NCTA confab touts user-friendly wares

Content and technology are working more and more off the same script when it comes to the high-end cable biz, and this concerted effort is on display this week at the cable biz’s annual NCTA confab.

The techies have usually developed and innovated their wares as much as possible while content providers try to put out every bit of content they can. Neither side has paid much attention to the user experience when the technology and content are paired.

But many of the technology exhibitors, like Motorola and Cisco, are tubthumping extremely sophisticated yet also very user-friendly products such as the latest set-top boxes.

“There’s a big focus on simplifying technology so that it merges with content, and that’s a very unique feel this time,” said Ronald Lamprecht, senior veep of digital distribution for NBC Universal.

The refined focus on the user experience comes at a time when the biz is generally on the upswing, for programmers and operators, as evidenced in the strong contributions coming from the cable side to the major media congloms’ latest round of earnings reports. That spirit was palpable at the confab, held in the same Morial Convention Center that less than three years ago became a miserable shelter for thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. topper Kyle McSlarrow had said in his opening keynote on Sunday that cable had much to celebrate despite a slouching economy.

Exhibitor after exhibitor reported almost nonstop meetings and a generally positive vibe on day two of the gathering.

“There’s a lot of energy on the floor, and all the panels have been very well attended,” said one exec.

There’s also a showbiz-circus atmosphere as exhibitors try to promote their goods.

At the MGM HD booth, you can get shaken-not-stirred vodka martinis to go from scantily clad young women evoking the James Bond films. At the Turner exhibit, the score from “Star Wars” blasts as convention-goers line up to get their picture taken with Imperial Stormtroopers. It’s all for a new animated show, “The Clone Wars,” which will bow on the Cartoon Network in the fall.

Earlier, the Turner exhibit featured CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who had to compete for attention with the porn stars signing pictures of themselves next door at the Hustler booth.

And not far down the aisle are some religious channels.

At the MTV pavilion, rocker-turned-reality-TV-star Bret Michaels signed pictures for fans lined up the entire length of the large space.

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