Bruce Johansen Outlines NATPE’s Future

Bruce Johansen, NATPE president, made an unscheduled appearance at the traditional VideoAge breakfast at MIPCOM, in Cannes, France, where more than 30 executives gathered to discuss the upcoming NATPE. The TV market is scheduled for Jan. 20-23, 2003 in New Orleans.

Johansen began by talking about the future, saying that the goal for the 2004 market and conference will be to have the entire event housed in a single small exhibit hall, with all hospitality suites and attendees under the roof of one yet to be determined Las Vegas hotel. Las Vegas would become the permanent home of the annual market due to high costs of moving the convention to an alternate site such as Miami.

Meanwhile, among the new features planned for NATPE 2003 will be the Hollywood Plaza area where major studios will have a branded presence and offer walk-up service to attendees.

This, according to Johansen, allows the majors to retain their desired hotel suites while still offering NATPE financial support. The Hollywood Plaza pavilion is especially designed for those distributors who choose to take hotel suites instead of convention floor space. The pavilion will provide a receptionist space for company representatives to give out information and set up meetings. Distributors who have expressed an interest in the Plaza space include Buena Vista, Warner Bros., King World, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Tribune and Paramount. Johansen stressed that "Every effort is being made to effect a transition to better reflect the changing needs of the marketplace." He also addressed criticism that NATPE catered too much to the seven major U.S. syndicators by pointing out that because NATPE is non-profit, they need the majors to help "keep the organization going."

In order to attract more buyers, NATPE will offer discounts, special events, daily cocktail happy hours and a VIP Buyers Lounge. "The buyer is the most important [element]," Johansen said. The Buyers' Lounge will be located next to the Hollywood Plaza and it is designed to accommodate meetings for those who don't want to go to hotel suites.

However, during the traditional "Sauna Club" meeting at MIPCOM, some broadcasters said that they will skip NATPE. The "Sauna Club" is an informal name given to an annual get-together among Europe's public broadcasters. The name was derived by the event's first host who happened to be Finnish. The host change every year, but the French and Italians do not attend because, it is said, being political appointees, the executives don't consider themselves broadcasters.

The executive at the VideoAge breakfast aired their complaints, including poor booth location and that the length of the convention is too short. Johansen responded by saying that NATPE will open the floor this year on Monday and will have fewer seminars to keep more people on the floor.

The market in New Orleans is still divided into those who choose to be on the floor and those who prefer the hotel suite environment. The difference this time, is that, while in Las Vegas in January of this year, there where only two major locations (The Venetian and the Convention Center), next year there will be the possibility that the event will be scattered among three or more locales.

So far, a good number of large distributors have eyed The Ritz Carlton Hotel, including Paramount, Warner Bros., Buena Vista, Tribune, HBO, FremantleMedia, ChumTV, Alliance Atlantis and Universal. Columbia, on the other hand has checked out The W, while the Wyndham Canal Place Hotel has Universal and Warner Bros. Being an official NATPE hotel, however, the Wyndham will not have screenings rooms. Similarly, the Windsor Court Hotel, one of the preferred market venues, will not allow screening rooms, even though some majors - like Fox and MGM - will have suites at this hotel. Hearst Entertainment is also staying there, but will be exhibiting on the floor, and CBS/King World Productions. In any case, some distributors will be securing rooms in two or more hotels and will decide at the last minute where to set up shop.

Most of the large Latin American companies have opted for the Marriott, while distributors set to have space on the convention floor include Hearst, Nielsen Media Research, CABLEready, Carsey-Werner International, Discovery and Distraction.