There’s one vital thing all of us must do after returning from the Cable Show every year: Nurse that hangover. But after a few days and multiple Vitamin B injections, it’s also important to think about the serious, businessey stuff we did in between the parties, receptions and “business dinners” that took up the vast majority of our time. And for this, I give you the following food for thought:
- 3D – Yeah, it’s not going away. People wish it would. But it’s not. The consumer electronics companies are going to make us want it even if we don’t think we do right now. ESPN, Discovery and HDNet are already on the vanguard. Others will soon follow. This means every network will eventually need to deal with 3D production and all it entails.
- Brian is Back – Comcast chmn/CEO Brian Roberts made a big splash at the show in two ways. First of all, he opened up considerably to ex-News Corp chief Peter Chernin on the first day, giving us some details about Comcast’s plans with NBCU and vowing not to “Comcast-ize” the content giant, whatever that means. And Roberts also wowed us with that iPad demo during the Wed general session. But his willingness to trumpet the consumer benefits of mergers and multiplatform isn’t without risk: Now Comcast must deliver. The MSO must allay the pro-net neutrality camp, which has used the Comcast-NBCU merger as a rallying cry, and it must somehow be careful not to overpromise when it comes to the set top. Those legacy boxes are still out there. And they’re still pretty clunky. Any kind of run on new boxes could put Comcast in a tough position.
- Authentication – Interestingly, the debate over whether or how to do authentication seems to be over. Instead, panelists focused more on how to integrate “TV Everywhere” into the very matrix of cable’s multiplatform strategy. That’s an obvious result of a technology and business strategy that has already started to evolve and be accepted as reality. And that’s generally a good sign. But the specter of net neutrality is still out there, as NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow’s Q&A with FCC chmn Julius Genachowski made painfully clear. How the industry approaches authentication over the next year could have huge implications for how politicized the net-neutrality debate becomes.
- Interactive TV/Advanced Advertising – Panels focusing on these topics tended to be technical and wonky… but still well attended. That means that interactive TV—fueled by the intense interest in advanced advertising and metrics—is still a big driver as networks and operators hunt for new revenues. Canoe confirmed that its plans are well on track, and despite continuing challenges around the EBIF spec, interest among nets and ops in how to exploit that format seemed high at the show.
- The Economy – In general, moods seemed better. People were smiling. Booths were large and expensive. Traffic on the show floor (at least on Wed) seemed quite robust. None of this means that cable is out of the economic woods. In fact, great Q1 results came with some analyst downgrades and worries over the FCC’s “Title II Lite” plans. But compared to the last couple of years, the show seemed a bit more “sunny.” Whether that was an emotional shift or just the side effect of gathering in L.A. is anyone’s guess. Let’s see how it feels next year in Chicago and reassess.