NCTA 2006: Why everyone should pay attention to what happens in Atlanta

By Harlan Neugeboren

Next Monday the 2006 National Cable Television Association show will kick off its show in Atlanta s Georgia World Congress Center, and while it s definitely a cable show the technology that will be on display will have a great impact for anyone who produces content, no matter the delivery medium or format.

Expect a number of major vendors of equipment for both cable and broadband service to exhibit their latest offerings. And while some of the vendors will be at NAB later in the month the NCTA show, due to its smaller size, gives an opportunity to see almost all of the products in one day. In addition, the different focus of the show, with its emphasis on set top boxes, interactive applications, digital ad insertion, VOD, IPTV, and broadband content management, lets a traditional broadcaster see things they just won t see at NAB.
More importantly, if a broadcaster or content creator attends NCTA and learns more about cable platforms and their capabilities they ll walk away with insights that could prove useful in discussions with cable and satellite providers for carriage of HD signals or interactive services. Companies like Scientific-Atlanta or Motorola, for example, can really give a content provider insight into future broadband, WiFi, and home networking applications not to mention set-top boxes with built-in HD DVD burners.
Here s a quick look at a couple of the exhibitors that are always worth a visit at NCTA:

Tandberg Television: One of the leaders in iTV, encoder, decoder, and stat muxing technologies, Tandberg has been expanding its presence with acquisitions. Most notably was the purchase of N2 Broadband, one of the largest providers of VOD content management software. And for interactive technology check out Goldpocket Interactive, one of the largest interactive content applications providers (be sure to check out Goldpocket s Storyteller). StoryTeller is a graphical software tool, making it easier to build rich, compelling iTV experiences.

Navic: Another provider of interactive television applications, they re worth a visit because their customers, which include Time Warner Cable, Charter and Cox, have a lot of muscle.

Open TV: Headed by Jim Chiddix, the former CTO of Time Warner Cable, Open TV is a provider of interactive platforms for Comcast Spotlight and most recently CNN Enhanced TV launched on Dish Network. They have a very complete suite of tools and managed to survive the dotcom shakedown that claimed many of its competitors.

Microsoft TV: Always an interesting visit, Microsoft is the platform provider for the three major telco TV rollouts: Verizon, ATT/SBC and Bellsouth. They have two platforms on display: Foundation Edition and IPTV.
Streambox: A small company worth a visit for their cost-effective SD & HD transport solutions.

Extend Media: Content management continues to become a growing concern and this company s Open Case content management system is very robust and worth a look.

These are just a few of the companies that will be demonstrating new ways cable, satellite, broadband and, yes, even broadcasters, can distribute content to viewers. Next week: NCTA wrap up.-

Harlan Neugeboren is CEO of The Workflow & Technology Group, a Connecticut-based consulting firm. He can be reached at Harlan@wftgroup.com