When NATPE secured commitments from CBS Enterprises (comprising King World and CBS Broadcast International), Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and Universal’s domestic and international operations to return to the convention floor in January, it was a positive step in the evolution of an organization that has struggled with identity and economics in recent years.
The distributors joined Sony, NBC and others that had already announced their commitments. With the growing roster of exhibitors, the National Association of Television Program Executives’ 2004 conference and exhibition in Las Vegas promises to once again resemble the annual meet-and-greet that for some four decades was samong the most important days of the year for the programming business.
If the companies that are still on the fence about whether to return to the show floor decide to join the ranks, NATPE will become again what it always intended to be: a forum for stoking fires, being a part of something and maintaining and bolstering relationships.
TelevisionWeek encourages the undecided distributors to reserve space and take the plunge.
No, they cannot expect to clinch the kind of key station deals during the conference they clinched a decade-or even five years-ago. But they also will not have to spend the kind of money they used to dole out on outrageous, glitzy booths during the days when they were writing lots of deals at NATPE.
At the same time, they can still provide the kind of draw that energizes the entire event, even with a downsized exhibition presence. When the major companies return to the floor, so do agents, producers, advertisers, station executives and others. The big companies get key face time with a wide range of business contacts, and smaller companies have the benefit of sharing access to this expanded attendance. It is good for the entire industry.
Some have said NATPE is no longer necessary because the TV syndication business today launches fewer projects and attracts a smaller audience. The fact is that today the business is much larger than just syndication. It is multiplatform (broadcast, cable, satellite, syndication), international in scope and multidimensional in terms of revenue opportunities (DVD, VOD, PVR, hi-def, broadband, Internet and so forth). Bringing all of these interests together creates tremendous opportunities and provides an environment to celebrate success stories that create enthusiasm crucial to a creative business.
What’s more, the setup at the Venetian Hotel and adjoining Sands Expo Center is ideal for a NATPE confab circa 2004. The hotel and exhibition hall are easily accessible to each other; smaller, less costly exhibits are encouraged; and the hotel can accommodate everyone who wants to be there.
So forget about widely scattered suites, which force much of the networking and traditional NATPE spontaneity to occur at hotel elevator banks. The point of an industry gathering is to bring people together. Participating in the NATPE bazaar simply remains the most efficient, accessible way to keep syndication’s small-screen dreams alive and the entire business healthy.