JESSELL AT LARGE

PromaxBDA Hits Home Run With Summit

The group's inaugural Station Summit delivered on its promise to be station-centric, productive and inspiring. It also engendered a sense of community by sharing successes and challenges. “This is about supporting, building, strengthening local broadcasting from the inside out," says PromaxBDA President Jonathan Block-Verk.

I was hoping to like the Station Summit that PromaxPDA pulled together for broadcasting’s creative services and marketing community. It’s the kind of thing that I have been advocating here for the past five years: station-centric conferences where the folks who do the real work at TV stations can meet and greet, share ideas, transact some business, learn something new and celebrate broadcasting.

So, after two lively days at the Planet Hollywood Hotel, I am happy to report that the Summit was all of the above. The rank and file and some of their top bosses who were in attendance were one in their enthusiasm for the conference.

Much of the conference’s energy flowed from PromaxPDA’s indefatigable president, Jonathan Block-Verk, who was nonstop and all over the place. When I awoke this morning at 4 a.m. for an early flight home, I found a 2 a.m. email inviting me to a party in his suite. Imagine that: an industry conference where people were actually having fun.

John Kukla, of Fox Television’s KDFI-KDFW Dallas and a member of the PromaxBDA board, said the conference was all he had hoped it would be — productive and inspiring.

In preparing program promo campaigns, Kukla said, a little face time with syndication or network market executives is “invaluable”; emails and an occasional phone call are really not enough.

But the big takeaway was simply the jolt that comes from being in a room full of your peers, he said. “The shared experience is the most important thing. You feel better about the industry and your place in it.”

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Stephen Houk, of WUSA Washington, was just happy to learn that he was not the only one who sometimes feels overwhelmed by the demands of the job. “It’s a good feeling.”

According to PromaxBDA, the conference drew more than 500, and more than 400 of them were actual broadcasters, from actual stations with call letters. That was hundreds more than expected.

Based on that draw, it’s likely the first-ever conference has earned a permanent spot on the broadcast calendar. But that depends in large part on the six big syndicators — CBS, Warner Bros., Sony, Debmar-Mercury, Twentieth and NBCUniversal — that subsidized the travel expenses of many of the attendees by each chipping in $35,000. The ABC and NBC networks also helped by paying to hold promo meetings in conjunction with the Summit.

From my casual conversations with some syndication execs, I’d say they were as pleased with the conference as the broadcasters were and would reup for another turn. They apparently accomplished what they wanted: imbuing the front-line promoters with zeal for whatever shows they were pushing this fall.

Block-Verk told me that he expects to do it again next year, even though PromaxBDA came up short of breakeven. But to insure the future of the conference and earn at least a little money for the organization, Block-Verk would like to see fuller participation on the sponsorship side next year. By that, he means he wants Disney-ABC Domestic Television and the CBS and Fox networks on board. “The CBS and Fox affiliates were sad, depressed because their networks did not support this.”

The Planet Hollywood is not the Wynn or Bellagio, but PromaxPDA put on a first-class production. Throughout the conference hall at all times, there were tables laden with fresh coffee and soft drinks. Anticipating that the conference rooms would be too small for the unexpectedly large attendance, PromaxPDA set up cameras inside and large screen TVs outside in the hallway to handle the overflow. I’ve never seen that before.

Some of the vendor-sponsors contributed to the conviviality. At a reception last night, Stephen Arnold Music gave away prizes, including a vintage Fender and a Martin guitar signed by Willie Nelson. Chryon hosted the Thursday luncheon, rolling out a big cake to celebrate its anniversary.

The only flop was last night’s awards dinner. PromaxBDA poured a lot of money into honoring 50 stations and agencies for their promotional efforts with the new PromaxBDA Locals Awards, even hiring a comic, Sugar Sammy, to do his routine and emcee. But half the hall was empty. Apparently, a lot of broadcasters had chosen the night to sample the ample entertainments of the city. The solution may be the hold the dinner on the first night of the two-day event and cut the number of presentations to a manageable number. Fifty awards is enough to scare off anyone who didn’t feel they had a lock on one.

Block-Verk admits that he didn’t know much about local broadcasting last fall when he began cooking up the conference with the syndicators. But now, he said, he is committed to the industry — and the conference.

“This is about supporting, building, strengthening local broadcasting from the inside out.”

 


 

Harry A. Jessell is editor of TVNewsCheck. He can be reached at 973-701-1067 or mailto:[email protected]. You can read his other columns here.


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