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The biggest news from this year's annual cable industry meeting was a new agreement for operators to share wi-fi hot spots between their subscribers, a move seemingly directed at undercutting the data-plan businessess of their telecom rivals.
However, more was discussed at the event than just that.
The Cable Show may not be what it once was--attracting around 12,000 attendees this year rather than the 30,000-plus crowd of its boom years--but it still represents a significant gathering of the cable industry. Below are some highlights from the event that may have gone unnoticed.
--MORE LACROSSE?: In addition to lots of talk about rising sports programming costs and using social media, two of the industry's top sports broadcast executives pointed to one less obvious market for potential growth, lacrosse.
The chief executive of News Corp.'s (NWS, NWSA) Fox Sports, David Hill, said lacrosse programming "has been floating around my mind for years," and "is something to think about." Expanding lacrosse beyond its traditional East Coast prep-school fan base could require a few enhancements for viewers, however, such as adding an on-camera ball-streaming function like the kind previously used in ice hockey, Hill said.
News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of this newswire, and The Wall Street Journal.
John Skipper, president of Walt Disney Co.'s (DIS) ESPN and a chairman at Disney's media network, was similarly optimistic about prospects for the so-called fastest game on two feet, including potential programming for women's lacrosse.
Both were also bullish about soccer, citing the country's growing Latino population, interest in European leagues and appreciation fostered by a new generation of youth leagues as catalysts for growth.
"Soccer is only going to get bigger," Skipper said.
--THE YOUNG FOLKS: In a medium chock-full of advertising pitches and programming seemingly tailored to kids, Halogen TV Founder Becky Henderson outlined new tactics for reaching the "millennial" generation of viewers--those generally born between 1983 and 1997--who are becoming a key market for cable operators and broadcasters.
She says the new breed of reality shows and other entertainment produced by Halogen focus on three values prized by millennials, as identified by research firm McCann Worldwide: community, justice and authenticity.
"I look at data and talk to [young] people, and they don't like what's on TV." Her answer: programs like "Jump Shipp," a reality show that's been promoted by Comcast Corp. (CMCSA, CMCSK) about avoiding the "dreaded quarter-life crisis."
Noticeably absent on the showroom floor this year was Viacom Inc.'s (VIA, VAIB) MTV Networks, which participants viewed either as a sign of the conference's fading appeal or an indication that ratings-soft MTV has better things to worry about. To be fair, either way, Viacom CEO Philippe Daumann was spotted cruising the showroom floor.
--RUTLEDGE REVIVAL PARTY: One particular highlight for financial analysts and investors was a presentation from Charter Communications Inc.'s (CHTR) much-lauded new CEO, Tom Rutledge.
The discussion was closed to press, but ISI's Vijay Jayant offered an analyst's take: "perhaps most encouraging was how happy and refreshed Tom looked and sounded...He appeared as if he wants to win in his current gig and gave us added confidence."
Rutledge further elaborated on the efforts to gain subscribers and grow revenue that he first articulated to the industry during Charter's first-quarter earnings call earlier this month.
--INDUSTRY, DISRUPTED: Aereo, the over-the-top TV startup, hardly made a welcome guest for other attendees like Fox and Comcast's NBC, which are suing the Barry Diller-backed company on allegations its product violates copyright laws.
At the show, though, was CEO Chet Kanojia, who told Dow Jones that Aereo could see a resolution as early as next week's injunction hearing in a New York City court. If Aereo is successful, Kanojia said, he plans to proceed in rolling out the service beyond its initial New York City footprint.
-By William Launder, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3412; email@example.com