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Positive thinking

When the economy is slumping, one could hardly blame TV executives who haven't determined whom they're sending to Miami Beach for next month's Promax/BDA conference.

But the organization, which caters to broadcast promotional and design professionals, doesn't seem fazed by the fact that the Fox, Sinclair, NBC, ABC, Paramount and Tribune station groups aren't expected to attend the event in large numbers.

Promax/BDA likewise isn't concerned that both Paramount and King World, which together have traditionally constituted a huge conference presence, won't be holding large marketing sessions this year for their shows.

Also, Warner Bros. is planning to host a smaller hospitality suite than in years past. Twentieth Television won't be throwing a party for its clients like it did in 2000. Universal, which last year gave a Blind Date
workshop, won't be going at all. The same goes for Tribune Entertainment. There's also NBC Enterprises, which will be overseeing its own Internet-delivered marketing workshop separate from Promax/BDA. Only Pearson Television, hyping its upcoming Card Sharks, will be going with the same force as last year.

You'd think that kind of fall-off would hurt.

"These are challenging times for everybody in this industry," says Promax/BDA CEO Glynn Brailsford. However, "there is a general misunderstanding about the role of local stations and syndication in the overall picture of Promax/BDA," with the U.S. station/syndication community "only really occupying 10% to 15% of conference activity."

And to be downright cheery, while some syndicators and station groups may be taking a vacation from Promax, the down advertising market may be good for promoting syndicated products.

"What has happened is that stations can't sell all the time to advertisers, so they've got more time to promote our shows," says one top-level syndication executive.

That means syndicators don't have to put the usual pressure on stations to invest their money promoting syndicated series. The current ad market may not give stations much choice but to do what syndicators want.

Brailsford contends that technology firms such as Quantel, Macromedia and Adobe have been a heftier force at the convention over the years and, if anything, are stepping up their presence this year. The collapse of major design firm Pittard Sullivan led competitors to eye June's Promax/BDA as an opportunity to grab more clients.

Also, says Brailsford, international folks, eager to capitalize on U.S. fever for foreign formats like Survivor, have upped their numbers at the event by about 10%, "making up for any shortfalls."

Overall, he says, Promax/BDA in Miami should attract 4,000 attendees, the same levels as last year. But the current soft ad market, leading to TV's financial blues, could make for some slow action there.

The reduction should be temporary, say some. King World advertising and promotion chief Delilah Loud says her studio had "to look at the bottom line" in deciding to limit its presence, but she believes Promax/ BDA will stay important because "we really need to hear the voice" of station promotion execs, "and not just by phone."