Editorial: NATPE Take-Home: Change Is Imperative

Feb 1, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Attendance declined 14% this year at the annual convention of the National Association of Television Program Executives. Some analysts are forecasting doom for the stations that supply the syndication industry’s cash lifeblood. This is not a pretty picture for NATPE as it currently is conceived.
But thinking of NATPE and its annual event in their current incarnations isn’t really that useful. It was an event designed for a different time, and given that conditions in the syndication industry have changed, it’s time to reimagine the organization.
Going into NATPE last week, TelevisionWeek polled its readers about how NATPE should change. While we don’t pretend that the sample size (about 50 respondents) makes for a solid read of the syndication zeitgeist, the answers were illuminating.
First the good news: 64% of voters last week said they were going to NATPE, and half the field said there was less than a 25% chance this will be their last trip to the show.
But poll results about the location, function and description of the show, and the NATPE organization itself, produce less clear direction about where the group should head.
NATPE President-CEO Rick Feldman is ahead of his constituents in terms of rethinking the convention, indicating last week that the show floor at the convention center may be a thing of the past. Nearly 80% of respondents said they still need a floor. But Mr. Feldman is right: The event would be better held entirely in suites, or some other solution that puts all exhibitors on equal footing.
The poll takers were on the mark, however, in suggesting a change of location for the convention, with 43% saying Los Angeles is a better spot (29% favored Las Vegas).
We’re in the Los Angeles camp. First, we have Vegas fatigue. Second, Hollywood’s preeminent role in creating content makes it a good home for a content show. Of course finding the right venue would be important, as would commitments from studios to not kidnap attendees away to their own lots to monopolize their time. Those issues seem surmountable.
We agree with the majority of respondents who said NATPE should change its name to reflect its broader mission of representing those who create content for television and other media. Let’s face it: NATPE is a dull, opaque tongue-twister. What about an acronym based on the concept of media content, which is what the group now purports to be about?
We recognize that the extraordinary facts this year (a recession and little inventory moving in the syndication marketplace) make 2009 unusually challenging. But change at NATPE is overdue, and we hope the group is bold enough to embrace it.

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