Syndicators go directly to ad buyers

Sep 23, 2002  •  Post A Comment

NATPE suffered yet another blow last week when it learned that the Syndicated Network Television Association has secured Feb. 26 at the New York Sheraton for a day of presentations to the media advertising agency community.
As the annual convention of the National Association of Television Program Executives has become less and less important to domestic syndicators and TV stations as a program bazaar, NATPE has made a major effort to appeal to Madison Avenue’s media planners and buyers. Indeed, the outgoing chairman of NATPE is Jon Mandel, MediaCom co-CEO and chief negotiating officer. And the incoming chair is another Madison Avenue veteran, former Bristol-Myers Squibb advertising executive Peggy Kelly, who is currently senior VP and global client services director for the Johnson & Johnson media business at Universal McCann Worldwide.
But with SNTA making its own, first-ever dedicated presentations to marketers just 34 days after NATPE, the big question is how many media agency executives will show up to NATPE’s confab in New Orleans.
Bruce Johansen, NATPE’s president and CEO, said, `”’We can’t lose sight of the fact that SNTA members are all members of NATPE as well. Any event they do strengthens the business as a whole. They have really stepped up to the plate and showed their support for this organization.”
SNTA President Gene DeWitt noted that his event was created out of the syndicators’ need to put their product squarely in the face of advertisers, media buyers and media planners in an effort to focus attention on syndicated programming. That required a later date than NATPE provided as well as a more convenient location, he said.
“The purpose of the conference will be to showcase each syndicator’s products with screenings and meetings in late February, an ideal time for many people planning for the upfront,” Mr. DeWitt said. “By holding it in New York we felt we would be able to accommodate a maximum number of people, and we’ve been told by media agencies that we can expect attendance to be very high, holding it here [in New York].”
Incoming chairwoman Ms. Kelly seemed to downplay NATPE’s appeal to advertisers, though that supposed appeal was a major part of NATPE’S PR pitch just a year ago.
“The two organizations serve different purposes, and we don’t think the two are incompatible,” Ms. Kelly said. “SNTA is poised to focus exclusively on ad sales, which is only a piece of what NATPE encompasses. Still, it’s clear that this year’s NATPE will be a very important one for us as we go through a period of redefinition and adapt to the changing needs of the marketplace.”
Although there are currently no ties between the SNTA conference and NATPE, the February event is already being dubbed “NATPE New York” by advertising insiders. Mr. Johansen said that although talks of a partnership between the two have been put on the back burner, he would love to be involved if there is a role to play. “For some advertisers, a NATPE presence would ease any concerns about the newborn SNTA event,” he said.
Mr. Johansen and current NATPE Chairman and Fox Networks President/CEO Tony Vinciquerra announced plans last week to restructure the organization’s annual meeting as part of that redefinition. This year the nonprofit group announced several initiatives designed to “evolve as the business evolves.”
In New Orleans, major syndicators will once again hold court in hotels in lieu of the convention floor. However, they will have a presence at the convention center; for January’s convention, NATPE organizers will add a new floor feature called the “Hollywood Plaza,” where studios such as Twentieth, NBC, King World, Tribune, Paramount, Buena Vista and others will sponsor kiosks. At the kiosks, appointments for meetings in the hotel suites can be made with buyers and other executives.
In addition, a “Buyer’s Lounge” will be designated for buyers who prefer to have meetings with distributors on the floor, where station groups such as Belo, Hearst-Argyle, NBC, Paxson, Tribune and Young will be represented.
Mr. Vinciquerra added that in another turnaround from recent years, a Fox affiliate event has been confirmed for January in conjunction with NATPE, although details were still sketchy as to whether it would be a board meeting or a full affiliate meeting. He added that other networks are in discussions with NATPE about similar meetings. Sources said NBC is one network that is “seriously considering the offer.”
Beyond 2003, Mr. Johansen announced that NATPE will return to Las Vegas in 2004 at a date yet to be determined, likely at either Mandalay Bay, MGM or the Venetian, where virtually all the studios were headquartered in January. The hotel that lands NATPE will host the convention floor as well, he said.
“With regard to cost considerations and convenience, we really do prefer Las Vegas, as do the studios,” Mr. Johansen said. “The plan we have put together allows us to grow with the business, and we must constantly look at new ways to best position NATPE for the good of the entire worldwide television community.”