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NATPE fighting to be relevant

Dec 17, 2001  •  Post A Comment

In yet another reversal, NATPE has re-booked hotel rooms in New Orleans for its 2003 and 2004 conventions.
Organizers of the National Association of Television Program Executives convention have now blocked off 6,000 rooms for each future event, according to sources, down 40 percent from the original 10,000 it had reserved. But the lower number is on par with reservations held at the upcoming Las Vegas confab, where early registration is also tracking down 40 percent from 2001. NATPE has also scaled back on square footage at the New Orleans convention center for the events.
As NATPE continues to struggle with its future, the organization has also formed a task force to consider future convention
options, according to an announcement last week by NATPE President and CEO Bruce Johansen.
“We’re delighted to have them back,” said Beverly Giana, VP of public affairs at the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They are good friends and had always supported New Orleans in years past. This is a convention where everybody here knows who they are, from cabdrivers to postmen.”
NATPE had alarmed New Orleans hotel operators last month by sending out a letter canceling rooms that had been blocked off in advance for the two annual markets. However, Mr. Johansen, after conferring with international interests and weighing the costs of pulling out, has opted to stay the course.
So with the NATPE convention back and confirmed for its traditional January berth-at least for the international cartel of distributors-the organization will now focus on regaining its domestic participants, who recently threatened to form their own gathering. Mr. Johansen responded to that threat last week with plans to form an industry task force charged with refashioning the conference as needed to meet the needs of domestic syndicators.
“This task force has been established to explore ways to satisfy the diverse constituencies in one or more conferences,” Mr. Johansen said. “Our approach in planning for the future will be to serve our member niches and adapt or reconfigure in ways that meet their needs.”
The task force will be led by newly appointed Fox Television President Tony Vinciquerra, who will be joined by Carole Black, president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services; Steve Rosenberg, president of Studios USA Domestic Television; Jay Switzer, president of CHUM Television; Garnett Losak, VP and director of programming at Petry Media Corp.; and Irwin Gotlieb, chairman and CEO of MindShare.
“This task force is critical to reshaping NATPE’s future,” Mr. Vinciquerra said in a statement. “This process is a complicated one and can’t be completed overnight. While we will be soliciting input from all our constituencies, we will also ask them to have patience with the process. We will look to them to have trust in NATPE’s expertise as an event facilitator and to trust the task force to develop initiatives that make sense for the association, its membership and the future.”
Among the issues to be explored will be to spin off more timely conventions for the syndicators, with perhaps an advertising-oriented gathering in March and a sales show in the fall. Other issues to be addressed could be alliances with other associations, including Promax and the Syndicated Network Television Association (EM, 12/10).
The task force met for the first time last week and will send out online surveys on Monday. The surveys were developed by E-poll and Bridge Entertainment and are designed to indicate the goals and needs of the membership. Final decisions on changes are scheduled to be made in April.
In spite of the exodus of domestic sellers from the floor-overall exhibitors are down from 860 this year to 500 for ’02-Mr. Johansen promised the market will be “as compelling and relevant as it has been throughout our history.” The biggest single exhibitors will be the French, Italian and British pavilions.
Conference highlights include a Q&A with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell and the presentation of NATPE’s creative achievement award to “Law & Order” creator and executive producer Dick Wolf.