There may not be a busier week in all of 2016 on the media calendar than the one that just concluded. The Cannes Film Festival came to a close, the broadcast TV networks held their upfront presentations and Google hosted its annual I/O conference. Just thinking about all the activity makes me want to take a nap.
But there was yet another event this past week that didn’t get nearly as much attention as the rest but really deserved it: INTX 2016, an acronym for the Internet and Television Expo, which was held by the National Cable & Telecom Assn. in Boston.
This event was previously known as the Cable Show, and before that, the National Show. Now into its second year as INTX, this inscrutable acronym isn’t exactly a great achievement in branding, but then again neither is NATPE and that’s still alive and kicking in Miami.
The brand shift is a reflection of the NCTA’s own reorientation around the broadband side of the cable industry, which has seen the multichannel business fade in importance in comparison to selling Internet connections. INTX now has a very different focus that feels more like a mid-year CES than anything else.
What was once an event chockful of major content companies has basically been abandoned by them considering programming execs had more glamorous options in Paris and Manhattan.
No wonder those in attendance in Boston weren’t exactly wowed by what they saw. “Our overall take from this year’s INTX Show is that it wasn’t all that exciting,” was how Wells Fargo analyst Marcy Ryvicker led off her analyst note on the subject.
Poor, poor INTX. But we’d all be remiss in underestimating this show going forward because so many of the pressing issues weighing on the media business were illuminated in Boston. At a time when a seemingly endless number of non pay-TV companies are poised to enter the video market with so-called skinny bundles (this week’s rumor: Samsung), Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was at INTX to wow the few who were there with a demo the X1 set-top technology that will turn the upcoming Olympics into an on-demand extravaganza. It was a timely riposte to the disruptors who think they can undersell the traditional channel bundle.
The cable biz also demonstrated at INTX its willingness to look beyond set-top boxes with launches like Cisco’s VideoGuard Everywhere, which enables a cable subscriber to use an alternative like Roku. Fresh off its newly announced absorption of Time Warner Cable, Charter will be the first cable operator out there with the product.
But that’s not all. Various improvements to the broadband infrastructure and a growing interest in wireless were also on display at INTX, not to mention the FCC commissioners who will have a say in how cable’s future plays out.
If only the conference had found a less crowded time of year to play out. Maybe the industry needs to figure out a better spot on the calendar to get INTX the attention it deserves.