The evolution is upon us.
For the National Association of Television Program Executives, Las Vegas will be the first foray into a new chapter in the evolution of NATPE. While Sony’s and CBS’ domestic arms chose to skip the market, other companies are optimistic that deals, particularly in the international and digital arenas, will be sizzling this week as the event opens its doors at the Mandalay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
“We are a reflection of what’s happening to the business,” said Rick Feldman, president and CEO of NATPE. “Every year there’s all this chatter about the future of NATPE before the conference, and every year people leave the conference feeling that they were glad they went.
“Clearly the business is changing, and we’ve continued to evolve NATPE to meet the needs of people throughout the industry,” he added. “But at its core, this remains a conference that is rich and diversified, where for at least three days every year the video and TV business can get under one roof.”
Although the economy, the writers strike and the studio defections have hindered the nonprofit organization’s efforts, Mr. Feldman noted the conference’s varied programs and lineup of diverse industry experts continue to make NATPE vital.
In addition to the slew of distributors, domestic and international buyers, content producers and advertisers slated to attend, a number of other factors are on NATPE’s side. The lingering writers strike is putting in doubt some studios’ participation in May’s annual L.A. Screenings, in which foreign buyers flock to Los Angeles to peek at the new shows for the fall season. In addition, the powerful euro has other distributors rethinking their investments in spring’s international Mip television market, according to some executives.
Mr. Feldman noted that while Mip remains a powerful entity for program distribution, economic factors are forcing some companies to rethink their plans, noting there are business reasons why a distributor would go to Mip or fall’s Mipcom, although not necessarily both.
One of those companies is Rigel Entertainment, which will attend NATPE but forgo Mip this year.
“A lot of independent companies, even the majors, are seriously considering only going to one, but which one is the problem, with [the American Film Market] being so close to Mipcom,” said John F.S. Laing, CEO of Rigel Entertainment. “Although we’ll be attending Mipcom this year, we are still trying to evaluate what’s best for the company.”
Mandel’s the Man
On the domestic front, Howie Mandel will take center stage as the top name talent currently slated to attend the convention, with NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution readying the daytime version of “Deal or No Deal” for a fall launch. Other high-profile series at play from companies attending the market are “The Bonnie Hunt Show” from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, which will return to the floor following a multiyear absence; “Trivial Pursuit: America Plays” from Debmar-Mercury; and “Family Court” from Program Partners.
Twentieth could be the newsmaker over the course of the week, as sources said the company is trying to wrap up a deal with Steve Harvey and could announce clearances if the deal is completed.
In a role reversal, Meredith Corp. will take meetings for the slow rollout of daytime strip “Better,” having completed sales of the strip to LIN TV Corp., Northwest Broadcasting and Fisher Communications stations and adding 12 additional markets for the program. The hourlong daily show is designed to leverage Meredith’s home, shelter and parenting expertise. The company’s publishing brands include Better Homes & Gardens, Parents, Family Circle, More and Fitness magazines.
Meredith, which typically is looking at acquiring programs as a station group, has already slated meetings throughout the conference as buyers look at the program.
“People continue to look at us, and we plan on being aggressive at NATPE,” said Paul Karpowicz, president of the Meredith Broadcasting Group. “We’ve got something that’s different and presents a unique opportunity by approaching the daypart differently from traditional syndication. Right now, we’re booked wall-to-wall as we try to create interest in this new model.”
Gone from the shrinking ranks of major studios will be Tribune, which announced last year that it was pulling out of the distribution business. “American Idol Rewind” producer FremantleMedia North America changed distributors as well as ad sales to Trifecta and inked a deal to bring the show to the Fox O&Os.
In addition, Telco Productions, which hired Tribune to handle distribution and ad sales for “Animal Rescue,” “Missing” and “Dog Tales,” will bring station sales back in-house and will be meeting with outlets at NATPE to discuss the new seasons of the shows.
“Tribune is gracefully helping us line up clearances for next season, and we have yet to find any bumps in the road,” said Alex Paen, founder and president of Telco Productions. “We will, however, be taking meetings at NATPE with our clients as we prepare for another successful season of our programs. In addition, we hope to meet with a number of people to discuss bringing new series to the table in the future.”
On the international front, a bevy of Latin American buyers continue to make NATPE a key stop on the international sales stage, with a number of Asian and European outlets hunting for product as well.
“NATPE continues to serve as a great opportunity for DIC to present our programming to the international buyers, particularly in Latin America,” said Andy Heyward, chairman-CEO of DIC, which will distribute children’s programs including “Dino Squad” and “Sushi Pack.” “The market has definitely evolved over the years and has become increasingly viable for international distributors.”
This year, the focus for DIC at NATPE will be to showcase the company’s slate of children’s programming that currently airs in the U.S. on the “KEWLopolis” programming block on CBS, which DIC has been programming for the past two years.
Rigel’s Mr. Laing noted that while there is generally spot attendance from the roster of Asian and European buyers, he relies on NATPE for Latin American clearances, including theatrical titles “Blond and Blonder” and “San Saba,” as well as “Heat Stroke” and “Aztec Rex” from the Sci Fi Channel.
“With NATPE taking place at the start of the year, there will always be a curiosity factor from buyers,” said Mr. Laing. “We are going to have a schedule full of meetings and we hope to make the most of them.”
Mr. Feldman has confirmed that the conference will return to Las Vegas and the Mandalay Bay for NATPE 2009, which will take place once again at the end of January.
“Because of the changing nature of mobile and online and broadcast, people who have content and are looking for opportunity won’t find a better outlet than at NATPE, and we expect it to stay that way for years to come,” Mr. Feldman said. “We not only have a fantastic conference schedule, but there are simply more opportunities out there in the future on broadcast, and people who attend will leave with more opportunities to close a sale than if they hadn’t gone at all.”
Evolving in Digital World
Jan 27, 2008 • Post A Comment
The evolution is upon us.