The association’s new president talks about what’s in store at the upcoming Miami conference and marketplace. He also looks longer term. “My challenge is that if station groups continue to think of themselves as local stations, then they have challenges. Their world is far greater than local. That is how NATPE can help stations. We bring together a fantastic scale of decision makers and influential people from around the world who they should want to hear and meet and connect with.”
Last May, when Rod Perth took over from Rick Feldman as president of NATPE, he faced a number of challenges.
NATPE’s annual conference remains a smaller and less important event than it had been in the past, although it has been reenergized by its move to Miami just under three years ago. Its relevance as a primarily syndicated TV business marketplace has been dramatically diminished. And other TV conferences such as PromaxBDA’s Station Summit and MIPCOM in France have encroached on NATPE’s turf.
In September, Perth, whose background includes founding ReelzChannel and serving as president of USA Network, introduced himself of the TV media in a conference call, but revealed little about his ambitions for the organization or its annual conference and programming marketplace set for Jan. 28-30 in Miami.
Here, in an interview with TVNewsCheck correspondent Kevin Downey, Perth gives up a little more, discussing the timing of the conference, the return of Sony to the fold, why broadcasters should buy a ticket to Miami and more.
An edited transcript:
Where does NATPE fit in the TV marketplace when syndicators like Warner Bros. and Sony are selling shows such as Bethenny and Queen Latifah long before the NATPE conference?
It’s the bridge between content creation and modernization. NATPE facilitates conversations between Hollywood and international distributors and producers, and the world of digital and advertisers.
We aspire to be the bridge that brings all of those businesses together.
Given that shows in domestic syndication are cleared months before NATPE, wouldn’t it make sense to move it up a few months?
I never say never. We’ve looked at all sorts of dates, and we’ve done research about which dates work best. The vast majority of people have said January works best.
The truth is, say we moved it to September, that doesn’t mean 1,100 television stations would suddenly show up at NATPE.
And if we moved to September, we’d be competing with MIPCOM. We have a huge contingent at MIPCOM who say January is better. Nothing is perfect, but our clients believe January is the best. And they absolutely love Miami.
In September, Sony announced that they’re returning to NATPE after five years without an official presence. Why did they leave?
I don’t want to get into the how or why of it. The important thing is that they are back for practical business reasons. NATPE is a forum and market that connects them to their most important clients. It’s that simple. There may be other background. There was some history in the past. But I don’t care about that. They’re back and they’re back in a big way.
Was it an objective of yours to get Sony back?
Of course it was. It was our objective to get all the studios and now we have all of them.
Invariably, attendance levels are compared to NATPE’s heyday back in the 1980s and 1990s. Is attendance important to you?
Ten years ago, the world was a different place. I don’t think we’re going to get back to 21,000 attendees, which was the peak.
Unless there’s some reinvention of the business, we have no plans to go back to a convention-floor model. That’s not a bad thing. We are still planning to grow. But we plan to grow where there is growth in the market. I firmly believe that is the digital world.
What is NATPE doing to attract more station groups to the Miami conference?
We are reaching out to the station groups. NATPE is a great, logical place to have managers’ meetings.
My challenge is that if station groups continue to think of themselves as local stations, then they have challenges. Their world is far greater than local. That is how NATPE can help stations. We bring together a fantastic scale of decision makers and influential people from around the world who they should want to hear and meet and connect with.
The world is shrinking. A general manager from Omaha can learn something from a general manager in Germany or Canada.
The SVOD companies had a big presence at NATPE last year. Will they be back in 2013?
We have representatives from virtually all of them coming back. Yahoo is iffy because they are going through a CEO change. But, beyond that, they are back.
A goal of mine is to create reasons for the world of digital content to connect in meaningful ways with creators of linear content.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?
We bring together this crowd of 5,000 to 6,000 people from the world of domestic and international studios, producers and distributors. Increasingly, they are looking to digital but don’t necessarily know how to speak with them. The digital world is investing more. This is the modernization of digital content. Watching content online is a real thing.
YouTube is spending a lot of money and so is Netflix. Amazon recently announced that they are in the original content business. Microsoft hired [former CBS Entertainment President] Nancy Tellem.
So, this is very real and we are the bridge.
Earlier this year, you announced that NATPE’s theme in 2013 is “Beyond Disruption.” What does that mean?
It’s not a negative term. It’s a metaphor for the future. These changes are an opportunity.
You recently announced that Dallas Mavericks owner, entrepreneur and Shark Tank co-star Mark Cuban will be NATPE’s keynote speaker. Any other news?
We have other announcements coming. We’ll announce all the panels in a few weeks. We are not sitting still. We’re looking for ways to add value to NATPE and will continue to do that as we move forward.
NATPE’s move to Miami has been well received. Do you plan to continue having the conference there?
We don’t have any plans to move it. As long as it’s growing and it’s serving our buyers and sellers, we won’t move it.
In September, on a conference call with reporters, you said NATPE is speaking with other organizations about potential partnerships. Is PromaxBDA’s Station Summit one of those?
PromaxBDA is an organization I admire. Station Summit is very cool. Jonathan Block-Verk has done a great job with that.
I’d love to attract more television station participation. That is on my list of things to do. But we’re not going to reinvent ourselves and disrupt what we do. The priority is adding to what we do.
How that relates to partnerships, I am open to talking to PromaxBDA. But there’s nothing of substance at this point. In terms of alliances, we’re not talking about merging with anyone, unless there’s something going on that I don’t know about.
But I am open to anything that will add value to NATPE. But there has to be a reason to do something.
You mentioned that NATPE has a presence at MIPCOM. What does NATPE do there?
Our head of sales and sponsorship goes there. And NATPE’s head of operations was there to find out what we can learn.
MIPCOM is a partner of ours. We have trade agreements, in terms of cross promotion. They are an incredibly organized and useful market for television around the world.
We attend MIPCOM, just like they come to NATPE, not for fun but for utility. It’s an opportunity to learn what they do. And there are all sorts of people it’s useful to meet.
Was there any useful takeaway from MIPCOM?
Yeah, they don’t attract TV stations, either (laughing).
The thing I took away is that the world of co-productions is no longer limited to low-budget productions. A lot of it is beautifully produced.
NATPE now has a Budapest summit and DISCOP. Will you continue doing those conferences?
Yes, definitely. We are a minority partner in [DISCOP] Istanbul and Johannesburg and we are the operating partner in Budapest.
These events are must-attend marketplaces for primarily Eastern European buyers and producers. We have very robust support in Budapest. Even if we didn’t, we would intend to have an important presence in that region because it is growing like crazy.