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Editorial: With Times Changing, NATPE Wisely Morphs

Oct 12, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The syndicated television industry has its eyes firmly fixed on Jan. 26, when the National Association of Television Program Executives throws its annual confab.
TelevisionWeek was cheered to see that NATPE’s board has lured CEO and President Rick Feldman to extend his contract with the group by another three years. It’s a crucial time for the group and continuity is key. Mr. Feldman has navigated NATPE through the past few years as it redefines itself from being a syndicated television trade group to a digital content distribution organization.
Last week when NATPE announced Mr. Feldman’s extension, he mentioned changes to this year’s NATPE event in Las Vegas. The biggest involves a doubling of the size of the convention floor to make it more conducive to mixing. The organization is setting up business-to-business lounges on the floor itself, and a restaurant where convention-goers can fuel up without leaving the hall.
TVWeek thinks these are positive changes that better reflect the nature of NATPE’s annual event. Things have changed since the days of the convention’s high point, when hundreds of local TV station programmers actually shopped for content at NATPE.
Now it’s a forum, where TV programming buyers and sellers can meet to generate ideas for partnerships. The physical layout needed to change to keep pace with the times.
Mr. Feldman said NATPE is in talks with syndication companies that in recent years have chosen not to set up on the convention floor at the Mandalay Bay and instead held meetings in suites in an adjoining hotel. We hope those talks bear fruit. The syndication market (and television in general) needs to regard attendance at these kinds of events as an investment in marketing the medium, as well as its individual companies.
It’s no secret that Mr. Feldman faces a difficult task in adapting NATPE to changing times. But he has a good brand and a prime event. Despite rising competition from the Consumer Electronics Show and numerous digital entertainment forums, NATPE is the top video content show.
People have questioned NATPE’s relevance in a consolidated syndication industry, but it’s a given that if NATPE were to disappear tomorrow, another show would pop up that does the same thing: putting content sellers and buyers face-to-face.
Mr. Feldman’s plan to morph the convention is a commendable adaptation to an environment in which some syndicators don’t set up booths on the floor. We hope that the new format draws more people to the arena, where they can talk, mix and develop deals that might have eluded them otherwise.

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