Opportunity Missed for a Meaningful Trade Show
If there’s any mourning over the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s decision to kill INTX, the latest iteration in a 65-year run of national cable shows, it wasn’t evident in conversations we bore witness to as the news broke during Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia.
Plenty of head scratching, but no mourning, and certainly no agreement with the stated cause as people hustled through their crowded schedules in Philly. The late September edition of the annual Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers convention, the only major stateside cable industry event still going, was by all accounts a big success with an attendance of over 10,000, topping the previous year by 21 percent.
So what gives with INTX?
There were no clues to be found in the blog posted by Michael Powell, president and CEO of NCTA, which recently rechristened itself as “NCTA, The Internet & Television Association.” Basically he faulted a changing marketplace where “large trade show floors, dotted with exhibit booths and stilted schedules have become an anachronism.”
Maybe the folks at SCTE or the producers of IBC, where we found it hard to move on some days during the five-day early September marathon in Amsterdam, or those staging the many other big events crowding the “Internet & Television” calendar from CES in January to NAB in April to MIPCOM in October just haven’t awakened to the new reality.
Or maybe there’s another explanation for the INTX demise.
There were clues aplenty at INTX 2016 in Boston, starting with an appalling opening general session where trashing Donald Trump rather than dealing with industry issues seemed to be top of mind in segments featuring Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington and Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos. Nobody we talked to over the course of those three days in May knew what to make of this neither fish-nor-fowl event, but all agreed the venerable show had lost its way.
The switch to naming the Cable Show INTX, the Internet & Television Expo, was supposed to bring together the new as well as old forces driving today’s video marketplace. Sounded like an okay idea, even if it pretty much mirrored what the NAB Show, occurring a month earlier, had long since become. But, regardless of labeling, it remained a cable event with an exhibition floor full of disgruntled vendors lamenting low traffic flows.
Not that they hadn’t had ample opportunity to connect with cable customers at NAB. With that event clearly the place to be, a lot of people were wondering why they needed to be spending money to be at INTX a month later.
And then came the coup de grace. Word started circulating that NCTA had scheduled INTX 2017 day and date with next year’s NAB Show. Say what?
Apparently NCTA was committed to staging the 2017 show at the Washington Convention Center, where the only available dates that worked for the organizers were the NAB dates. Throwing in the towel seemed to be the prudent thing to do at that point.
So maybe some measure of organizational incompetence explains the situation.
But Powell is right about one thing. The world has changed. Pay TV, while still a viable part of the video entertainment business, from a cable operator perspective has become a segment of the new broadband industry, where MSOs remain leading players at the cross roads connecting the business of equipping and operating networks with all the enterprises serving residential and business customers with an ever-expanding array of services and apps.
The cable network, like all telecom networks, is becoming an intelligent platform capable of enabling the quality of service, monetization, security, personalization and superior experience those businesses need to draw customers. From where we sit, the broadband industry looks like a great place to be, especially if you happen to operate the best broadband networks known to man.
In truth, the INTX collapse is just another chapter in an unfolding story about business leaders entrenched in old ways of thinking even as they mouth the truisms of the Internet Age. How else can one explain the failure to capitalize on the opportunity to foster new business models at a venue suited to the interests of all players as they transition from legacy silos to a vast new world of networked services?