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Back in Action

After being on death watch for the past few years, a leaner, meaner NATPE is ready to take on new markets and business opportunities. By adjusting to industry realities, such as consolidation and fragmentation, and broadening its scope from domestic syndication to mobile, interactive and global TV, the group has stabilized.

"After five years and a recession in international markets, things are back in full swing," says Stephen Davis, president of Granada America and NATPE board co-chair.

Jan. 24-27 will see NATPE in its new convention home at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, bringing four more syndie players back to the show floor. Association President Rick Feldman expects attendance to top last year's 7,000-plus, though the show is unlikely to return to its heyday of 20,000 attendees and day-long parties.

Viacom will bring all three of its syndication divisions—Paramount Domestic Television, CBS Paramount International Television and King World Productions—to exhibit under one umbrella. And Warner Bros., while loath to take its mammoth domestic organization back to the main hall, has relented on the international front. Warner Bros. International Television will join Sony Pictures International on the show floor. NBC Universal, Sony Pictures Television, Carsey-Werner and MGM also will staff large booths.

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, Buena Vista Television and Twentieth Television will remain in suites, although insiders say NATPE is working hard to make it more economically attractive to be near the action on the floor.

The conference's two keynote speakers will be industry icon Ted Turner and Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, with Turner speaking Jan. 25 and Copps Jan. 26. "With his business acumen and creative thinking, Ted Turner is a visionary," says John Weiser, president of distribution at Sony Pictures Television and co-chair of the NATPE board.

In conjunction with the Hollywood Forum, NATPE will host a daylong seminar on mobile-TV technologies, text messaging and digital television.

The Interactive Television Association is sponsoring several panels throughout the week. NATPE is strongly encouraging global exhibitors and buyers to attend the show, hoping to enhance its reach.

Says Davis, "NATPE is the only market that understands and focuses on the link between domestic and international."