The NATPE conference will mark its tenth iteration of dealmaking, networking, brainstorming and ocean-gazing in Miami this year.
The move of the association’s annual market and conference to Miami Beach in 2011 was born out of desperate times, but the balmy setting has proven to be a boon for the National Assn. of Television Program Executives.
Miami is a central hub for the conference’s strong contingent of Latin American attendees. And for programming executives and station managers across the U.S., there’s no doubt that a trek to Miami Beach in the middle of winter is an appealing prospect.
“Miami is a global destination,” says JP Bommel, president and CEO of NATPE, which is based in Los Angeles. “It’s a booming area for media and entertainment and for multiculturalism.”
Before moving to Miami in 2011, NATPE conferences in the previous decade were held in Las Vegas (with the exception of 2003’s sojourn to New Orleans). Attendance was strong in the 2004-2007 period. But after the mortgage meltdown in the U.S. spurred global financial crises in 2008 and 2009, industry participation in the event plummeted. And NATPE was tied to long-term contracts for conference and exhibition space in Sin City that it could no longer fill. Dark clouds on the economic front and empty space on the floor cast a pall on the conference for a few years.
“In 2008 and 2009, NATPE felt like a 300-pound man who had lost half the weight and was wearing the same suit he’d worn the year before,” says Rick Feldman, the former NATPE chief who stepped down in 2012 after nine years at the helm.
Once NATPE was free to shop around again, Miami was a natural focal point. But Feldman realized that the major studios and distributors did not want to return to a convention center setting. The days of studios spending $2 million plus to construct lavish booths were over. The drop in attendance from the 7,000-10,000 range before the crash to about 5,000-5,500 made it feasible, size-wise, for the event to relocate to Fontainebleau Hotel in the heart of Miami Beach.
The Fontainebleau went out of its way to make its space work for the NATPE crowd. Feldman, who remains a regular NATPE attendee, also gives a lot of credit to the surroundings and the fact that the hotel is steps away from the Atlantic Ocean. Since its inception in 1964, NATPE historically bounced around several cities — including New York, San Francisco and Houston — but the residency in Miami has helped exhibitors and attendees better plan for the event.
“You can’t minimize the effect of the location,” Feldman says. “What would Mipcom be in Vegas instead of the Croisette [at Cannes]? It wouldn’t have the same allure.”
Per Bommel, NATPE is committed to Miami for the next few years and he sees no reason to move. The conference has settled into a regular attendance of about 5,000 who make NATPE the first conference stop of the year.
“We have 5,000 attendees who matter,” he says. “We have the opportunity to network with high-level executives and to meet with advertisers and to learn from conference programming. The importance of this organization has never been greater at a time when content is changing so much.”