NATPE lands some big fish

Sony, NBC-E back on expo floor

The National Assn. of TV Program Executives, beleaguered in the last few years by the defection of major distributors from leasing space at the convention centers, is crowing about the decision of NBC Enterprises and Sony Pictures TV to return to the exhibition floor in 2004.

Neither NBC-E nor Sony took exhibit space at January’s NATPE convention in New Orleans. Instead, they joined the other big distributors in walking away from NATPE and renting hotel suites to try to find TV station buyers for their syndicated series.

New attitude

But that was then. A spokesman for NBC said, “We regard NATPE as one of the most important industry events of the year.” He added that NBC-E hasn’t decided yet on the size of the booth or the amount of square footage it will use, but said the company’s sales force will hold many of its business meetings in and around the Sands Expo.

The news of a change of heart by NBC-E and Sony gives bragging rights to Rick Feldman, NATPE’s recently appointed president-CEO. He was unavailable for comment, but a NATPE spokesman said the org is pitching some of the other distribs to follow the lead of NBC-E and Sony.

Heading to Venetian

The next NATPE takes place Jan. 18-20 in Las Vegas at the Venetian Hotel and its adjoining Sands Expo Center.

Two years ago, NATPE took over the much bigger Las Vegas Convention Center, which distributors shunned, saying the circus atmosphere of an exhibition floor was not the best atmosphere for negotiating TV series deals with station managers. At that time, most of the distribs took suites at the Venetian Hotel, which was a long cab ride from the convention center.

NATPE has begun drawing up the blueprint for its 2004 conference agenda, which will include issue-oriented panels, workshops, guest speakers and networking events.