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New World Tunes In To TV Mart

The organizers of NATPE Intl. are hellbent on turning what used to be the most domestic of TV tradeshows into a global multimedia event. A whole other layer of activity is being glommed on to the nitty-gritty of station clearances and the frivolity of photo ops with celebs.

Like multimedia trade shows in Europe and Latin America, NATPE is now attracting not just syndicators and station general managers, but new-media mavens and techno-wonks, investment bankers, entertainment lawyers, ad agency aces and talent agents, location specialists and film commissioners, co-production packagers, international consultants, marketing and merchandising mavens, satcasters and cablers.

A record 153 companies are exhibiting for the first time at NATPE – Microsoft, Carsey-Werner, Solomon Intl. Enterprises, Seagull Entertainment, Imayen Satelital and Locations Tasmania among them.

“Think of NATPE as a tent which is trying to accommodate all companies that have to do with software,” says NATPE Intl. president Bruce Johansen, adding that the tent widens with each show. This year floor space has ballooned more than 15% – 348,000 square feet against last year’s 294,000.

Among other growing attractions or new additions to the annual bazaar Johansen points to the new media pavilion where there will be hands-on demonstrations of how to graze on the Internet; to early morning coffee klatches with producers Quincy Jones, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Aaron Spelling; and to evening events under the rubric “NATPE at Night.” The latter addresses urgencies such as “How to get a program produced with no money, no experience and no relative in the biz.”

Johansen also points out that of the 470 companies that so far have inked for booth space at the Sands Convention Center, 160 are foreign-owned players. At last year’s event in Miami, 115 companies out of a total 392 were foreign. Las Vegas is set for a 30% increase in the international contingent.

“We may have been a little naive in past years, singling out the international contingent with special badges, treating them somehow differently,” says Johansen. “That’s changed. As a sign of just how global the business has become, they’re designated now simply as buyers, sellers, producers, whatever, not by their nationality. It’s no longer them and us.”

Johansen says that this year’s NATPE, which unspools Jan. 23-26, will be “a microcosm of our business globally” not just a U.S. tradeshow.

The international contingent will be as diverse as ever with sizable representation from Europe and Asia as well as from neighboring Latin America and Canada.

Johansen says registration from non-U.S. delegates is clocking at a 40% faster pace than it did last year, meaning that he foresees “easily more” than 2,000 foreign-based delgates hitting the Sands Convention floor. Last year the international contingent numbered approximately 1,500.

Johansen insists that the international delegates have just as much to do at a tradeshow like NATPE as the Americans. He does not think NATPE will negatively affect the Monte Carlo TV market, a mainly European TV tradeshow that unfolds three weeks later.

U.S. international sellers – a hardy lot that now travels to seven or eight international tradeshows a year – accept the dictum that wherever buyers congregate, so must sellers.

Michael J. Solomon, former head of Warners Intl. TV sales effort and now an indie producer/distribber, says: “It’s important to be there. I’m on a continuing learning curve and I always accomplish a great deal at markets.”

Similarly, New World Entertainment president/CEO Jim McNamara is a great believer in the advantages gatherings like NATPE offer. “Any convention is an excuse to open, further or finalize some deal with a buyer.”

WorldVision’s senior VP Bert Cohen says he will use NATPE to concentrate on his Latin American and Canadian clients, saving his negotiations with Euro clients for Monte Carlo.

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