BVT is fourth distrib to nix pricey NATPE booth

Buena Vista Television makes four. The domestic distributor has decided to back off from the exhibition floor of the upcoming National Assn. of Television Program Execs confab in Las Vegas.

Move by the Disney division that distributes such shows as “Live! With Regis & Kelly” follows similar decisions by Warner Bros. Domestic TV, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach’s domestic distrib division and King World.

King World’s plans to seek an alternative to mounting an expensive, elaborate booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center involves both its domestic and international divisions, a company spokesman confirmed.

NATPE 2002 runs Jan. 21-24.

Warners, the first studio to blaze the trail off the floor of the 2002 confab, and C-W-M have set up space to meet with clients at the Venetian Hotel instead (Daily Variety, May 9). BVT and King World have not yet announced where they’ll house their operations while in Las Vegas.

As the program sales business has changed with the tides of consolidation, NATPE’s annual gathering has come under fire from syndicators, who say fewer of their station clients attend the convention every year.

NATPE prexy-CEO Bruce Johansen has defended the event, pointing out that while fewer general managers show up, the key decision makers still attend.

In recent years, NATPE attendance from the international and new-media sectors has grown, balancing losses in other areas.

Since the confab originated out of the needs of domestic programmers, however, the annual gathering traditionally has been anchored by the large displays of syndie divisions of such companies as Warner, Paramount, Columbia TriStar, Studios USA, Twentieth, Buena Vista and Universal.

The tough economic climate this year has exacerbated studios’ frustrations, as they find it increasingly difficult to justify the expense of mounting their traditional exhibits, which can cost north of $1.5 million.

Johansen could not be reached for comment about Buena Vista’s decision.

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