Fragmentation unites NCTA crowd

Cable show plugs benefits of diversification

NEW ORLEANS -- Fragmentation in the TV world is not necessarily a bad thing, but the cable industry needs to continually work to stay ahead of the curve, a panel of top executives argued Sunday on the first day of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn.'s Cable Show '08.

"Fragmentation is a fact of life, and it's going to increase exponentially," News Corp.'s Peter Chernin said during the opening session at the New Orleans convention center. "As long as we stay ahead of the snowball, then I think we'll be OK. But if we just try and protect our existing world we live in, we will be dinosaurs, sending ourselves into extinction."

Viacom's Philippe Dauman said fragmentation should be embraced, noting that his company has 330 sites around the world built around various brands.

"We think if we focus on the brand and serve the consumers wherever they want it and in a differentiated way, then we will get greater passion and association with our brands," he said. "In a more fragmented world, brand and high-quality hits become more important than ever before."

Comcast's Brian Roberts discussed the advantages of the recently announced mobile broadband company with Sprint and Clearwire, in which Comcast and other cablers have invested.

"You've got a number of companies who want to see the fastest data network to ever be built -- and built right away," he said. "It will be a super-fast network that will be national from Day 1, with no holes in the coverage area."

Added Intel's Paul Otellini, whose company also has invested in the network: "This country will finally move from third-world position in wireless communications to lead the world."

Roberts also said that a CEO is close to being named for the industrywide Project Canoe initiative, intended to establish a common advertising platform across multiple cable operators, but he declined to say whom in a press conference following the panel discussion.

Also during the panel, Panasonic's Yoshi Yamada touted Tru2way, the technology that will for viewer interactivity through the cable box.

"From the start of television, it's been a one-way receiving device, but now it's going to change and become a two-way interactive device thanks to this platform," he said.

Asked by moderator Bill Kennard of the Carlyle Group how the economy is affecting their businesses, the panelists argued that the entertainment business is mostly "recession-resistant," in the words of Dauman.

The session kicked off with a keynote address by NCTA president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow, who argued his case against government regulation.

"If we do our part (and listen to the customers), customer choices -- and not government mandates -- will drive and grow our businesses for years to come," he said.