NATPE exhibitors hit new town

The exhibition floor on the opening day of the NATPE confab had plenty of local Miami flavor, and plenty of sights, sounds and at least one interesting smell.

“I’m your culinary Buddha,” explained exhibitor Michael Fenster, who described himself as a 10th-degree black belt, gourmet chef and cardiologist as he flipped over the slabs of steak sizzling in his grilling pan.

Fenster set up shop in Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau hotel to hawk his cooking show “What’s Cooking With Doc.” He was among dozens of ambitious exhibitors looking to grab the attention of the TV biz with a showy display on the NATPE exhibition floor.

In its move to Miami this year after nearly 20 years in Las and and New Orleans, the exhibition side of the NATPE confab has deliberately decided to cater to international attendees. The major domestic syndie players are holed up in private suites in the Fontainebleau and Eden Rock Hotels, but the floor is a melting pot of mostly Latin American, European and U.K. TV buyers and sellers. One longtime attendee described the atmosphere as “NATPE meets AFM.”

Overall attendance seemed strong on day one. The Miami Beach setting has facilitated a number of private yacht parties skedded this week by distribs including CBS, which adds a nightlife dimension that has been missing from NATPE confabs in the recent past.

Jerome Alby of France’s Mediatoon said that the new locale gave his company the opportunity to double dip — work the Mediatoon booth part of the day and visit biz contacts in Miami the rest of the time.

“HBO Latin America, Discovery Kids, Nickelodeon, MTV Latin America — all of these are based here, so you can have kind of a double-purpose trip,” Alby said. Mediatoon, he said, got little out of the Vegas edition of NATPE and was thrilled with the relocation, which gives his company a chance to flog its “Garfield” cartoon to Latin distribs that didn’t attend last year’s conference.

The showroom floor was packed with attention-grabbing additions to the mix — clowns from the Spanish-language skein “Chiquilinas” made eye contact and mimed delight and anticipation as attendees passed by. Local modeling agencies were out in force with their talent: A lot of exhibitors made generous use of spokesmodels to drive foot traffic.

Of course, there were hiccups for some attendees. For one, the food options are not as plentiful, or as economical, as they are at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, where NATPE has set up shop for most of the past decade.

“I like it better when you have a lot of quick food options,” said Randy Wood of Axis Pro, a production insurance provider. “At some of these nice hotels, they don’t have anything quick, and I’m behind a booth all day.” Wood said that his outpost on the floor had seen some decent traffic, though the first day wasn’t the best litmus test. “The first day is always best, the second day less, and the third day is torture,” he said, sounding like a NATPE vet.

And in the some-things-never-change department, the waits for elevators heading to the private suites were interminable — 15 minutes or more just to get on one of four elevator cars.

“Everyone was late this morning,” sighed one exhibitor.

“This is ridiculous,” panted another attendee, heels in hand, as she trudged down a 10th flight of stairs. “It’s ridiculous that I’m barefoot right now.”

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