Will Vegas Bring Back the Buzz?

With NATPE's annual gathering of TV executives only a week away, association President and CEO Rick Feldman says registration is pacing about 1,000 registrants ahead of last year at this time. That's good news for the group, which is looking to show the industry that it's back in the game, in terms of both attendance and buzzworthiness.

"This year, it's not so much about the numbers, it's about the gestalt," Feldman says. "It's about how people feel about the environment and whether they got their time and money's worth by attending."

He hopes to make that happen in two ways. First, he thinks he has a more exciting, more centralized show floor in Las Vegas than has been seen in recent years, particularly last year in New Orleans when the major syndicators were scattered in hotel rooms all over town. Second, he has up lined dynamic keynote speakers and panels that attract attendees.

To that end, last week, NATPE announced that combative Chris Matthews, host of his own NBC Enterprises show, will be the show's keynote speaker, giving a speech titled "Boss Tube Beats Out Boss Tweed: How the Electronic Media Took Over Electoral Politics" on Sunday, Jan. 18 at 9 a.m.

NATPE also has added several other big names to its speaker roster as the show draws closer.

Motivational guru Pat Croce, host of his own new Sony show, will join the Loose Cannons panel, which will be moderated by Larry King and feature King World's Roger King, HDNet's Mark Cuban, talk-show host Jerry Springer and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. Loose Cannons kicks off Monday morning at 9 a.m. The idea, it seems, is create some red-hot arguing points.

Norm Pattiz, chairman of the Middle East Committee of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors and chairman of Westwood One, will be the guest of Variety's Peter Bart and Mandalay Entertainment Group's Peter Guber, during their "Coffee With…" panel. Pattiz appears with Bart and Guber on Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 9 a.m.; Phil Rosenthal, creator and executive producer of CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond, will be their Monday-morning guest.

NATPE attendees should be prepared to pull out their driver's licenses from time to time, because security alerts for Las Vegas have been heightened in recent weeks. Although those alerts have lessened since New Year's Eve, NATPE still is going to institute a few more identity checks this year.

"We just want to make sure that people who pick up their credentials are the people they say they are," Feldman says. "It's a little extra level of security."