CBS unit to 'sit out' NATPE

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One of the traditional mainstays of the annual NATPE syndication confab has decided not to attend the upcoming event this January in Las Vegas.

CBS Television Distribution, the umbrella unit which includes syndie stalwart King World, confirmed Monday that the company will not be attending the organization's 2008 Conference & Exhibition, which takes place Jan. 28-31 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.

The move is one more indication that the annual trade show is no longer crucial for the clearance of new firstrun strips on TV stations around the country, a business that turned King World into a powerhouse player in the '80s and '90s. Because of domestic media consolidation, NATPE for several years has been morphing into a confab more focused on new media and on international sales rather than strictly on domestic syndication sales.

The Eye's decision also means the company won't hold its annual dinner and party, a tradition of the division's CEO Roger King's for two decades and, for many, one of the highlights of the convention. The party generally features a surprise musical act that has included artists ranging from Elton John to the Eagles. One recent outing even featured a surprise appearance by Oprah Winfrey, whose daytime talker is distributed by CBS (King World).

"Every year, we and other syndicators debate our need to do business at NATPE," a CTD spokesperson said. "This year, with the swift sales of our product before the market, we have determined that we're meeting the needs of our clients, and we'll 'sit this one out.' We'll miss our friends and the big party, and we thank (NATPE president and CEO) Rick Feldman for his patience while we took time to reach this decision. We'll re-assess this next year."

The news follows CTD's announcement last week that it had cleared its upcoming "Dr. Phil" spinoff, the tentatively titled talk show "The Doctors," in more than 50% of the country.

While the domestic division will not be present in January, the company will have an international presence at the convention as CBS Paramount International Television will be returning.

"I appreciate all of the business that King World/CBS Paramount (which merged in September 2006 to become CTD) has done with us all these years. As an eternal optimist, I hope that after talking to them more in the next month or two, maybe there's a role for them to play at NATPE '08," Feldman said.

King previously made a splash at NATPE in January 2006 when he sent his King World staff home before the start of the confab's final day, posting a "Sold out!" sign in regard to the company's then-upcoming talker "Rachael Ray."

Separately on Monday, a Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution spokesperson confirmed that the syndicator would be returning to the floor at NATPE 2008, joining its international counterpart Warner Bros. International Television Distribution. WBDTD had been doing business out of a hotel suite at NATPE since 2003.

This year, after NATPE 2007, Sony Pictures Television also decided to make a change for the 2008 event, choosing to forgo its booth space on the floor in favor of setting up shop in a hotel suite (HR 1/23).

As for the other major domestic syndicators, NBC Universal is returning to the floor once again, while Twentieth Television will be back in the suites.

"We are big supporters of NATPE," Twentieth president and COO Bob Cook said. "But keeping with tradition, we really like our presence in the suites that we've been in for the last six years."
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