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NATPE shadows Monte Carlo

The shadow of NATPE hung heavily over the 34th Monte Carlo Television Festival & Market Monday. Opinion was divided over whether the Miami-based National Assn. of TV Program Executives confab had taken the usefulness out of Monte Carlo.

As the first European mart of the year opened Monday, top TV execs were saying that business seemed slow and some companies were sending staffers home earlier than expected.

But veteran Monte Carlo attendees remained relaxed and the U.S. contingent insisted that the principality still offers them a vital opportunity to meet with clients.

“Monte Carlo is alive and well,” opined Paramount TV prexy Bruce Gordon, who said he’s showing product that wasn’t ready for international distribution before this market. Gordon’s team is pushing the latest series of “Star Trek” and four-wheeled starrer “Viper.”

Other senior execs, while acknowledging that they didn’t regret their Riviera rendezvous this year, said they had hoped organizers would put together a higher-profile market. “If we don’t see a lot of top-league buyers this year, then we’ll review the situation,” said one U.K. distributor.

At the Hotel Loews (the market’s host venue) on Monday, trade was brisk at the reception desk as industryites checked available flights out for Wednesday. The market ends Friday. “It was quiet last year and it’s the same this year. I’ve got to get back to my office,” said one Paris honcho.

Some key players, however, including Columbia/TriStar Intl. TV president Nicholas Bingham, suggested that the increased biz his company had done at NATPE gave Monte Carlo a “raison d’etre.”

“I found myself so submerged by people in Miami that I asked them if we could meet in Monte Carlo,” said Bingham.

“Monte Carlo provides a level playing field for everyone. That’s its beauty,” said another supporter, World Intl. Network president Larry Gershman.

The talk of the town was Michael J. Solomon’s departure as Warner Bros. Intl. TV president. Sporting the remains of a plaster cast on his left arm — from a tennis accident — a relaxed Solomon told Daily Variety that he is ready to bankroll his own TV production company and will look at taking equity stakes in foreign businesses.

While the community here awaited official confirmation, those in the know already were talking about Jeff Schlesinger, Solomon’s No. 2 at Warner Bros., as his replacement.

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