Emerson Coleman has been attending NATPE since 1989. And the conference isn’t about getting the new show for 10 a.m. in Kansas City anymore, he said.
The VP of programming for Hearst-Argyle has changed his approach to NATPE in the past few years as both the conference and the syndication business have dramatically altered.
Mr. Coleman, one of two co-chairs of this year’s conference, now looks to the show with an eye toward the next several years rather than the one in front of him. “The conference hasn’t, for us, been about the immediate season for several years,” he said. “It’s been about future seasons, and we have development meetings about what we are doing for future seasons.”
The amount of product coming down the NATPE pipeline has dwindled in the past few years. That dearth of content underscores why station groups have adopted a long-term strategy for the show and also why they might become program producers, he said. “We need to have genuine partnerships. I think all parties will agree, and you will see some station groups provide their own direction in terms of content. You might see some strike out on their own and do their shows,” he said. But don’t just look for local copycats of national shows, he said. “It would have to be a contemporary version of what’s worked in the past with all of the elements that make any show successful.”
This trend among stations toward taking matters into their own hands won’t bear fruit for a few years, but station groups will start this year looking closely at new programming models. “The conversation has begun,” he said. “It’s getting to the point where the math makes sense. There are a lot of time periods, and you want to have the best possible programming in the time periods. So you acquire that or you create that, and sometimes the show that is the right fit for your group isn’t available. Now seems to be a time when there aren’t the number of choices as in years past.”
Mr. Coleman said he expects broadcasters to use NATPE to meet with producers, agents and syndicators to assess partnerships that need to be formed.
New media has also become an elemental part of all conversations surrounding content. Program producers today look for all possible ways to monetize a show. “I can’t remember the last time I had a conversation about content that at some point didn’t get into the component of new media,” Mr. Coleman said.
NATPE is no longer the marketplace it was in years past, when deals for shows would be finalized in New Orleans, where the conference was previously held. “We aren’t going to set our schedule for 2007 but to put in place our thinking for 2008 and beyond and have some very significant conversations to lay the groundwork for where we are going in the future,” he said.