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Telcos make presence felt at Western Cable Show

Media analyst Paul Kagan joked at the opening of the Western Cable Show that the event was the “first-ever Western Annual Telephone Convention.”

And with cable behemoth Tele-Communications Inc. betrothed to Bell Atlantic, Time Warner with a new partner in US West and most other telephone companies with some sort of cable investment, telcos turned out in force to line up programming, look at the latest high-tech cable gadgets and shmooze with their new bedfellows.

“No cable company, long-term, will find itself without some strategic tie to a telephone service company,” said TCI topper John Malone, whose company just agreed to be acquired by Bell Atlantic Corp. “If you’re thinking about becoming an entertainment communications company, you’d better join a team.”

Most of the Baby Bells made a showing at the confab. Bell Atlantic, considered the most aggressive of the bunch, took over two hotel rooms to show off Stargazer, its test of an interactive video platform for its future cable endeavors. And even Ameritech Corp., the only Baby Bell that has not ventured into the cable waters, sent a few execs.

“One reason for being at this show is to show people we’re here and we’re real and we’re part of this industry now,” said Larry Plumb, director of information services at Bell Atlantic.

In addition to showing off its new technology, Bell Atlantic is trying to line up programming for the day it eventually offers cable.

Similarly, US West, which plans to test its interactive cable system in Omaha next year, also was talking to programmers.

“We’re chatting with those sort of people,” said Jim Wood, a network architect for US West. “We’re launching next year, so we’ve got to have product.”

And with Barbi Benton posing for photos with attendees and Mr T signing autographs, the confab is a different kind of event than the phone industry puts on. “You don’t see Playboy bunnies at telephone shows,” said Jim Wood, a network architect for US West.

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