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NATPE: '04 Show Will Be Cheaper, Shorter

Following a trend among trade shows, executives of the National Association of Television Program Executives say their 2004 annual meeting with be shorter (three days, not four) and cheaper ($200 NATPE membership and convention admission for program buyers) than in 2003.

Moves such as reducing last year's entry fee of $650 are designed to counter changes in the marketplace. A thriving domestic syndication market drove former NATPE shows, but vertical integration and the economic downturn have taken their toll.

Potential attendees also were "bummed" by the last convention, giving thumbs down to the New Orleans location — and logistics that spread exhibitors and attendees throughout eight different hotels, NATPE CEO Rick Feldman said.

"Last year people left NATPE not feeling good," he told reporters last week, adding the organization is trying to remove barriers to attendance.

The Jan. 18 to 20, 2004, show has been moved to the Sands Expo Center and Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, so all floor exhibitors and suite sponsors can be in the same facility. The VIP admission program for buyers even includes limousine transportation to and from the airport.

Topics will reflect changing times, too. With domestic syndication no longer the buzz, Feldman will schedule sessions on products like digital channels, video-on-demand, HDTV and digital video recorders.

To make the meeting more valuable to members, NATPE will build a database of attendees companies can search by buyer contact only, or alphabetically according to country or company.

Feedback from members indicates the contact list might be the most valuable tool NATPE can provide.

Of those NATPE polled for guidance on trade show structure, Feldman said, 10% are currently unemployed due to industry consolidation. The former executives said they would feel uncomfortable attending a show when they no longer represent a company.

To attract them, NATPE is offering a $150 membership-plus-admission package.

NATPE has partnered with Korn/Ferry International to collect resumes on a database searchable by members, and Korn/Ferry executive Bill Simon will conduct a career-management seminar at the trade show on Jan. 18.

The admission-fee strategy will dent NATPE's war chest, plump from successful shows in the syndication heyday.

"We'll worry about making money, or breaking even, in 2005," Feldman said. This year, the focus is on finding a convention model that's attractive and informative for attendees, he said. After NATPE finds that model, the organization will figure out long-term attendance pricing.

Last year, 7,000 registered for the conference in New Orleans and an estimated 2,100 more attended without registering. All attendees must be registered this year, as security will check badges at all the doors.