Guest Commentary: Why you should be at NATPE

Jan 14, 2002  •  Post A Comment

If you put 10 people in a room and ask them what NATPE means to each of them, you invariably will get 10 different responses.
For some, NATPE has been and should always remain a sales convention, an opportunity once a year to meet with customers and sell the latest project. For others, it is a networking opportunity unlike any in the world, where you can have a chance encounter with that one elusive client or potential business associate that can lead to the biggest deal of the day. And for yet others, it is a four-day event loaded with seminars and presentations that can enhance your career and, frankly, just make you a little bit more informed than your competition.
Some of our longtime constituents may not fully appreciate that the National Association of Television Program Executives conference has evolved into a truly first-rate international meeting. They hearken back to the days when the meeting was only about domestic U.S. television syndication, when cable was the enemy and when station clearances were the only big stories worth reading about in the trades. They miss the point that ours is now an integrated and global business and that you can no longer do business in a vacuum.
As the texture of our industry has changed, so too has NATPE. Over the past few years we have embraced all the distribution platforms-not just broadcasting but cable, satellite and wireless-and we have encouraged more and more executives from the advertising sector to participate. Our international growth has been explosive. But now, suddenly, some lament that syndication, the guts of NATPE, is no longer the focal point of the conference. And that just couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is that syndication is going through a dramatic and painful revolution. Costs are soaring, time slots are more and more elusive and license fees and barter revenue are shrinking. Consolidation, after all is said and done, may not be such a great thing. Business models we have relied upon for decades may no longer be viable.
But NATPE still provides the best environment for the syndication business. Does it need to take place in a huge booth with fancy food to entice customers? No, I think we all agree those days are over. They’ve gone the way of the chrome fins on those cars of the ’60s. But do you need a common ground where advertisers, development people, talent, station group executives, networks, cable programmers and international broadcasters and distributors can interact? Absolutely. And no conference has ever provided that environment like NATPE.
Longtime attendees and first-timers eagerly anticipate the sense of community that the annual NATPE gathering provides. Whatever sector of the industry you toil in, we all realize the benefits of meeting with peers at least once a year. And knowing what your competition is up to is always helpful in building your own success.
The razzle-dazzle of past conventions may be toned down a bit, and certainly the 2002 event will be configured differently, but the heart and soul of what NATPE is all about remains constant. And what that heart and soul is may indeed be different to the person sitting next to you in that room with the 10 people I mentioned at the beginning of this article. But it is that diversity, that variety of needs, the panoply of experiences and hopes and business opportunities that makes the annual NATPE convention the special place it has been for the past 39 years.
I also believe that the spark that makes NATPE special is its ability to change with the times, as I think our organization has. But it is also the willingness of our members who, while often competitors, are also willing to work together to make the annual conference the strongest and most all-encompassing showcase for our industry.
As you make your way to Las Vegas in the coming week, remember that everyone is welcome. I have always seen NATPE as a big tent with room for all. I look forward to your comments, your thoughts-and, I hope, your support. Not just during NATPE week but throughout the year. You can be assured that NATPE, your programming organization, is committed, now more than ever, to supporting the continued growth and success of the global television industry.
Bruce Johansen is president and CEO of NATPE.