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National Cable Show: Cloud, Wifi, TV Everywhere Loom Large

Monday, 21 May 2012 | 4:19 PM ET
Tech Innovation
Yagin Studio | Getty Images
Tech Innovation

The National Cable and Telecom Association's annual show is underway at Boston's Convention & Exhibition Center, and over 13,000 attendees from the content and distribution side of the business are expected to tour the convention center for a look at the latest technologies and to meet and greet cable stars like the Kardashians.

While the cable industry celebrates its accomplishments — growing distribution, advertising revenue, etc. — there are also some looming questions about the industry's transition to the digital future.

The cable business is increasingly about the Internet and today the cable giants announced they're teaming up to make it easier for their subscribers to access WiFi, no matter where they are, without paying extra. Comcast*, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Cablevision and Bright House Networks are announcing shared Wi-Fi access under a new name, "CableWiFi," which will give subscribers access to over 50,000 hotspots around the country.

Comcast Brings Cable to the Cloud
Neil Smit, Comcast Cable president & CEO, discusses the company's national launch of its Xfinity TV on the X1 platform and integrating the next generation of interactive apps and social media features into Comcast's traditional video service, with CNBC's Julia Boorstin.

That's just one of a number of initiatives to give consumers access to content and services anywhere, anytime. Comcast announced a new user interface called "Project Dayview" that taps into the fact that consumers are increasingly subscribing to both cable and Internet — it allows subscribers to manage data and information — from shows on Xfinity TV, to voice and Internet. The idea is for this one Interface to be a home screen for everything content or data related — both of which Comcast requires.

All of these services play into a larger initiative to give subscribers access to "TV Everywhere" — an initiative pioneered by Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Though cable operators including Comcast and Time Warner Cable have been slowly rolling out 'TV Everywhere' access — with apps like HBO Go and "XFinity," a lot of investors and industry watchers have been complaining that three years after its launch TV everywhere is not everywhere yet. Why not? Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett tells me that the delays all come down to the negotiations between cable operators and content providers — they can't agree on the value of distributing that content to new places.

The other big topic I'm hearing a lot about here: the cloud. Glenn Britt, Time Warne Cable's CEO this morning said that we're moving to a set top box-less world. Comcast announced it's starting the national launch of X-1, its clou- based platform. The fact that the technology is now cloud-based enables companies to upgrade software with a click of a button, without needing to ship out new set top boxes. And all this new technology — and the access to content it affords — aims to keep people hooked on their cable subscription, to keep them from cutting the cord.

*Comcast is the corporate parent of CNBC.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.