Many aspects of the 2011 Cable Show were the same as the previous year. Like last year, the show featured:
- Lots of swag,
- My inability to understand why some people wait in lines of 30 minutes or more to get a free backpack (do they really value their time that little?),
- The need to stay far away from the booth with the purple dinosaur crooning about how he loves you and you love him except that clearly nobody loves him, probably because of his pathetic cries for attention,
- Company slogans that make you hope they put more thought into their products, like Huawei’s “Innovation Through Technology” (which is kind of like “construction through equipment”),
- Lots of white, grey, and black boxes packed with all kinds of cool stuff, but still just look like white, grey, and black boxes, and
- Painful feet at the end of the day from too much walking and not enough sitting.
Despite those consistencies, some things were conspicuously (almost) absent this year. Most notably, the 2010 show floor was full of 3D television exhibits. This year a few booths had a 3D TV, but it was typically shoved into a corner, and nobody ever seemed to be watching it. Whether this means that companies that sell to cable have decided consumer demand for 3DTV is less than expected or simply decided nobody wanted to see that display again is hard to know.
Aside from the (thankfully, in my opinion) missing 3D experience, the plethora of inscrutable metal boxes makes it almost impossible to determine just from browsing the show floor what is new this year even if I were able to remember last year’s boxes.
Fortunately, the Cable Show categorizes exhibitors by what they do. These data make it possible to take an empirical look at where current industry participants think the cable industry is headed compared to what they thought last year.
The 2011 show featured 271 exhibitors, compared to 345 in 2010. On average, however, each exhibitor claimed to be promoting products in 4.0 product categories in 2011 compared to 2.7 product categories per exhibitor in 2010. Because exhibitors chose more categories and the number of categories remained roughly constant, the average share of firms in each category increased by almost one percentage point. Even recognizing that general increase, certain product categories showed large increases. The share of firms offering programming increased by 21 percentage points, consumer interface technologies (e.g., set-top boxes, program guides) increased by 8.4 percentage points, and wireless technologies increased by 8 percentage points. The biggest decrease was among exhibitors offering system management, by about two percentage points.
Presumably to make it easier for attendees to find the products that interest them, the Cable Show website groups exhibitors into business categories: 130 categories in 2010 and 128 in 2011. Most categories appear in both years, but 2010 had 11 categories not represented in 2011, while 2011 had 9 categories not represented in 2010. Table 1 lists the categories in alphabetical order and the number of firms in each.
It is not possible to compare the numbers directly, however, due to changes in the number of exhibitors. As Table 1 shows, the number of exhibitors fell from 2010 to 2011 while each exhibitor identified itself, on average, as offering products in more categories.
Table 1: Cable Show Number of Exhibitors and Categories
|Number exhibitors||Average categories per exhibitor|
Who’s at the show and how did that change from 2010 to 2011?
Figure 1 shows how well represented each category is at the show. In particular, it shows the share of exhibitors in each category, ordered from least to most in 2010. This approach only partially normalizes the data—it controls for the smaller show size but does not control for possible reasons why firms chose to include themselves in so many more categories in 2011 than they did in 2010. Nevertheless, the figure provides a good view of which categories are the most popular.
Figure 2 shows the percentage point change in the share of firms in each category. Because firms chose so many more categories in 2011, the average change is about 0.9 percentage points. Thus, we can assume that any change bigger than 0.9 means that the category is better represented while any change less than 0.9 means the category is less prevalent at the 2011 show.
The Figure shows that the share of exhibitors categorizing themselves as “programming” increased substantially, as did exhibitors focusing on end-user interfaces including set-top boxes, personal video recording, and interactive services. Mobile also increased from 2010. Systems management appeared to have the biggest decrease from the previous year.
The 2011 show had about 20 percent fewer exhibitors than did the 2010 show. Those exhibitors placed themselves into far more categories, on average, than they did the previous year.
Controlling for the smaller show size, programming was substantially better represented in 2011 than in 2010, as were all manner of devices and software targeted at end-user interfaces, and wireless. Systems management showed the biggest decrease.
These changes are broadly consistent with what we observe in the broader communications landscape: the power of content companies relative to distributors and the growing importance of wireless. Firms that sell to cable apparently see growing expected profits in those areas, as well. Whether they turn out to be correct remains to be seen.
Table 2: Total Number Exhibitors in Each Category
|Broadband Service Provider||5||4|
|Cable Drop Installation||5||1|
|Cable Modem Manufacturer||0||3|
|Cable Modem Reseller||0||1|
|Cable Residential Gateways||7||14|
|Coaxial Cable Connectors||4||1|
|Coaxial Drop Cable||4||2|
|Commercial Insertion Equipment||2||2|
|Computer Aided Dispatch||1||1|
|Construction Materials & Equipment||1||1|
|Digital Cable Receiver||4||4|
|Digital Headend Equipment||14||18|
|Emergency Warning Systems||1||1|
|Engineering & Construction Services||0||1|
|Fiber Optic Cable||6||4|
|Fiber Optic Distribution Systems||5||6|
|Fiber Optic Equipment||6||7|
|Fleet Management Services||3||4|
|HFC Cable Demodulators||3||1|
|HFC Cable Modulators||3||1|
|High-Speed Internet Access||4||3|
|Home Information Services||0||2|
|Home Shopping Program/Services||3||4|
|Internet Service Provider||4||6|
|Internet TV Provider||7||14|
|Network Management Systems||16||20|
|Operational Support Systems Solutions||10||13|
|Outside Plant, Fiber & Cable Enclosures||1||1|
|Pay Cable Programming||8||27|
|Personal Video Recording (PVR)||6||17|
|Primary Interactive Programming||0||2|
|Program Navigation Systems||1||4|
|Research & Development||5||2|
|Return Path Products||4||3|
|Security Dealer Programs||0||1|
|Set Top Boxes||18||25|
|Sound Services/Audio Equipment||2||0|
|Subscriber Authorization Systems||7||8|
|Subscriber Collection Services||2||5|
|Trunk & Distribution Cable||3||2|
|Video on Demand||52||52|
|Weather Forecast Services||2||3|
|Wire and Cable||3||1|
|Wireless Telephony Systems||1||4|
|Workforce Management System||7||14|
 For an overview of the focus of the 2010 show, see http://www.cablefax.com/cfp/just_in/Cable-Show-Takeaways_41407.html