Attendance looks to be up once again. CEO Rod Perth praised keynoter Mark Cuban (“Now, he’s all about TV. He used to be about the Internet.”) The conference was lively and there were clearly buyers buying content and sellers selling content. Among the announcements were a summer test of a Kris Jenner talk show and strong clearances for Arsenio Hall and The Test.
NATPE Says Good Bye To A Good Show
The NATPE conference in Miami wrapped up on a high note on Wednesday with attendance trending up by double-digit percentages over last year, according to Rod Perth. This was Perth’s first conference since becoming the organization’s president and CEO last year. NATPE’s final attendance count is still being tallied but it will likely be between 5,000 and 6,000.
“We’re still tracking attendance, but we’re pleased,” said Perth at a press conference with reporters. “We have more than 1,000 buyers. That broke a record. You can’t sell if you don’t have buyers.”
He pointed to keynote speaker Mark Cuban as evidence that NATPE is a reenergized conference from a few years ago when the recession and shifts in the business toward digital media and away from linear TV combined to make for a long downturn in attendance.
“Mark Cuban was so invigorated,” Perth said of the Shark Tank judge and the billionaire owner of AXS TV and the Dallas Mavericks. “His plan was to get back on the jet and leave. But he’s still here. It’s interesting, too [that] now, he’s all about TV. He used to be about the Internet.”
The NATPE conference was notable for a few syndicated TV deals, notably Twentieth Television announcing that it will have a summer talk show test with reality star Kris Jenner. Twentieth also renewed Dish Nation for a second season.
Other announcements at NATPE included CBS confirming that it was essentially finished clearing latenight talk show Arsenio Hall on stations. And it pushed past 80% clearance on conflict talk show The Test from Jay McGraw’s Stage 29 Productions.
Notable NATPE buzz that didn’t happen included speculation that NBCUniversal would confirm a deal with Meredith Vieira for a talk show. And celebrity wattage was somewhat dimmed from last year when talk show hosts Katie Couric, Ricki Lake and Steve Harvey were at NATPE and Charlie Sheen hosted a party for his Debmar-Mercury sitcom Anger Management.
Neither Bethenny Frankel from Warner Bros.’ Bethenny nor Queen Latifah from her Sony show were there. However, both shows are virtually 100% cleared on stations for fall 2013.
Still, the NATPE conference was lively and there were clearly buyers buying content and sellers selling content.
“A lot more deals got done than people expected,” said Jordan Levin, chairman of the board at NATPE. “We want people to look back and say, ‘NATPE is where that deal happened or where the next great idea was sparked.’”
Both Levin and Perth spoke about NATPE’s ongoing evolution from a syndicated TV marketplace to an international market for multiplatform content.
“The question that has hung over NATPE is, ‘Will NATPE survive?’ ” Levin said. “Coming out of this year, there is a stronger feeling that this is a dynamic event and organization that has a role. Our role is to be a facilitator.”
Perth noted that 41% of NATPE speakers were from digital companies. But, he said, that number doesn’t come at the expense of speakers from TV, advertising and brands.
“NATPE is perfectly positioned to become the facilitator for two worlds that have yet to learn each other’s language,” Perth added.
He also noted that changes at NATPE have been taking place since last May when he replaced Feldman.
“I horrified the board,” said Perth. “I said, ‘I am going to get your attention. I’m going to give you homework and you’re going to be accountable for doing it. And,” he said, “I’m talking about seriously high-powered entertainment executives. We sat in a room for 14 hours. It was exhausting. But we came out with a galvanized sense of commitment. It’s so satisfying to me that this is all coming together. It’s not perfect.”
Part of the work that NATPE has done is get feedback from its members.
“I don’t live or die by research,” said Perth. “But you have to have some understanding about what your customers think of you. This brand, despite its ups and downs, has been around for 50 years. What we’ve heard is, ‘Make NATPE relevant again.’ So, that’s what we’ve been doing since I got here.”
Perth noted that NATPE still has a lot of work to do to achieve its goals. But he said he got a clue that he’s on the right path while standing outside smoking a cigar with his son-in-law on Tuesday night.
“It has been gratifying to hear compliments from people who had been doubters,” said Perth. “But [the highlight] of NATPE was when I had my son-in-law with me. He is an unbelievably successful guy. He is a 30-year-old CEO. As he was leaving, he had a stack of cards and said to me, ‘I have $10 million worth of new contacts in my wallet.’ ”