Ask nearly anyone at the annual cable trade show what we can expect from events set to unfold here in Chicago over the next three days, and they’ll all likely tell you some variation of the same thing.
Even though it’s a cable TV convention, Web video and, in particular Netflix, will be on the tip of every convention-goer's brain. Is it friend or is it foe? If the latter, how will the industry compete? And, of course, how can the industry adapt as the lines between cable and online video content blur more and more?
But don’t expect many of these questions to be addressed head-on at the convention meetings this week. According to sources familiar with the matter, when the National Cable Television Association floated the idea of making Web video an official discussion theme of the convention, organizers received major pushback from the cable industry attendees, who desperately did not want that subject on the open agenda. So while IP distribution may be hot, it won't get its own panel—in the perhaps vain hope that the fights between programmers and the cable operators over issues like whether cable subscribers can get the content they've paid for on iPads and other devices (besides their television set) can be left offstage.
Still, the slate of events in the coming days should prove interesting. Senior executives from all the major cable companies will be in attendance for at least some of the show, including Viacom chief Philippe Dauman, who is set to join Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, Cox Communications president Patrick Esser, Time Warner Cable president Glenn Britt, and News Corporation deputy chairman Chase Carey to kick off the week with a panel discussion at the General Session tomorrow morning—following a keynote from Chicago's own Rahm Emanuel.
CNN’s Candy Crowley, CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, and former Obama advisor David Axelrod are some of the names set to appear at Wednesday’s General Session, and Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, Comcast chief Brian Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, and Jill Biden are among those scheduled to speak on Thursday morning.
And while Web video will not be an official subject of many of the discussions at the NCTA expo, rest assured it will undoubtedly be the one thing everyone is talking about.