Economy and technology force NATPE changes

It looked like tumbleweeds in the exhibit hall at last week’s National Assn. of Television and Programming Executives (NATPE) held at Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas. Attendance had dwindled to 4,000, down an estimated 20% from 2009.

The exhibit floor reflected budget cut-backs and the fact that real deal-making was taking in place in private suites at THE Hotel, an adjacent luxury hotel.

This was my fourth NATPE show, one in which I was observing the industry rather than pitching a show. In the course of the weekend, I noted several forces that were impacting the conference and signaled that the industry is in turmoil due to technology and the economy.

Here are some of my takes:

First: The industry is trying to figure out how to monetize programming for dwindling TV audiences and for the growing web and hand-held device platforms, the new buzz-word is “transmedia,” meaning that content plays on multiple media platforms;