NATPE, others losing large percentage of visitors

NEW YORK — Attendance expectations for NATPE 2002 are low and distribs, from the large studios to the smaller companies, will be bringing in much less personnel this year to Las Vegas, both at the Convention Center and the Venetian Hotel.

“Clearly it’s safe to say that people are traveling less since the terrorist attack on Sept. 11 and this will not benefit NATPE or other business mediums,” says John Rash, senior director of broadcast negotiations at Campbell Mithun. “But considering that key distributors already said they would not be exhibiting on the floor prior to Sept. 11, the whole relevance of NATPE was already in question.”

NATPE isn’t the only convention losing a large percentage of attendees. Just recently three conferences held after Sept. 11 — Comdex (down 45%), the Western Cable Show (down 48%) and Mipcom (down 15%) — suffered significant registration declines.

Factor in a recent story from Trade Show Week that reported fourth quarter 2001 fell to some of the lowest overall convention attendance levels over the past three decades and NATPE 2002 is clearly poised for a downturn.

“What used to be a selling bazaar no longer exists and we’ve seen the focus of the convention change in recent years,” adds Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming at the Katz TV Group.

“Less people attending NATPE and more doing business over the phone is really more a reflection of company cost-cutting than anything else.”

NATPE chief Bruce Johansen says that while the domestic syndie business is down, the networking of worldwide execs in businesses outside syndication that takes place at the convention remains highly relevant.

“What was once an arena for domestic syndication is now a global environment for a multitude of participants, including advertisers, new-media/wireless companies, cable, independent producers, sports, international business and, of course, domestic syndication. As the business sector widens so does the scope of NATPE and alliances with other industry organizations are not inconceivable.”

Though 250 exhibs who attended NATPE last year are out of business, others are coming for the first time.

“This is the first year my company is attending NATPE and we wouldn’t miss it,” says Charlie Mitchell, VP of sales and marketing at Picture PipeLine, a recently launched company that provides a high-speed, digital conduit to securely stream video for real-time collaboration among multiple remote production locations.

“There is still no other place you can go to find as many TV executives in one place at one time.”

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