NATPE on the Rebound with Studios’ Backing

At the annual VideoAge breakfast, NATPE president Rick Feldman urged both distributors and sellers to return to the exhibit floor as a way to improve business for all participants planning to attend the 2004 market in Las Vegas, to be held January 18-20. He stressed the importance of the international community for the continued growth and success of NATPE. "We are a global TV family. NATPE is the only international TV market held in America and we need everyone's support to make it a success."

A key achievement by Feldman has been his ability to convince several major U.S. distributors to return to the exhibition floor. Among the companies who have officially committed to formally exhibiting on the floor during NATPE are Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and its international division, Universal's domestic and international TV divisions, CBS Broadcast International, NBC Enterprises, Sony Pictures TV and the most-recently announced King World Productions. Warner Brothers will be located upstairs at the Sands Expo Center & Venetian Hotel. The other major player, Paramount, has yet to commit. In addition, Telefilm Canada will be on the floor, but CHUM and some Latin Americans will be in suites, possible with a dual presence on the floor.

In addition to competing with the adverse economic climate, the reduced U.S. syndication market and the changed domestic release schedule, NATPE is sandwiched between Reed's Asia Television Forum in Singapore, December 2-5, 2003 and the American Film Market in Santa Monica, CA, February 25-March 3, 2004. In addition, it still has to figure out whether it's a convention floor exhibition or a hotel suite-based market.

"We've held conversations with more than 500 people worldwide and conducted extensive research to learn what our members and past conference attendees look for from NATPE. Increasing conference attendance and membership among the domestic and international buying community were the top-line items for an overwhelming majority of the people we spoke with. With this need in mind, we've created the VIP Buyer Membership category to assist them with their jobs in seeking product for their schedules and entice them to attend NATPE 2004 at a very attractive price."

Feldman said that although NATPE can't control signage, it will "hire interns to help push people in the right direction in the hotel." He added that NATPE will "produce a country-by-country participants' guide, and we are working on other benefits."

The guide will be available in print and online by December 1, and expanded listings will include not only exhibitor contact details, but program and product information.

"Yes, the cost could be a little more or a lot more, but having everyone together is vitally important," Feldman told the breakfast participants, who included Paramount's Gary Marenzi. "Easy access is important. Last year there were many people who felt intimidated going to the hotel suites. In addition to being spread out, many times they would show up and find the door closed or be unable to find someone, especially if they didn't have an appointment. I know that some companies didn't want people showing up without an appointment. Now, I'm not going to try and tell people how to conduct their business, but by being on the floor, you may get business you weren't expecting from a person or company you weren't even aware of."

Feldman assured those in attendance that after two years of struggling, NATPE was back on track. "It's funny how we had the best year [2000] and the worst year [2001] only one year apart," due in large part to the 9/11 tragedy and the ongoing advertising downturn. "But the economy is picking up in the four and a half months since I've had this job," he concluded.

With the expected increase in business for the exhibit floor, VideoAge will publish three dailies instead of two at NATPE.