Eleven years ago, at The Carmel Group’s inaugural Five Burning Questions conference in southern CA, an anonymous attendee stated a “law” that has since proved itself repeatedly: If you do not attend certain conferences regularly (even if you read the trades and talk regularly to peers), you will remain at least six months behind the latest industry developments.

That maxim proved itself yet again June 13, when 23 top-level industry representatives from Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street, Washington, DC, Denver’s cable and satellite communities (to name but a few)—and many points in between—gathered in San Diego for the 11th Annual Five Burning Questions event, as part of the 5th annual ISCe conference, held at San Diego’s Mission Bay Hilton Hotel.

 

Sessions ranged from the trademark CEO session at day’s end, to those covering Content, Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), Broadband and Advanced Services. The overall ISCe 2006 show focused on military/government telecom applications, as well as enterprise developments. All were woven together by a “hybrid solutions” metric that also structured The Carmel Group’s full-day track (covering consumer entertainment products and services). Within that consumer entertainment track, cable, telco, satellite and even electric utility operators and vendors were highlighted. 

Content session panelists included The Outdoor Channel’s CEO Andy Dale; USDTV’s CEO Steve Lindsley; and Todd Goodnight, Sirius Satellite Radio’s senior director of business alliances, product management, for the consumer electronics division. The author served as moderator. The major takeaway was that mobile content is one of two key trends that has morphed toward “Killer Application” status.

IPTV session panelists were Microsoft’s director, marketing and communications – TV Division, Ed Graczyk; SES Americom’s president, media solutions, Bryan McGuirk; Brad Siebert, Intelsat’s director of business development; NDS’ VP, market development, Ian Tapp; and Jeff Van Cura, Alcatel N.A.’s senior director, strategic solutions. As moderator, NYC satellite and telecom financier, Armand Musey, from Near Earth LLC, extracted numerous key points from these five information-packed operators and vendors. Among those points was that the other “Killer App” among today’s multichannel hybrid operators is IPTV itself, and specifically what the telephone companies do with it as they enter the competitive field filled by cable and satellite operators. Nonetheless, IPTV systems integration continues as a major challenge. 

Afternoon session panelists included HughesNet’s GM, Paul Gaske; SES Americom’s Andreas Georghiou, chief commercial officer; Sling Media’s VP, market development, Jeremy Toeman; and Akimbo’s CEO, Josh Goldman. Another respected industry veteran, Harry Thibedeau, both moderated and reported a few recent developments from his company, the National Rural Telecom Coop (NRTC), where he serves as manager, industry and technical affairs. The Broadband panel audience left this session understanding that two-way internet broadband opportunities are expanding rapidly. These choices include the ability of providers and consumers to personalize the content they deliver and receive, how they receive it, and where and when. Infrastructure providers such as SES and Intelsat are building and launching ever-more-flexible satellites and payloads (e.g., more spot beams and new spectrums, such as Ka-Band). In addition, the growth of broadband allows users such as Sling Media and Akimbo more choices and business models to work from, including having their applications delivered by cable, satellite and telco operators, as well as installed into those ops’ set-top boxes. 

Alan Young, CTO, SES Americom; Steve Kosac, VP, broadcast sales, Scientific Atlanta; Steve Condon, VP, marketing, Entriq; and Molly Freeland, manager, market intelligence, Intelsat, were the four panelists who made up the Advanced Services panel. Moderating duties were professionally maintained by veteran industry consultant and former PanAmSat exec, Steve Symonds. Worth identifying from this panel was the message that providing advanced services cost-effectively today requires careful attention to the assembly of a complex eco-system of inter-operable hardware, software, and middleware, which ideally supports the entire range of cross-platform services (e.g., IPTV, broadband PC, and mobile).

The CEO panel featured Movielink CEO (and former DirecTV co-founder), Jim Ramo; MovieBeam CEO Tres Izzard; and Buzztime president, Tyrone Lam. The session was also moderated by the author. Among many subtle nuances, the key takeaways from this session were the intense competitiveness of today’s pay TV/multichannel biz, as well as the complexity involved in dealing with the daily and long-term technology, financing, marketing, legal, regulatory, and many other areas. All three executives mentioned the challenge of obtaining traffic for and an awareness of their new services.

Of additional note was the Wednesday night ISCe Awards Dinner, wherein HughesNet’s Pradman Kaul accepted the 2006 company honor as “Innovator of the Year”; Toru Mizoguchi, from Japan’s JSAT, accepted his company’s “Leadership Award”; and the “2006 Lifetime Achievement Award” was presented to Sirius Satellite Radio’s Joe Clayton. Rounding out the evening were comments by keynote speaker Ed Horowitz, SES Americom CEO. Of special note, Horowitz highlighted the need for more industry innovation and for the U.S.—and the companies that make up the satellite and related industries’ cores—to push the U.S. government to create easier access to the U.S. for youthful talented immigrants (emphasis supplied). Horowitz concluded with his own new maxim, “Immigration laws must be constructed to allow the brightest students, teachers, engineers and scientists ready-access to this country. We need them. We always have.”

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