NATPE to Go On with the Show

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The National Association of Television Programming Executives will proceed as scheduled with its January 2003 convention in New Orleans, executives said last week — even though the trade group has explored canceling its commitments with hotels and the city's convention center.

"We can't not honor our commitment and be viable as an organization," NATPE CEO Bruce Johansen said during a news conference at a West Hollywood hotel.

NATPE's signups for its 2002 convention — set for Jan. 21 to Jan. 24 in Las Vegas — are running about 40 percent behind 2001 bookings, Johansen said. But during a typical show, about 40 percent of attendees register at the event, he noted.

A decline would be in line with the experiences of the recent Comdex computer show, which saw attendance decline 45 percent, and cable's recent Western Show, which lost 48 percent of its attendees versus 2000.

The economy has hit NATPE's sector so hard that 200 exhibitors who attended the 2000 conference have since gone out of business, said trade group senior vice president of marketing Beth Braen.

Some 500 companies will exhibit next month in Las Vegas. Of those, about 150 are new to the convention, including Liberate Technologies Inc., AT&T Digital Media Centers and CAM Systems Inc.

NATPE originally rented two halls in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The organization will still pay for both venues, though the show will utilize just one facility.

Officials also said eight companies, including Warner Bros. Domestic Television, had abandoned floor exhibits in favor of hospitality suites at the Venetian Hotel. NATPE and the producers will pay for express buses to shuttle programmers from the hotel to the convention center; those companies will be listed in the official program.

The group also formed a task force to determine the configuration of future meetings — including the 2004 conference, also slated for New Orleans — and NATPE's future activities and goals.

Hearst-Argyle Television Inc. chief operating officer Tony Vinciquerra — who was named president of Fox Television Network last week — is task force chairman, subject to a vote later on Wednesday.

Other task force members include Lifetime Entertainment Services CEO Carole Black; AOL Time Warner Inc. chief operating officer, integrated sales Julie Kantrowitz; Petry Media Corp. vice president, director of programming Garnett Losak; Studios USA Domestic Television president Steve Rosenberg; and CHUM Television president Jay Switzer.

The task force will weigh whether NATPE should merge with another group, such as PROMAX; consider the size and scope of future conventions; and determine the most desirable season for the conference.

Beginning Dec. 17, members can participate in a survey at NATPE's Web site. "By spring we'll have a definitive plan," Johansen said.

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