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Columbia TriStar is NATPE dropout

Following the lead of so many others, Columbia TriStar Television Distribution will exit the NATPE 2002's exhibition floor.

That makes nine major syndicators that are set to leave the floor, with most heading off to the Venetian to set up shop. At this point, Columbia TriStar hasn't decided where it may go instead. Everyone is feeling the lean economic times (the main reason why most are pulling out), but the company's decision to go may have been an especially difficult one to make, considering its close ties to the NATPE organization. The studio's president Steve Mosko was last year's NATPE chair.

In announcing Columbia TriStar's exit, Mosko insisted NATPE "is important to the unity and growth of our industry" but added that "that the unique circumstances of this year force us to make a hard decision based on hard reality."

NATPE CEO Bruce Johansen seemed to take the latest development in stride, explaining "NATPE 2002 will clearly be a different looking conference" but that it's still full steam ahead for the January event. He claimed international and ad executive turnout will make up for any fall-offs in the syndication arena. He said he's "encouraged" that "he is in constant dialogue" with those syndicators who will be in hotel suites, adding that "no one has indicated that they are not supportive of the NATPE conference which is very heartening."

Columbia Tri-Star, once firmly committed to the floor, apparently started to waver on its decision when more and more NATPE syndicators started to exit, including most recent defections Twentieth Television and Studios USA Domestic Television (B&C 10/8).

Insiders are also saying NBC Enterprises, one of the few remaining floor holdouts, is also re-thinking its position. Those that are gone now include Buena Vista, Paramount Domestic Television, Universal, King World and the domestic syndication divisions at Carsey-Werner and Warner Bros. FremantleMedia, Lions Gate Television and MGM are said to be still committed. - Susanne Ault