NEWS AND VIEWS MAY 10, 2007
Mike and Laurel Kohl
S-9141 State Highway 23
Plain, Wisconsin 53577-9612
May 10, 2007
One road trip and a few days later. I am back from the Satellite and Broadband Expo 2007 show in Atlanta, Georgia.
Was it what I had expected and anticipated? No. Was it a disappointment? Yes. Was it worth going to Atlanta? Yes.
Conflicting answers deserve an explanation, and it's complicated if not convoluted. Bob Cooper had a dream of bringing back a cast of characters from 20 years ago into the same room for some remembrances. This was definitely accomplished, but the manner in which it played out was disappointing. 20 years is a long time in the consumer electronics industry, and in that time frame, which is the quarter of a octagenerian's lifespan, many changes take place. Other events happen in the interim, people pass away from old age as well as other things. It is an understatement to say that turnout for what would be considered a once in a lifetime event can be unpredictable. Advance reports made you believe that the dinner banquet would be limited to no more than 300 participants. This would end up being a very small concern; anyone that was at the show and paid their 30 dollars had no problem getting a seat. I would be surprised if there were more than 100 people in the room. A live videoconference with Arthur C Clarke was promised from Sri Lanka. Mr Clarke did send his greetings, but they were not live. At his advanced age of 90 years, he is now confined to a wheelchair much of the time, and it would have been a great difficulty if not imposition on this visionary to have a live (some expected 2-way) video connection. We were treated to a video greeting that had been prepared in advance, and the web telecast arranged by Scott Greczkowski of Satellite Guys was a success.
A vote was taken by the organizers of the trade show, to select ten people to receive a Satellite Pioneers Award at the above dinner. Maybe I was foolish to expect that more than two of those ten selected would physically appear to collect their award. Politicians and big businessmen such as Ted Turner, Al Gore and Billy Tauzin probably had better things to do on that Friday evening. Bob Taggart of Chaparral Communications and Buddy Davis of Davis Antenna gave heartfelt speeches, and H Paul Schuch played the role of singing minstrel as well as all around entertainer. Bob Cooper added his stamp of approval to the gathering and said some well chosen words. A good time was probably had by all, despite the smaller than expected turnout. We can blame much of it on business conflicts from anyone that had to decide between this small gathering in Atlanta versus the NAB show in Las Vegas. Businessmen have to follow the money trail, and Las Vegas is usually where the money is. Another SBE show is planned for Reno in October, with a 2008 event scheduled to be held in Louisville, Kentucky.
Despite the small turnout, anyone at the show that needed to talk business with any of the vendors present, as well as meeting with other industry people that made it to Atlanta, had the unusual luxury of all the time in the world to have those discussions. If there were 400 people attending the show (other than at least a couple of hundred running booths), I would be surprised. There was a lot of free time on everyone's hands, so vendors were not pushing people away from their booths in order to get to the next potential customer. So it can be safely assumed that quality discussions were had by most at this show.
The absolute lack of hardware
manufacturers (antennas especially) was very striking. There were a
number of regional distributors at the show, but antennas were not in
abundance, at least not from those producing them. Winegard seems to
have given up on this industry, unless Las Vegas was the higher
priority. Patriot was in the same boat, although their commercial
antenna line might have had few serious inquiries given the small number
attendees. The manufacturers probably made a good decision to go
elsewhere or nowhere, in terms of the volume of potential new leads that
might be generated at this show. It does not bode well for the
remainder of the industry, which is a split between 2-way Internet
providers, MPEG-2 receiver manufacturers, and small distributors that are
still in business.