After the industry suffered the shock of last year's declining NATPE, 2003 will be a year of transition for the venerable programming conference. The show will spend its last year in New Orleans, trying out some new ideas to replace the grandiose exhibition booths of old and preparing for its permanent move to Las Vegas come 2004.
In a demonstration of support for the NATPE, all the major syndicators will be attending the show. Buena Vista Television, King World, MGM/NBC Enterprises, Paramount Domestic Television, Sony Pictures Television, Tribune Entertainment, Twentieth Television, Universal Domestic Television and Warner Bros. all are taking kiosks in new, so-called Hollywood Plaza on the convention floor to direct attendees to their suites in nearby hotels such as the Fairmont and the Wyndham Canal.
"Distributors don't want to put the money out to be on the floor this year," says Dick Askin, president and CEO of Tribune Entertainment. "You gain substantial savings by going to a hotel. Building a booth is like building a custom house. It's an expensive proposition."
Because the huge booths won't be a factor this year, NATPE will host mixers every day on the show floor at 4:30 p.m. NATPE hasn't done that in the past because many booths used to serve drinks and food all day long. Also, the show was once too big to "mix." But the 2003 show may have attendance of just around 10,000.
"It will be better because people will be mixing with each other all over the floor and they won't be stuck in a booth," says Bruce Johansen, NATPE's president. "It's also a way to draw people to the floor."
Askin adds, "I think the thing I always enjoy about NATPE is that it gives you a chance to network with colleagues from all aspects of the business."
NATPE also will offer several how-to sessions, such as how to secure foreign funding for a project, how to pitch a show and even how to "network," to prep attendees for all the happy hours.
"They're the kind of informational, very practical and pragmatic workshops that we haven't done in the past," says Johansen. "It's partly because we're seeing independent producers and small companies sign up to come to the conference and they told us this was the kind of information they wanted and needed."
Another difference between this year and last is the return of station-group executives' holding affiliate meetings, although some syndicators say they are bringing fewer executives this year than they did last.
"If I get to NATPE and I haven't closed a fair amount of my business, then I'm not in good shape anyway," says John Nogawski, executive vice president of Paramount Domestic Television. "But I think NATPE still is a good place for us to convene and I enjoy spending time with clients there."
Largely due to the efforts of NATPE Chairman Tony Vinciquerra, president of the Fox TV Stations, three of the major broadcast networks will hold meetings at NATPE. Fox will hold both an affiliates' meeting and an affiliates' board of governors' meeting at NATPE. Both CBS and NBC also will hold boards of governors' meetings, while NBC will convene in New Orleans general managers and program directors from its 14 owned-and-operated stations. Post-Newsweek also plans to hold a managers' meeting, while several large TV station groups, such as Belo Corp., Hearst-Argyle and LIN Television plan to bring more top executives than they did last year.
"There are a lot of meetings taking place that we haven't seen in a couple of years," Johansen says. "Without Tony's leadership, I'm not sure we would have as many groups participating."