Will NATPE floor it in 2010?

Ben Silverman, Anne Sweeney, Jon Feltheimer and a host of other TV top brass turned out for this year’s NATPE, but there was no disguising the fact that business was slow in Vegas.

The annual Las Vegas-based programming market has struggled to find a compelling USP – the days when it was the go-to market for US syndication and Elton John was paid millions to entertain delegates are long gone.

The talk was how the market can remain relevant (and, in fact, remain at all) and the word was that next year everyone will be migrated to the hotels.

Many distributors are already working out of the suites, but NATPE insiders said that although that idea is being weighed up, a final decision hasn’t yet been reached. One reason for that is that certain influential exhibitors, including FremantleMedia, which was working off one of the largest stands at the show, want to remain on the floor.

Perhaps it’s a wise move not to squeeze the already jam packed hotels further given the crazy queues to get to elevators in THE Hotel, let alone the hike to see Warner Bros, which set up shop in The Four Seasons.

CBS Paramount and NBC were the only two studios on the floor and both looked busy. But several of the smaller distribs were unhappy that there wasn’t enough foot traffic in the hall.

NATPE confirmed that it will be back in Vegas next time out. Whether the organisers will gamble on getting rid of the exhibition space or hedge their bets and have buyers trek between suites and the floor isn’t clear. It is apparent, however, that, after what’s sure to be a budget-squeezing 2009, the organisers face steep odds in making next year’s NATPE a standout event.