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NATPE Plots Conference In Slumping Economy

Facing the worst economy in a generation, NATPE President and CEO Rick Feldman expects attendance and exhibitions to be down at this year’s convention at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center in Las Vegas from Jan. 26-29, 2009.
“For me, nothing is acceptable except trying to grow,” Feldman said at a Tuesday morning press conference. “All of us want to try to grow our businesses ever year and it’s hard to see them not grow."
“In the near term, there’s no growth among traditional legacy businesses. There’s growth from online and mobile businesses, but growth from those businesses isn’t enough to make up for the losses at legacy businesses, which is a net minus. That net minus is something I have to live with. What’s acceptable? Nothing but I have to live with it, I can’t control it.”
As a result of the downturn, Feldman expects studios to send fewer employees and exhibitors to lease less floor space. To make it easier to attend, NATPE has run early-bird ticket prices longer and is constantly renegotiating its deals with hotels expected to house NATPE attendees.
“If people call us with a specific need, we’ll do everything we can to help them out,” said Feldman.
In past years, NATPE has made a point of focusing on international content businesses, but with the dollar strong as a result of the weak global economy, Feldman expects international attendance to decline.
NATPE still will have an international focus, with more than 400 buyers from more than 50 countries still planning to attend.
On Monday, Jan. 26, instead of hosting a business-focused conference with the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, NATPE will host an afternoon session with the International Emmy committee. Asking attendees to pay extra for a Monday conference was just too much in this economy, Feldman said.
“It was pretty obvious to me right after Labor Day that this was not going to be a great idea going into January. We’ll host a truncated form of that event in the form two-hour presentation on Thursday morning that will help people handle the stress of how to deal with their business.”
Dealing with the stress of change and turmoil will likely be an overall theme of this year’s NATPE, with NBC Universal and Viacom laying off thousands of employees, NBC Universal restructuring and Tribune, one of the biggest buyers of syndicated programming, entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
“Our business is switching from one of control to choice,” says Feldman. “As you do that, you get anarchy. We’ll be asking: ‘how do you monetize anarchy?’"
“We are trying to keep our eye on the ball which is the culture of creativity. We are focused on creating original content for multiplatform. It doesn’t matter whether that screen is two inches or 100 inches. What are people doing to aggregate eyeballs in a world of disaggregation and how do advertisers play into that? We’re going to make sure that our value proposition continues to be great.”
Returning to the conference this January is CBS Television Distribution, which will join its corporate brother CBS Television Distribution International in a booth on the show floor. NBC Universal also will return to the show floor, while Disney-ABC, Warner Bros., Twentieth Television, Program Partners and Debmar-Mercury will exhibit from the suites at the THEHotel, adjacent to the Mandalay Bay.