"Street Signs": The Big Picture
"Street Signs" is taking the pulse of the cable industry at The Cable Show '07 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Program host Erin Burnett and correspondent Julia Boorstin will be reporting on the driving forces of the incredibly dynamic industry and the forces of convergence that continue to reshape it.
The cable industry is seeking new ways to adapt and expand its content -- whether it is for mobile phones or on-demand TV -- as well as exploit its extensive communications system by providing telecoms services for consumers and companies.
It's a rapidly changing landscape where companies are competing one-on-one in one space and forming partnerships and joint ventures in another.
Here'a look at some of the players we'll be interviewing at the NCTA.
Richard Parsons, Chairman & CEO, Time Warner
Parsons became CEO in May 2002 and chairman a year later in what can be described as the low point of the post AOL-Time Warner merger.
Interestingly, through both good and bad times for the parent company, its Turner Broadcasting unit of cable TV networks unit has performed pretty well, despite the increasingly competitive landscape. There has even been talk of Time Warner spinning off the TV group -- best known for the CNN, TBS and TNT brands.
Time Warner also has the nation's No. 2 cable service provider in Time Warner Cable. The company provided services -- cable TV, high speed Internet, digital phone -- to some 26 million homes as of the end of 2006. It went public in March 2007 after acquiring assets from bankrupt Adelphia Communications.
Parsons has won high marks as a fence builder and a cost cutter, who nursed both the company's fortunes and bruised executive egos back to health. At the same time, he has attracted his share of criticism from the likes of activist investor Carl Icahn and others for supposedly lacking a compelling strategic vision for the company and its floundering stock price.
Now, Parsons is talking acquisitions and bulking up the AOL unit, taking a page out of the old "bigger is better" straetgy.
When asked by CNBC's Erin Burnett on the existing relationship Time Warner has with Google, and how they will react if Yahoo and Microsoft merge, Parson says "it would probably - both from their perspective and ours - push us more in the direction of dealing in a more intensive way with Google than we do now."
David Zaslav, CEO, Discovery Communications
Named to the post in late 2006, David Zaslav is re-engineering the cable channel. One of his first moves was to decentralize the operation.
After years of declining viewership, the numbers perked up in 2006. The group includes the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and the Travel Channel. Discovery Channel's viewership, for instance, jumped 14%. Discovery is planning a green channel for 2008, as part of its PlanetGreen initiative.
Zaslav's plan includes strengthening core brands, reducing inefficiencies and defining a digital strategy across the $12 billion media conglomerate. Discovery's investors include Cox Communications, Advance/Newhouse and Discovery Holding Company, which is controlled by cable pioneer John Malone.
Prior to joining Discovery, Zaslav was president of NBC Universal's Cable and Domestic TV and New Media Distribution.
Brian Roberts, Chairman & CEO, Comcast
Roberts, succeeded his father at the company in 2002 and now runs the nation's largest cable company. His grand convergence play, however, was not to be. A buyout offer for Walt Disney in February 2004 went nowhere and Roberts had the "discipline," as he put it, to walk away. Comcast later cut a deal closer to home, carving up the Adelphia assets with Time Warner.
Under Roberts, Comcast has grown into a media giant with $22.3 billion in revenue, 24.2 million customers and 87,000 employees. Comcast’s content networks and investments include E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, The Golf Channel, four regional Comcast SportsNets and others. The Company also has interests in two professional sports teams, the Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team and the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team, as well as two large multipurpose arenas in the city.
Ahead of the Vegas event, Comcast said it plans to launch a Web site that its customers can use for email and instant messages and forward voice mail, send instant messages and manage a smart address book.
John Lansing, Pres., Scripps Network
Lansing assumed the post in January 2005. A company veteran, he had previously worked in the company's TV station unit.
A unit of E.W. Scripps, the unit includes the company’s growing portfolio of popular lifestyle television networks. Scripps Networks brands include HGTV, Food Network and DIY. Programming can be seen in more than 170 countries.
Robert Clasen, CEO, Starz Entertainment & Media &
Mike Freis, CEO, Liberty Global LBTYA