NATPE 2016: Passing Torch, Perth Asserts Show's Resiliency

After untangling dates with Realscreen, show will ‘double down’ on reality, new chief pledges

Complete Coverage: NATPE 2016

At a news conference wrapping up NATPE 2016, outgoing president and CEO Rod Perth and successor JP Bommel made the case for a show they said has returned to relevance by expanding its scope.

“I started this conversation with all of you four years ago about NATPE being the nexus of the business as it’s changing,” Perth said. “There are sectors that make up the business. It’s not just producers selling finished content. It’s all about the beginning of the process, the idea stage.”

Bommel, formerly a Reed Midem business development exec, had never before been to NATPE. “It’s been an amazing experience for me,” he said of his debut. Bommel, who came aboard as managing director and chief operating officer in September, will officially occupy Perth’s office at NATPE HQ in “the next few weeks,” Perth said.

One objective Perth accomplished during his run was achieving some separation with Realscreen, whose annual late January unscripted meetup in Washington has grown substantially in recent years and once leeched away companies from NATPE when their dates overlapped.

“They do what they do well and we respect that … they are a completely niche business,” Perth said. By securing participation from high-level execs from reality stakeholders ranging from Endemol Shine to Fremantle to NBCUniversal, Perth said, “We’re getting decision-makers who we didn’t get before.”

Asked if the show, which has introduced the Reality Breakthrough Awards (this year doling out honors to shows from Discovery, TruTV, HBO in a brief Howie Mandel-hosted luncheon) and beefed up unscripted panel programming, Bommel said, “We will double down on what we do in reality.” Perth wondered aloud if “doubling down” would be the optimal phrasing of it given the show’s simultaneous interest in areas such as scripted, international, branded content and mobile/digital. Moments later, touching on both the opportunity to play more in the tech space as well as the buckets Perth mentioned, Bommel asserted simply, “This is a content show.”

Attendance figures have not been released, but the organization touted a tripling of exhibit floor space at the Fontainebleau and noted the addition of 65 new exhibitors from more than 30 countries. In all, 71 countries were represented at the show, which has sought a new foothold after the go-go syndication days that saw bacchanalian parties, some big enough to fill the Louisiana Superdome, when the conference was held in New Orleans.

The show’s Miami presence, which followed a Las Vegas period, has enabled the show to attract Latin American business and also made for an easier trip for others, especially on the East Coast, seeking a mid-winter respite and networking opportunity. Recent years have seen usage of both the Fontainebleau and the neighboring Eden Roc, and this year panels and keynotes shifted entirely to the latter to make room for more exhibit space and the presence of partners like the CTA, which had a lobby display recapping key trends and gear from CES.