Fontainebleau cabanas are sunny base for NATPE schmoozing

MIAMI — For an explanation of why the NATPE confab has enjoyed a rebound with its move to Miami, look no further than the cabanas that ring a plaza of pools and jacuzzis outside of Fontainebleau hotel.

By any measure, doing business and schmoozing clients is a lot more fun in a cozy outdoor setting than it is inside the gray walls of a convention-center booth.

The major distribs erect signage and add other trade-show trappings to the cabanas, like pillows with the CBS logo and giveaway “Me TV” sunglasses. MGM TV declared its area to be “Paternity Courtyard,” in a promo nod to its syndie strip “Paternity Court.” NBCUniversal is taking up the largest space, complete with a live camera set up for dispatches from “Access Hollywood Live.”

During the three-day confab, the pool area is mostly taken over by NATPE goers, but there are pockets of non-pros spread among the chaise lounges here and there. Visitors who clearly hail from colder climates luxuriate in the sun, while kids splashing and screeching in the multiple pools add a vacation feel for otherwise hard-working bizzers.

Arsenio Hall was among those taking in the balmy air on Monday afternoon in the CBS TV Distribution cabana as a parade of station managers and other key constituents for his upcoming latenight yakker came by to shake hands. In discussing his decision to return to the latenight fray, nearly 20 years after signing off of his first effort, Hall reflected on the NATPE experience, then and now. For starters, there are fewer parties (Hall in fact was the toast of this year’s biggest bash on Monday night at a South Beach hot spot) and it’s also a more relaxed environment.

“It seemed like you used to come (to the confab) really with your wares in your hand and really had to sell, sell, sell,” he said. Proving that he hadn’t lost his feel for syndie bragging: “Of course, I’m already at 98%” clearance level for the show.

Hall emphasized that his comeback was not an overnight achievement, but rather a five-year process of finding the right fit. He knew it was time to get back to work after he had a chance on-camera experience on the “Lopez Tonight” show toward the end of its run in 2011. Hall hadn’t planned on making an appearance; he’d been waiting backstage because he and Lopez were heading to a Laker game after the show. But Lopez on a whim asked him to pop out and ad-lib an introduction for guest Snoop Dogg.

As the camera zoomed in on him and the crowd roared, Hall was overcome with excitement.

“It was like seeing a woman I once loved,” he said, smiling ear to ear as he leaned back on a CBS-embossed pillow.

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