Oh, the irony. HDNet chmn Mark Cuban, who became a billionaire during the dot.com boom, announced Wed that "the Internet is dead" and urged cable MSO execs to build neighborhood Intranets instead of relying on networks outside their control. At the closing session of CTAM Summit, Cuban said local high-speed data networks could create more robust and interactive video experiences than feasible over the public Internet. "We’re going to see a whole new level of applications as soon as these guys open up their platforms, which they’re starting to do," he said, arguing that if cable made enough applications available on local Intranets "people [would] have no reason to ever leave their networks." After the panel, Cuban told reporters that cable companies should encourage user-generated content on their local Intranets, which could lead to an explosion of content. He said programmers could also host their own local content. "This could all be done in the back office," he said. "My server next to your server." On the panel, Time Warner Cable pres/CEO Glenn Britt and Charter pres/CEO didn’t directly respond to Cuban’s Intranet idea, but Britt did question the economics of creating neighborhood Intranets. However, he agreed that people often overlook the video bandwidth challenges inherent in the public Internet. "I think there’s a lot of vested interests who don’t want you to know that’s the reality," he said. George Bodenheimer, ESPN/ABC Sports pres and Disney Media Networks co-chairman, said content providers must take their content anywhere customers want to consume it—but everyone is trying to test new models. "You throw as much spaghetti on the wall as you can until you figure out what works," he said. Panelists also talked about branding challenges and other thorny issues as competition heats up. Smit said cable must build deeper consumer relationships. "The more competitive things get, the more we have to have an identity with the consumer," he said. Britt, meanwhile, suggested taking a page from big consumer brands. "We’ve got to get into the kind of marketing that P&G does," he said. — More Hallway Punditry from Cuban: "I think there’ll be fewer commercials that cost more… On our original programming, going forward there’ll be no commercial interruptions, whether it’s a movie or a show. We’ll have a pod before and a pod after… but we will charge a whole lot more for them because there’ll be fewer spots. Can we get away with it? I don’t know. But I don’t have the same pressure to hit numbers. If I can pay my bills, I’m a happy camper." The Weather Channel’s Debora Wilson said, "I think you’ll see a greater variety of ads."

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