NATPE offers slashed prices to stay alive

Cost cuts exhibited

NEW YORK — The National Assn. of TV Program Executives, desperate to stay alive as a key annual convention for domestic syndicators, told a Los Angeles meeting of top distributors Thursday that it planned to slash the cost of exhibiting on the convention floor to a fraction of the seven figures that the big TV companies have spent in the past.

“NATPE is trying to create a significant incentive for distributors to go back on the floor,” said Garnett Losak, VP and director of programming for Petry Media and a member of NATPE’s strategic-planning task force.

At January’s NATPE convention in Las Vegas, most of the major U.S. distribs boycotted the floor and rented suites across town at the Venetian Hotel. The distribs engineered that radical move at least in part as a protest against the high cost of exhibiting at the convention center.

But the sputtering economy caused many TV-station execs to stay away from the NATPE convention this year.

Addressing that problem, the NATPE task force is proposing to offer free hotel accommodations and waive the registration fee for TV-program buyers to get them to attend the convention in force.

As NATPE envisions the costs of the convention in 2003, a distributor renting the biggest modular booth (60 feet by 60 feet) and taking additional space on the second floor of the convention center for hospitality suites will not have to pony up more than $200,000, which is less than the cost of taking a group of suites at a luxury hotel in New Orleans.

Since talk of an alternative to NATPE — such as a meeting in Los Angeles in November between distributors and buyers in suites set up in a conveniently located hotel — has begun to cool, NATPE officials were optimistic that they could work out an accommodation with syndicators that would make the January 2003 convention a successful one.

The give-and-take at the Feb. 28 meeting was “excellent,” said Bob Cook, president and chief operating officer of Twentieth TV. “The major studios are supportive and cooperative, and we all want to pull together to keep costs down.”

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