NATPE Organizers Upbeat About Move to Miami

Seven weeks before its annual confab, NATPE organizers are bullish that their move to Miami will pay off with greater attendance and re-energized dealmaking among global TV execs.

In remarks to reporters Thursday, NATPE president-CEO Rick Feldman put the accent on improved logistics for the trade show, the presence of all the Hollywood majors and a healthier local TV station sector as positive signs for the event.

"From all evidence, NATPE should have a new lease on life. We think attendees will find their money and time well spent," Feldman said.

Five hundred program buyers from 40 countries have already registered, as have some 250 exhibitors.

A lot of emphasis is being put on the local Floridian flavor, with Latino entertainer Don Francisco of megahit Sabato Gigante on hand, a focus on USA series Burn Notice, which shoots there, and various cocktails and chats organized around the hotel swimming pools.

Hotel space blocked off by the nonprofit org in the Fontainebleu and nearby Eden Roc is sold out, and contingents from Latin America and Europe also are tracking ahead of the nine previous editions held in Las Vegas.

Sony and Disney, the two major Hollywood holdouts from recent NATPEs, are returning, which Feldman said was particularly gratifying.

Some 75% of exhibitors will man suites in the Fontainebleu, while the other 25% will set up shop on the adjacent convention floor.

As for the conference part of the event, Feldman said it is being scaled back by a third to put the emphasis more squarely on dealmaking and networking.

The thrust of the main panels will be about advertising, with a keynote from WPP's Martin Sorrell likely one of the big draws.

The annual gathering of the National Association of TV Program Executives has been on a downward spiral for a decade as the domestic syndication market stalled and international attendance plateaued. The economic recession, which hit the local TV station biz particularly hard, also took a toll.

But with TV advertising having picked up and syndie staple The Oprah Winfrey Show vacating a coveted daytime time period, a lot more shifting and shuffling among new and old shows is expected -- and will add an element of excitement to the three-day event.

Programmers haven't gathered in Miami for more than a decade, but the move is reckoned a good strategy for boosting the already strong Latin presence and for enticing more East Coast and European delegates.

In other remarks, NATPE chairman and Lionsgate TV topper Kevin Beggs said he expected this, the 48th NATPE, to rep "a big turnaround."

Beggs credited Feldman's "tireless enthusiasm" for stimulating the organization. "I think Miami will be a big win -- and that's before we even get there!" he said.

Attendance for the Jan. 24-26 confab is expected, per Feldman, to slightly surpass last year's 5,000 tally.