At NATPE Convention, Emphasis to Remain on Content

With Perth as new CEO, show will still be about deals; he won’t fi x what ain’t broken

Over the past decade the business of television
has changed dramatically, and the National
Association of Television Program Executives
(NATPE) has had to change right along with it.

Many TV executives remember the not-so-distant
past when NATPE was a virtual carnival of hundreds
of buyers and sellers, and big deals were made in the
midst of big parties. Today, NATPE has evolved into
a convention centered around content, with attendees
coming from the station, studio, international and digital
arenas. In May, former CBS, USA Network and Syfy
executive Rod Perth replaced Rick Feldman, who had
run NATPE since 2003, as president and CEO; Perth
now must guide the association to the next level.

In Perth’s first press conference with reporters last
week, plans—like those of any good politician—
remained somewhat unclear.

“We want to be increasingly thoughtful and reflective
about the experience that attendees have at NATPE,”
Perth said. “It’s all about their investment of time and
money. We want to be as service-oriented as we can
possibly be to explore new opportunities and embrace
the challenges that are ahead.”

NATPE will mark its 50th anniversary in 2013, kicking
off that celebratory year with NATPE 2013 at the
Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotel complex in Miami
Beach, Fla., from Jan. 28-30.

According to Perth, “all of the major domestic distributors
have committed to attend, and they will be joined
by a long list of independents, producers and networks.”

To illustrate his point, Perth listed Debmar Mercury/
Lionsgate, Banijay, Electus, CableReady, Content Media
Corp., FremantleMedia, Globo TV, Hasbro Studios,
Lionsgate International, MGM Worldwide Television,
Univision and Venevision.

Notably absent from that list, however, were any of the
major studios, including CBS Television Distribution, Disney-
ABC Television, NBCUniversal Domestic Television
Distribution, Sony Pictures Television (SPT), Twentieth
and Warner Bros. Independent checks with all of those
companies confirmed that they will be in attendance,
most of them in a similar manner to last year, with hotel
suites and/or cabanas around the Fontainebleau pool.

SPT is returning to NATPE in 2013 after being absent
for years. But whether the company will exhibit
or just attend has not been determined yet.

Beyond the traditional distributors, Perth also expects
TV station group executives, international producers
and digital content providers to be on hand.

Whether NATPE will continue to be held in Miami
after this year also is unknown. The conference moved
to South Beach in 2011, after NATPE had signed a contract
with the Fontainebleau to hold its conference at the
company’s new hotel in Las Vegas. It became clear early
on that the Las Vegas hotel wasn’t going to be finished in
time to house the conference, so NATPE instead moved
to the company’s newly renovated Miami complex.

Moving NATPE to Miami has allowed the organization
to add more international companies—particularly
those from Latin America—to its mix, and centered
it right between MIPCOM in October and MIP
in March, both of which are held in Cannes, France.

“We are the first must-attend market of the year,”
said Perth in a post-press conference interview. “We
have to make good on that promise.”

Somewhat like the TechCrunch Disrupt conference
in San Francisco that just concluded, NATPE’s theme
next year is “Beyond Disruption.”

“We live in disruptive times, but I think disruption
equals opportunity,” said Perth. “At the center of all of it,
NATPE has to be nimble enough to embrace, encourage
and be relevant. The one common constant is content.”

From a logistical point of view, NATPE 2013 is expected
to look much like NATPE 2012, with business
being done poolside and panels and presentations being
held in the hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms.

NATPE’s format will change a bit, with presentations
and panel discussions coming under category headings
such as “Game Changers,” “Masters of Messaging,”
“Storytellers That Shape Pop Culture,” “Technologies
That Fuel Multiplatform Content,” “Visionaries” and
“Global Navigators.”

Perth also announced three of the four winners of this
year’s 10th annual Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards,
which are handed out each year by Tartikoff’s widow, Lily
Tartikoff Karatz, and sponsored by B&C and Multichannel
. This year, Modern Family creator and executive producer
Steve Levitan, BET Networks chairman/CEO Debra
Lee and Cops producer John Langley will be honored.

“I think it’s evolving, but our primary mission is to
be all about content producers and distributors, irrespective
of platform,” said Perth. “That is our core mission.
And if that sounds overly broad, at this point, it’s
designed to be overly broad. For now, I’m playing my
cards close to the vest.”

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