This year’s National Show will examine cable’s entrepreneurial roots and highlight the risks and rewards ahead. The convention’s co-chairs, Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge and Oxygen chairman/CEO Gerry Laybourne, sat down with us to talk about what we should expect from this year’s confab. What part of the quad-play bundle do you expect to be emphasized most during the show? Rutledge: VoIP is a real value driver for consumers. When you add it, you have the opportunity to sell more high-speed data and video because it’s so inexpensive for cable operators to provide. Consumers can cancel their existing phone service, take the money they saved and buy high-speed data and digital video and any other services cable operators provide. Therefore, voice drives the triple play. Laybourne: What about the quad play, Tom? Rutledge: While companies have done deals with cellular companies, nobody is actually rolling out a quad play at the moment. It’s an anticipated service development. It will be an opportunity, so people are going to be interested and want to talk about it. The immediate opportunity is voice over IP. It seems like you also are putting an emphasis on business services. Rutledge: It is commonly misperceived that cable is strictly a residential business. It’s becoming clear that with our HFC architecture built in front of most of America’s businesses, that there is a huge opportunity for cable to serve the business customer universe. That universe is actually larger than the residential universe. That’s why we created a pod on the show for business. And we created sessions in the show on Tuesday and coordinated with CTAM to have the Business Services Forum as well [April 11 and 12]. Who will be discussed more in Atlanta, News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch or AT&T/SBC’s Ed Whitacre? Laybourne: I bet Whitacre. Rutledge: I think it will be the fact that Whitacre and Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon disagree with each other. SBC says you don’t need to build fiber to the premises in order to be competitive. In fact, SBC says it’s a waste of money and you can’t get a return on the investment. Seidenberg said that AT&T’s strategy is trying to build television on a plain old telephony platform and it won’t work competitively. What do you hope regulators will take away from this show? Laybourne: We are a local business. We haven’t outsourced our jobs. We’re there, on the ground, with jobs for local communities. We continue to invest—$100 billion in infrastructure. That’s the message that we need to get out there. Rutledge: Under the rules that have been established in Washington, the cable industry has put its money where its mouth is. We invented the most sophisticated infrastructure anywhere on Earth, in terms of capacity. The programming industry, with the cable operators, has created the largest universe of content available to consumers in a mass market anywhere. How will we see your stamp on this year’s show? Laybourne: We wanted to tie into NCTA’s ad campaign, "Cable: A Great American Success Story." That’s our theme. Our marketing materials come from that. They are much more consumer-centric then we’ve had in the past. Rutledge: Cable has rich, entrepreneurial roots. It also has a tremendous business opportunity in front of us. We thought that we could highlight the new opportunities in the industry while celebrating our roots. Cable executives go to this show every year. How will this one be different? Rutledge: We’ve broken the pavilions on the floor into four groups to create genres within the show: VoIP (VoiceNet), business (BizNet), games (Cable Games Arena) and tech (CableNet). It’s a series of shows within the show. Did you consider opening the show floor to consumers? Laybourne: I know that it has been considered in the past. But it didn’t specifically come up in any conversations I had. We’re down to one major trade show per year. Is that enough? Laybourne: It’s about right. The Western Show used to be tremendously important. That was where John Malone made his famous statement about the 500-channel universe. For our mature industry, it just makes sense to consolidate. How difficult was it to decide to move the show from New Orleans? Laybourne: Even as Hurricane Katrina got bad, our goal was to be the first one back into New Orleans. We were not scalping around trying to find a new location. When we realized just how bad it was, NCTA’s Barbara York made the brave recommendation that we sign up for New Orleans for ’08, the next available year that we had. There appear to be more women involved with the show this year. Laybourne: We spent a lot of time making sure that there were fully integrated panels. We have distributors and programmers on just about every panel. We have people from the outside, and people from the inside. And we have men and women. What we, of course, don’t do well on is minorities. We are trying to get better. What’s your favorite convention city? Laybourne: New Orleans, because of the rich art and food and music and history. It was my favorite before the hurricane and I hope it will stay my favorite. Rutledge: Atlanta. The city is great. At my last Atlanta convention, I saw Bob Dylan’s son playing with his band. It was a memorable experience. Laybourne: Aren’t you going to ask about our favorite National Show memory, John? Mine was when we had our annual lunch for women last year. We had Fabio ride in on a white horse. He picked Marianne Paskowski up in his arms, to the sighing of every woman in the room. Tom, what’s your favorite? Rutledge: I’m still trying to envision that one. I can’t top that.