Sour economy dampens NATPE's int'l attendance

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In this economy, how far are buyers willing to trek to attend NATPE?

NATPE president and CEO Rick Feldman says that more than 400 buyers from more than 50 countries will be there, along with more than 300 exhibitors. But he expects overall attendance to be down, especially among international buyers. Several of the bigger European players are staying home, preferring to focus energy on MIPTV in the spring.

A lack of stand-out hits among the network's new lineups hasn't helped matters, say program buyers.

"The number of new shows that have been canceled (on U.S. networks) or are likely to be canceled is really astounding," says one veteran European buyer. "What good does it do me if I buy a show that only runs five episodes? So I'm not as worried about missing anything by missing NATPE."

But some of the smaller commercial channels, such as RTL 2 in Germany, are again sending buyers to Las Vegas. And while the Cannes MIPTV and MIPCOM markets remain a focus, a number of continental sales outfits will fit NATPE into their calendars. Denmark's Media Entertainment Group, for example, will launch two new shows at the market: hidden-camera gag series "Bluffing!" and "Smile.TV."

Marion Edwards, president of international television at 20th Century Fox TV Distribution, anticipates international attendance to be somewhat down this year, particularly from Australia and the Far East. "But it looks like many clients are getting on the plane, and we, of course, will be there in a major way," she says.

"Even in a down economic market, the TV business is still in need of good programming," notes Gene George, executive vp worldwide distribution for Starz Media. "Whether the convention floor will be as busy as years past remains to be seen, but for now there are still deals to be made."

One bright spot is that with attendance down, many believe those who do make the trip will be there as true buyers, not merely shoppers. "This will make NATPE a more concentrated market and, hopefully, one where solid business will be done," says Craig Cegielski, Lionsgate executive vp programming and sales for international television.
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