commentary by Steve Effros Floor Plan I’ve been going to cable trade shows for more than 30 years. Sometimes I’ve wondered why. There are times when you feel you’ve heard it all before-not this year. This is one of those times when the National Show happens at a moment when there are a lot of opportunities to explore issues, technologies and ideas about where we are headed, what we are doing and how to do it. Since the time frame for the show has been consolidated, the challenge of seeing, hearing and talking to all the folks you want to connect with is going to be even more daunting. Here’s a sampling of what I am going to focus on: First, there are quite a few sessions, including the Opening General Session, that will bring some of the "new" players-the Silicon Valley and IP community-front and center. I know there will be plenty for us to learn and talk to them about. After all, as we shift more and more toward true "on demand" TV watching and distribution there is going to be a significant learning curve for programmers, advertisers, marketers and the technical community (as well as we lawyers, of course). All new stuff. All worth spending time exploring. Obviously, on the floor there will be a lot to look at in the way of new equipment and alternative techniques for actually delivering IP television. Along with that we will have the already-burgeoning DVR market with some interesting new entries. It’s no longer a two-company market for the supply of cable boxes and new accessories. Agreements signed with CableLabs indicate that consumer electronics has finally decided to start manufacturing boxes and accessories that our customers can buy at local retailers and easily connect to the system. That means time has to be spent learning about their plans, the new equipment and its capabilities. I’m not simply talking about HD/CableCard sets, although I have to admit it’s almost time that I take the plunge and buy an HD display so I will be talking to all the "experts" about the "right" one. But it’s lots more than that. There are new DVR devices with mega-hard drives and DVD recorders built in. There are whole-house networking devices. Speaking of home networking, I think it is increasingly clear that our customers want it. They want to be able to easily shuttle video and data to sets and computers around the home. The big cable companies saw this coming and crafted alliances to look at the distribution of power line distribution, WiFi and the like. All those folks are going to be showing their wares on the floor, too. I don’t know which is "best," but I believe that we all need to be up on the options, and our employees must be conversant about them as well. You can bet that your customers are going to ask! Designing a good show floor plan is a good way to learn. I also want to learn more about the technical advances regarding "network" DVRs (or, if you prefer, comprehensive "VOD"). Of course the legal and political discussions, including customer control of the TV, will also be critical to how all this plays out, and it will all happen at National. Should be a good, and very busy one.

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