CEO Feldman heads off exhibs sneaking in on yachts

NATPE prexy and CEO Rick Feldman sat down with the press corps in Miami at a wrap-up luncheon on Wednesday, the final day of the syndication confab, for a postmortem on what had gone right, what had gone wrong, and what would happen next year. Journos didn’t even offer Feldman a cigarette and a blindfold before asking why the schedule was printed so small, why the gift bags had been complimentary only to attendees (not reporters) this year, and why there had been no coffee or water in the press room.

Feldman stood firm on everything but the coffee. “We’ll do that next year,” he promised (coffee was available for purchase just down the hall from the press room for $5 a cup, and water was $7 for an 11 oz. bottle).

For the second year in a row, NATPE Miami has gotten positive feedback from buyers and exhibitors who left the conference’s final abandoned-parking-lot Vegas edition with the feeling that syndie TV had collapsed in on itself. Attendance this year was up about 10%, Feldman said, with the number of exhibitors up by roughly the same.

It’s a smaller show than it was when King World rented the New Orleans Superdome for an Elton John concert, no doubt about it, but the correspondingly smaller venue makes it feel less moribund, and King World’s late NATPE deity Roger King would not have been ashamed of the bash Debmar-Mercury threw for Charlie Sheen and “Anger Management” on Monday.

It’s looking like NATPE is in Florida to stay. “We’re locked in for next year,” Feldman said of the Fountainebleau, “but we’ll be here one week later. And we have an option on ’14 that we have to exercise by the end of next year.”

The configuration at Miami’s Fountainebleau Resort probably isn’t ideal if you’re anxious to visit the city — the hotel’s layout seems designed to keep guests from going anywhere but the in-house nightclubs, expensive restaurants, gyms, pools and bars — but it’s perfect for car-less industryites who can hop from “Katie” to “The Ricki Lake Show” to “Steve Harvey” simply by getting on an elevator.

The coziness has its drawbacks, of course. Occasionally it was possible to walk into a bathroom and find every stall occupied by people taking phone meetings or changing clothes. Still, it’s better than braving the Vegas sidewalks to get from one show suite to the next.

Feldman said he felt the group had worked out some of the kinks from last year’s edition — the formerly 20-minute-long elevator waits were down to five minutes, tops, and the group made sure nobody else got away with renting a yacht, parking it across the street from the hotel and declining to pay exhibitors’ fees. “They all paid like exhibitors paid,” Feldman said happily. “Even Sony played by the rules this year. It was very exciting.”

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