While the National Association of Television Program Executives, based in Los Angeles, recently confirmed that its 2003 annual convention would go on as planned at the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center next January, it has formally released its commitment to the Big Easy for its 2004 show.

“NATPE is committed to holding its 2004 conference, but is rethinking the location,” says NATPE spokesperson Les Eisner.

“The decision to hold NATPE 2004 in New Orleans was made a long time ago, and since then, the television business has undergone significant changes,” says Bruce Johansen, NATPE president and CEO. Like so many industries these days, there have been significant mergers and acquisitions in NATPE attendees' core business. “Instead of 35 people from individual stations going to NATPE, now that they're owned by one company, there's only four or five people involved in making these decisions.” Last year, approximately 10,000 people attended. Given the marketplace, attendance for the January 2003 show could be considerably lower.

The decision to go on with the '03 show but move out of New Orleans the following year resulted from conversations between a strategic task force and NATPE's membership, says Eisner, adding that New Orleans has always been a great host for the show. “They're not counting out New Orleans in the future, but they do have to revisit for 2004. They're looking at all their options.”

In the meantime, says Johansen, the association is working on enhancing the 2003 show. For example, exhibitors are being offered new, more flexible booth packages that are comparable in cost to hotel suites; hospitality suites in the convention center; and NATPE oversight of all exhibition activities and services, including build-out and tear-down.

“We have received very positive feedback from the distribution community regarding next January and reunifying our industry at one annual event,” says Johansen.