Cablers tackle hot topics

Repercussions from the passage of cable reregulation legislation, technological advances and the impact of a new administration in the White House will be key issues under discussion at the 25th annual Western Cable Show, tomorrow through Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center.

More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the show–about 300 to 400 more than took part in last year’s confab in Anaheim.

At last count, 222 exhibitors will compete for attention on the Convention Center’s 123,000 square feet of exhibition space. Show organizers report there will be large international attendance this time, with cable exex shuttling in from as far away as Africa and India.

The turnout may seem surprising in this recessionary year, but observers attribute it to the tumultuous period facing the business. Cable is still assessing the impact of different faces in federal agencies, legislation in Congress and a certain Arkansan at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

National Cable Television Assn. president/CEO James P. Mooney will share his perspectives on the year’s legislative and regulatory initiatives in a luncheon address on Thursday. Show organizers predict the address–Mooney’s first since the legislation passed–will make headlines.

The show also will offer panels on current activities in Washington, the existing regulatory and legislative environment and its effect on cable’s relationship with broadcasting, the motion picture and newspaper industries.

But technology will be the main thrust at the three-day event. California Cable TV Assn. VP and show organizer C.J. Hirschfield believes the industry is entering a new phase that will result in the transformation of the business in the 1990s.

“In the early days of cable the focus was on hardware. Then (the industry) went through a programming explosion. Now, there is a return to a focus on technology that will take us to the next phase of cable,” she said.

That’s why the Western Cable Show will be packed with speakers and displays on technology. The California Cable TV Assn. and CableLabs, the industry’s R&D arm, have invited computer companies Microsoft Corp., Digital Equipment Corp., and Videoway to exhibit their newest multimedia software.

Programming concerns will play a lesser role at this year’s Western Cable Show, but the industry still faces some pressing issues likely to come under discussion. Short-term, is there shelf space for new services? Long-term, in a multichannel universe, how will programming services differentiate themselves in the flurry of competition?

Dennis Miller, exec vice president of Turner Network Television, believes sports rights–and their high cost–will be a key issue in 1993. While he’s still a firm believer in them, the industry is grappling with the question of how to assess their value.

On Friday, Sharon Patrick, chief exec of Rainbow Programming Holdings, will participate in a panel on that subject, along with cable operators and other sports executives. Rainbow is in the process of folding its SportsChannel Los Angeles franchise, in part because of high sports rights fees.

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