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It's Not Easy To Leave The Big Easy

NATPE and its annual conference and exhibition next week will celebrate its 40th anniversary in New Orleans, a remarkable milestone for any major industry organization.

And we are honored to be holding this conference in the Crescent City, which has been an extraordinary host a dozen times we've held it there. For the record, that was 1968, 1973, 1986-1987, 1990-1992, 1997-2000 and this year. Sadly, this will be our last conference in New Orleans.

The changes in the television business over the past two to three years dictate strategic decisions designed to enhance prosperity. We've closely looked at the many developments affecting our business, as well as the needs of our global membership, and concluded that Las Vegas would be best-suited for future NATPEs. It's also a wonderful city.

Over the years, we've called several cities home for a few days in January. But New Orleans seems to hold a special place in the hearts of many past NATPE attendees, all of whom have been overwhelmed by the hospitality, professionalism, warmth and assistance of the city, its merchants and citizens.

While the primary function of our conference is to conduct business among our peers, having a little (or a lot) of fun in the process while in New Orleans was rarely lost on us all.

The television industry has grown from a small, upstart business to one that embraces programs, talent, ideas and new technology from the far reaches of our planet. And NATPE has been at the center of these changes.

At NATPE's inception in the early 1960s, there were nearly 50 million television households in the United States, and only three networks broadcasting a limited number of programs. Today, there are more than 105 million television households throughout the country (a majority of them with multiple television sets) and another approximately 836 million homes with television worldwide. Now, dozens, if not hundreds, of sources of entertainment and information are delivered to the almighty viewer—our ultimate client—24 hours a day.

Today, our industry is in the midst of some of the most challenging times since the medium began. Trying economic conditions, consolidation and other matters are forcing the industry to re-think how it develops, produces, distributes and markets its product.

There is an old adage that says "suffering builds character." While "suffering" might be too strong a description of what our industry is experiencing (depending on whom you speak with, of course), in our view, it is through difficulties that come new ideas, creative and pioneering business models, and a renewed energy that results in groundbreaking programming, overall industry growth, and, ultimately, future success.

It's true that future NATPEs might look different from previous conferences you have attended, but the common denominator of past, present and future conferences is that they serve as the global television industry's focal point to conduct business.

And, by the way, who says you can't have fun in Las Vegas?