NATPE might break into pieces

Dec 3, 2001  •  Post A Comment

NATPE appears to be preparing a December 2002 or January 2003 conference for its international and new media clients, while a spinoff gathering designed for domestic sales teams is being planned for the spring.
Meanwhile, New Orleans tourism execs are poring over contracts to see what kind of damage NATPE would take if the Big Easy is scratched from the convention list in 2003 and 2004. The answer could be minimal.
“NATPE will probably be smaller in New Orleans a year from now because it will probably be targeted differently,” said Jon Mandel, NATPE chairman and co-managing director of MediaCom. “NATPE is a nonprofit trade organization that has to serve all the pieces of our membership. The needs of our international and new media clients are [best served] in January. But we also have to serve the smaller domestic syndication group as well as stations and advertisers which may be better served at a different point of the year. If having another convention happens to pave the way for their return, then I believe NATPE intends to respond, whether it be through three or even five conventions a year.”
A spring gathering would cure much of what has ailed domestic distributors in recent years as the date would better coincide with advertising upfronts, when agencies are more likely to have money to spend.
Locations and exact times are still being scouted by National Association of Television Program Executives managers, according to executives familiar with the situation. New Orleans is still a contender for the international/new media squad, while Las Vegas and Los Angeles are in the mix for the domestic market confab. Some syndication executives have publicly called for a New York meeting to keep the convention as close to advertisers as possible.
Although insiders have speculated that NATPE could take a hit of as much as $3 million should they opt to cancel their booking at the New Orleans convention center, tourism executives in the Big Easy say that may not be so. According to sources, the organization may not have even signed the confirmation papers to guarantee the convention space and therefore would not be liable for much if they pull out. Still, tourism execs hope a smaller convention will be finalized for the dates.
“However, I don’t see how they (NATPE) can have a convention without any hotel rooms. We’re already booking as if they will not come,” said one tourism chief.
Even if the convention settles on New Orleans, damage has been done with tourism executives following a letter dated Nov. 14 to the hotels in that city canceling a block of rooms (EM, Nov. 26). In the letter, NATPE blamed the 2003 and 2004 cancellations on the Sept. 11 tragedy: “Due to the events associated with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and their aftermath, particularly with respect to the country’s declaration of war, curtailment in travel generally and specifically that of members of NATPE, this letter is to constitute formal notice to you that the room reservations for the years 2003 and 2004 are hereby canceled.”
The letter was written by New Orleans attorney Walter Wilkerson, who told Electronic Media that he had been retained by NATPE. Asked to comment at the time, NATPE President and CEO Bruce Johansen said, in a written statement, “NATPE is involved in fruitful discussions leading to a strategic plan regarding the configuration of the conference in 2003 to make it appropriate for both domestic and international members. This plan may or may not involve New Orleans.”
Last week, however, Mr. Johansen backtracked, stating that the letter was delivered prematurely and that an official decision will be made by Dec. 12, when a press conference will announce NATPE’s next step both as an organization and for years ’03 and ’04.