Editorial: Rick Feldman Urged to Return NATPE to Roots

Apr 28, 2003  •  Post A Comment

We wish Rick Feldman the best of luck as he succeeds Bruce Johansen as head of the National Association of Television Program Executives.

We think he is a good choice. Mr. Feldman brings wide-ranging experience and a solid record to the job. He will need to draw upon all that he has learned as well as employ a lot of ingenuity and skill as an industry diplomat to steer the organization through the most pivotal juncture of its 40-year history.

Consider what has happened in recent years. In its struggle to adjust to the vastly changed television landscape and uncertain economic conditions NATPE has teetered on the verge of collapse. It has become a challenge to simply mount an annual conference and exhibition that meets the needs of all its constituents. Today NATPE members are a diverse group, often with conflicting interests. They are distributors, stations, producers, talent agents and advertisers. They’re big, small, domestic, global, independent and integrated. Few trade organizations represent so many divergent perspectives.

We believe Mr. Feldman can do what it will take. Clearly, NATPE has retained a certain level of relevance under Mr. Johansen. The intense competition Mr. Feldman faced for the job showed just how seriously the television programming business takes its trade organization.

Next year NATPE moves to what is being called a “permanent” new home in Las Vegas, where for the first time the organization will try to deal with the duality of the marketplace. The big companies may have some presence on the convention floor but increasingly do their business in hotel suites. Smaller companies still need to exhibit, but they don’t have the drawing power to pull in the big buyers without the major companies’ having a presence in the hall as well.

Also among myriad and complex challenges facing NATPE is the debate about whether to change the dates of the conference. A lot of distributors now feel the traditional mid-to-late-January date is too late. They say that by then a lot of the syndicated programs launched in the fall have already found their clearances, or never will. That group is advocating moving the convention to a date in November or December. Opponents of such a move say it would bump up against Thanksgiving or Christmas and fall at a time of year when it is even more difficult for many executives to get away from their offices.

On the positive side, NATPE’s diversity actually represents an opportunity. What these constituents all have in common is a need for a workforce in the future. Thus, we suggest Mr. Feldman put a high priority on the task of developing NATPE’s educational foundation into the leading comprehensive clearinghouse for television business internships. Nowhere does such a service exist.

Most important, we urge Mr. Feldman to return NATPE to its roots as the key meeting place for everyone with an interest in TV programming worldwide and ensure it remains the most relevant programming organization and conference in existence.