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There’s Something About NATPE 2004

Jan 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Following two years of dissipating crowds and questions about NATPE’s relevance, there’s a tangible change of attitude in the air heading into the 2004 National Association of Television Program Executives conference and exhibition in Las Vegas. The pre-event buzz is back, and the sense of anticipation among attendees, which seemed to be missing in recent years, appears to have been renewed. It’s a golden opportunity for the NATPE organization to reinforce the event’s importance to the industry.
Part of that change in attitude could be attributable to a new hopefulness, perhaps springing from an improving economy. Or it could be the entry of several well-heeled cable networks as participants and buyers with a serious appetite for both new and repurposed product. Or it could be the fundamental excitement of gathering together people from all walks of the television business to put faces together with names, exchange ideas and feel part of a whole. After all, beyond the bottom line dollars-and-cents function, that networking component has always been a big part of NATPE’s value.
This year, at the eleventh hour, the importance of the business side of NATPE has suddenly become more evident. That’s because a number of first-run syndicated shows are facing cancellation, potentially creating holes in station schedules. That reinforces the need for the dissemination of information and access to product. It proves that even though vertical integration and consolidation have forever changed the face of the syndication business, an annual central marketplace still plays an important, if not essential, role.
Positive though the new energy surrounding NATPE may be, the annual bazaar is nonetheless at a crossroads. Plans for the event beyond this year are not firm, and NATPE 2005 could end up being a very different animal indeed. It could move yet again to a new venue and city. It could drop the exhibit floor completely. Or it could simply go out of existence.
NATPE, whose death knell was sounded as far back as 2000, has been on and off life support ever since, and it’s far from cured. But the fact that it’s going into its 2004 stanza with an air of optimism suggests that nobody really wants to see it to disappear. Re-energized under new President Rick Feldman, we hope the NATPE organization will seize the opportunity to re-assert the convention and exhibition’s relevance in today’s rapidly changing business environment.
We continue to believe that NATPE is needed and that it can be made even more relevant. Things do change rapidly and even within large station groups, there are still local considerations and individual programming decisions to be made. And there is no replacement for bringing people together to discuss the issues, build business relationships and create a sense of community.