By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
Before John Weiser and Stephen Davis became co-chairs of NATPE in 2004, no individual or team had ever served two terms. But the two are currently in their second session at the helm.
“I think a few years ago people would walk around the NATPE conference and wonder whether it would still be around in a few years,” said Mr. Weiser, who is president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television. “Steve and I took on the challenge of how do we make it relevant. There’s been a new growth at NATPE, a turnaround, we think. It’s the most widely attended and important television gathering, both domestically and internationally.”
Mr. Weiser points to the “NATPEMobile++” seminar that was offered at NATPE last year and will be again this year. He noted, “It was full last year and will be even fuller this January.”
He sees NATPE not as “defining the marketplace but recognizing it. It’s the forum for people to come together to learn, to talk, to make deals.”
As Mr. Weiser registers the pulse at NATPE, he sees the buzz as not just discourse about technological advances and potential content platforms. Rather, he thinks the conversations and debate will focus on these questions: What will stick? What will work? What will succeed?
“We don’t know what will be around in a few years. No one can know,” he said. “I love receiving music on my iPod, but will I want to see video? I don’t know.”
“But you have someone from [a broadcast network] affiliate,” Mr. Weiser said, “he hears about VOD and iPodding and all the other new delivery systems and he wants to be educated. He knows his station is not as much appointment TV as it used to be, but does he have enough info to call the network and register his thoughts?”
Mr. Weiser has been a senior executive with SPT and its antecedents since 1990, when he joined as an account executive. He was executive VP of Columbia TriStar Television Distribution and played a key role in the selling of such successful first-run efforts as “Ricki Lake,” “Judge Hatchett” and “Pyramid.” He was also involved in the off-network sales of “Seinfeld”-one of the most lucrative of all time-“Married … With Children,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Just Shoot Me” and “The Steve Harvey Show.”
The SPT library that is his current responsibility includes 400 TV series and 5,000 films, including “Charlie’s Angels” and “All in the Family” along with recent Columbia/Sony features such as the “Spider-Man” franchise and “Men in Black.”
“Focusing on product creation and the library gets us in the best position to service everybody,” he said. “In the end, people don’t watch the delivery system. They watch ‘Seinfeld.'”
Before joining the studio, Mr. Weiser was senior VP of Guber-Peters Entertainment and head of sales for Chuck Barris Entertainment. He began his career in television at Tribune Broadcasting, overseeing its Northeast and Midwest sales offices.