NATPE has plan to lure syndicators

Mar 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

A proposal designed to reunite stray distributors at the annual National Association of Television Program Executives market has met with positive reaction from domestic distributors, at least for the 2003 gathering.
The trade organization, which suffered from defecting longtime exhibitors in Las Vegas in January, greeted the domestic suppliers last Thursday as well as international and other sectors of NATPE with plans to entice the companies to return to the exhibition floor.
After syndicators complained of high costs in a bad economy and opted to showcase their wares at the Venetian Hotel in lieu of the convention center, NATPE President and CEO Bruce Johansen met with the disgruntled executives with plans to lower costs for exhibitors and to bring in more buyers. Attending were representatives of the domestic suppliers and the international and new media arms of the industry. In all, about 30 people sat in on the meeting.
The annual convention represented the primary financial commitment of the year for the nonprofit organization. Faced with deserting syndicators, taking a vital financial hit by canceling its New Orleans bookings or reconfiguring the booth packages, the new incentives were the best fiscal move for the organization, according to sources.
The proposal offers modifications on booth packages comparable to prices syndicators found for suites at the Venetian, Mr. Johansen said. The convention will offer booth configurations ranging from 60-by-60-foot corporate suite packages to 20-by-20-foot suite/lounge plans, with prices ranging from $40,000 to under $200,000 for the space.
“There remains a desire to have meetings for the entire business once a year, and NATPE continues to provide a time for the community to meet and share information,” Mr. Johansen said. “We’ve developed a cost-effective solution that will attract both buyers and distributors back to the conference floor in New Orleans next January. It is our goal to bring back the vital sense of community NATPE provides to our worldwide membership.”
With distributors citing overhead costs as the key reason for the pullout, Mr. Johansen noted that the package fee will include material handling, installation and dismounting, electrical costs, audio/visual equipment, catering and complementary registrations as well as screening rooms and lounges. In response to complaints that buyers no longer attended the trade show, Mr. Johansen said that the 40 to 50 key executives who buy syndicated programming will be accommodated for free during the show.
“The quality of information that comes out of the conference is critical to buyers, and we will offer free space for those groups to have meetings while NATPE is in session,” Mr. Johansen said. “Through this plan we have alleviated cost worries, enabled exhibitors to continue to modify their booths as they see fit and provided more opportunities to meet with buyers.”
Syndicators reacted warmly to the proposals.
“I was encouraged to see syndicators pulling together and giving positive feedback to this process,” said Bob Cook, president and CEO of Twentieth Television. “Bruce’s proposal is an excellent mandate to get us through New Orleans, and the good news is that the cost factor is certainly in line with what we spent at the Venetian.”
“NATPE has provided the best options available for us to come back next year,” said the head of another distributor. “However, this is more of a short-term fix. We will continue to press Bruce for changes in the timing of the conference as well as other issues that have concerned us as the syndication market continues to change.” Other executives echoed those comments off the record.
Dick Robertson, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, which was the first company to pull out of the 2002 meeting, declined to comment on the proposals. Key issues still at hand include complaints that with pre-sales taking place in early fall and ad sales negotiated later in the year, the January timing of the convention is impractical.
“The more we discuss it, the more people say January is a good time of year,” retorted Mr. Johansen. “If in the future we decide that holding another NATPE during a different time of year is needed, then we will discuss it.”
Beyond Vegas and Big Easy
The changes require less overall booth space for the organization, allowing it to explore other cities in coming years as possible locations the gathering. Previously, the convention was locked into either New Orleans or Las Vegas, mainly because few other cities could accommodate a market of this size.
The task force assigned to study NATPE’s issues will continue to propose modifications in coming months. The group was led by newly appointed Fox Television President Tony Vinciquerra, who will be joined by Carole Black, president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services, and Steve Rosenberg, president of Studios USA Domestic Television, among others.
“We believe the plans NATPE has unveiled will accommodate the needs of distributors both domestically and internationally,” said Mr. Vinciquerra, who is also the NATPE chairman. “In addition, they will benefit from all the allied businesses that consider NATPE a vital part of their business plans.”