just promising. Methinks every cable op should take a close look. Same goes for totalvid (lousy name, that; something for Karl Quist to think about), which has promotional deals for downloading video content to PCs with Comcast broadband. Both companies’ libraries are expanding exponentially and can provide real benefits to high-speed customers.

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