Debate on the NATPE floor

Feb 3, 2003  •  Post A Comment

NBC Enterprises is joining Sony Pictures Television in leading a charge back to the National Association of Television Program Executives convention floor and is urging other distributors to do the same.
NBC Enterprises confirmed last week that it is are indeed “moving toward a return to the floor” at next January’s convention in Las Vegas after a two-year period during which virtually all the major syndicators withdraw from the floor and conduct their business in hotel suites.
“Our first choice will be to come back to the floor with the other studios,” said Ed Wilson, president of NBC Enterprises. “We feel that the energy created by all of us being in one place is a positive. We all left NATPE feeling very good about the business that was being done, and we hope to improve on that next year.”
Mr. Wilson cited troubles with elevators and a general feeling of annoyance from buyers who are forced to move from suite to suite as areas needing improvement.
“We have to consider what’s good for the business and what’s good for the buyers,” he said. “If we can find a way to keep our costs down and still make it convenient for our customers, that’s good business.”
Last week, Sony Pictures Television broke ranks with those majors averse to the floor when executive VP John Weiser confirmed his company’s commitment to using a booth rather than a suite as its central place of business.
“We want to be as accessible for our customers as possible,” said Mr. Weiser. “We believe that being on the floor will make it easy for our customers to visit and do business with us.”
Mr. Weiser noted that the Sony booth likely will not be of the behemoth scale seen at previous NATPEs. With a scaled-back booth, the cost made sense, he said.
“We heard from our customers some of the problems they have had moving from hotel suite to hotel suite and we feel that through a cost-efficient version of a NATPE booth we can be more responsive to our customer base.”
Other distributors, however, were not as keen to change course. Spokespersons for Tribune and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution said that returning to the floor was not in their plans. A Warner Bros. spokesman said that if the company decided to go to Las Vegas at all, in all likelihood, they’d be at the Venetian Hotel. The company’s international television distribution division is, however, confirmed, for suites at the Venetian.
Among the undecided companies, MGM is said to be leaning toward a return, but sources said no decisions have been made. Twentieth Television also is mulling a return.
“Although our experiences for the last two years in hotel suites has been exceptional, we’re not opposed to exploring the pros and cons of making a return to the floor,” said Bob Cook, president and chief operating officer of Twentieth Television.
Paramount, Universal and King World also have not decided. “We just finished that last [NATPE]; it could be a while before we can determine anything of that nature,” said one company executive.
“Clearly we want to do what’s best for most of the attendees, and many of the distributors realized it was very inconvenient being spread out,” said outgoing NATPE president/CEO Bruce Johansen. “There are still concerns about elevator congestion (delaying visits to the suites), and bringing people back to the floor will energize business throughout the convention.”
NATPE 2004 will take place Jan. 13 to16 at the adjoined Venetian Hotel/Sands Expo complex as part of a long-term deal with the hotel to host the convention in 2004 and beyond. A proposal to hold a second NATPE gathering in December 2004 is on the table, though no decision will be made until a new president/CEO is named to replace Mr. Johansen.