It's NATPE on a Budget

Your Unofficial Guide to New Orleans

So this is it for NATPE in New Orleans. Next week, when the programming convention begins its last confab in The Big Easy, it might look like NATPE but only in the way a toy train looks like a real one.

Once a great big convention, NATPE is now not very big at all. The gathering will attract something like 10,000 to the giant Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, but the major syndicators won't be there. They will be in hotel suites, although even that is a slight victory for NATPE: For at least the past four years, the major syndicators have threatened not to come at all.

This year, they're coming, but mainly it seems, to pay their respects. NATPE may continue to exist; it will permanently anchor itself to Las Vegas next year to make it easier and cheaper for syndicators.

But that grand show, that NATPE where Elvira, the Incredible Hulk, Wink Martindale, Wild Kingdom
monkeys, and Roger and Michael King all roamed the convention floor? That NATPE is over.

This year, the major syndies will be present in small spaces on the convention floor in what is called "Hollywood Plaza." But those spots will serve as coordinating areas, pointing potential customers to hotel suites throughout New Orleans where the studios will really be doing business.

There are still a few significant vendors on the exhibit floor itself. For those companies, NATPE has set up a Buyer's Lounge so that customers can deal and the exhibitor doesn't have the expense of building a booth with private meeting rooms.

The agenda is rather thin, but the opening session is strong. Organizers will laud Louisiana rep Billy Tauzin, followed by a panel of industry heavyweights, including syndicators Steve Rosenberg of Universal and research chief Bruce Rosenblum of Warner Bros. (Full agenda on page 24.)

It's not like NATPE of old, but, in an era of tightened budgets and consolidation and syndication "hits" that barely scratch a 2 rating, it might be just as much NATPE as the business needs.