Deals more lucrative, but less people traffic

LAS VEGAS — Even broadcasters are all shook up.

For the first time in at least 14 years, attendance at the National Assn. of Broadcasters’ annual confab has dropped from the previous year, ending an impressive, static-free run. NAB officials attributed the unexpected reduction to the troubled economy.

Preliminary numbers released on Tuesday by the NAB showed that 112,766 people had registered through Monday for the six-day confab, which ends Thursday. In 2000, final attendance figure was 115,293.

Final figure could drop further once the number of actual confab badges picked up is tabulated in the next few weeks.

Until Tuesday NAB had estimated that attendance would be at least as high as last year.

Obvious decline

Confab goers didn’t need to see the figures to know that this year is quieter in terms of sheer human traffic on the show floors at the Las Vegas and Sands convention centers. While they may be inking more lucrative deals this year, exhibitors said that the number of people stopping by their booths was down.

“The more serious people seem to be coming to this year’s show,” said one high-level IBM exec. “This time it’s not all talk, but deal time.”

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said broadcasters — just like all other sectors — are cutting back on expenses due to the uncertain economy.

Others say the recent resignation of CBS from NAB clearly had an impact on this year’s confab. The net pulled out after all plans and estimates for NAB had been tabulated

One NAB exec said the media’s focus on the attendance number was overblown. “What does it matter once you’re over 100,000 if it’s 115,000 or 112,000?” the exec said.

In 1986, 39,000 industryites attended NAB. By 1991, the number had grown to 51,217. In 1998, 100,245 attended and in 1999, 104,805.

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