It wasn’t long ago that any discussion of Internet and mobile video among cable execs generally took place at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo or at a few smaller, tangential conferences scattered throughout the year. Not anymore. The rise of the tricked-out consumer — seemingly connected to all media constantly and never without some kind of multimedia-capable gadget — has put technology front and center for the entire industry.

The evidence: The recent Television Critics Association (TCA) tour in L.A. and CTAM Summit in D.C. TCA used to be just about the shows. And to think that the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing used to be about old-school marketing (remember newspaper ads and direct mail?). The bottom line is that the cable tech guys are no longer the only ones who have to understand this stuff; every department from content development to consumer marketing is involved in this revolution. And there’s no turning back.

For cable operators and programmers, this is a challenge and an opportunity — but mostly an opportunity, if both sides play their cards right. At TCA and CTAM, much discussion centered on how to get all of these new shows on alternative platforms — a necessity that influences everything from the kind of stuff that gets greenlit (love your pitch, babe, but can this show be split into small, digestible bites?) to the very contracts that cover talent.

At TCA, the usual parade of glitzy show panels got upstaged to a degree by an unusual Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers panel at which NBC’s Marc Graboff and Warner Bros.’ Bruce Rosenblum said they’re still trying to figure out the Internet and mobile platforms — and therefore can’t be expected to ink new contracts with unions anxious to get a piece of the multi-platform action. The issue has become a sore subject, creating perhaps more tension than has existed in a long time between the two camps. A strike wouldn’t be good for cable. Blame technology.

At CTAM, meanwhile, the multi-platform world became the subtext of nearly every panel. In one session, Time Warner Cable’s SVP and chief programming officer Melinda Witmer noted that she controls the bill customers get every month (and takes their calls) — and therefore owns the customer. But reps from Oxygen and Disney begged to differ, arguing that customers have a special bond with their brands that more easily extends to other platforms. Both sides eventually admitted they must work together. Here’s an idea: How about MSOs take point on linear and VOD, programmers master broadband video and everyone share the wealth on mobile platforms? Of course, it’s not that easy. But technology presents an unprecedented opportunity and may very well become the glue that binds MSOs and programmers. Time to roll up those sleeves and figure it out.

TCA and CTAM – Going Tech?

TCA panels increasingly delve into multi-platforms’ influence on the creative side.

CTAM panels must factor technology into every marketing discussion, sometimes creating tension between MSOs and programmers.

In the end, working together may be the only way for all sides, including consumers, to benefi

Michael Grebb is executive editor of CableFAX Daily. He can be reached at mgrebb@accessintel.com.

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