Suite decision: SPT exits NATPE floor

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There will be one fewer exhibitor on the floor next year at NATPE's Conference & Exhibition: Sony Pictures Television has decided to forgo its booth space, sources said.

Rumors circulated last week at the organization's confab at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas that the distributor wouldn't be returning to the floor in 2008, but the company declined comment Monday.

Instead, SPT could potentially set up shop in a hotel suite, as is the case with other syndicators, including Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and Twentieth Television. Many companies, big and small, prefer to conduct their NATPE business from suites, with some citing financial reasons and others saying they favor a quieter, more intimate environment in which to talk to clients. Until now, SPT has steadfastly maintained its presence on the convention floor.

However, in a sign of the times, it's understood that the distributor is looking to give Sony a programming presence next year at the Consumer Electronics Show, which also is held in Las Vegas and this year took place the week before NATPE's confab. (Sony already has a big presence at CES in the electronics arena.) SPT's move off the NATPE floor would free up resources that the company could devote to CES.

The domestic syndicators began moving off the NATPE floor several years ago, following WBDTD's lead in 2002. The following year, then-WBDTD president Dick Robertson denounced NATPE's usefulness, encouraging other major distributors to eschew the convention floor for private meetings in hotels adjacent to the conference and going so far as to threaten to stop attending NATPE altogether.

In fact, that was a hot topic at NATPE last week as some attendees were critical of the organization's decision to roast Robertson, who stepped down from his post in August after 17 years to take on a new role as senior adviser to the Warner Bros. Television Group.

Representatives for NATPE could not be reached by press time.
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