The theme of this year's National Cable and Telecommunications show is "Think Big." Even though this year's show in New Orleans is smaller than previous years, the theme makes sense.
Cable ratings are bigger than ever, as are ad dollars, and distribution is broader than ever. And cable offers two key revenue streams: affiliate fees plus ad dollars.
That means media giants love their cable divisions. Nearly two thirds of Viacom's (NYSE:VIA) revenue last quarter came from its cable division, which showed 16 percent growth. ESPN and Disney Channel are consistent growth drivers for Disney (NYSE:DIS).
Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Turner and TNT are growing fast as evidence by this past season when some of their hit shows even beat the networks' ratings. And even Viacom is now starting a premium cable channel with content from Paramount, Lions Gate (LGF) and MGM. And stand alone cable companies -- like Discovery Holdings (NASDAQ:DISCA) and E.W. Scripps (NASDAQ:SSP) -- are hot. Both are up year-to-date and have outperformed the Dow.
Cable has benefited from the writers' strike by adding viewers bored with network reruns and reality TV during the post-strike phase this spring. Cable has also benefited from the overall trend towards content fragmentation. Viewers now want shows targeted to their particular interest in bathroom remodeling or show cats, and there's room for it all on the seemingly infinite cable channels.
And year after year cable's viewership and ad dollars grow. Though the upfront ad sales period was just last week, it seems this year will be no exception on that "front."