Tuesday, January 16, 2007

NATPE Bleeds Out...

NATPE (National Association of Television Progam Executives) has a convention each year (usually January...lately in Las Vegas) - the world's first and America's largest marketplace solely dedicated to television content. More then 8,000 top media executives from 76 countries participate in three days of exhibition, featuring more than 350 globally recognized exhibiting companies and 600 representatives from consumer and trade press around the globe.

This little gathering is where television program buyers and sellers meet and greet to strike programming deals. Most of next fall's U.S. television programming will be purchased or launched here. For the most part, it's syndicated programs...either already produced series that have been stripped or talk shows/game shows and lower budget dramatic (usually action/adventure/scifi).

For a long time, a lot of the syndicated action series shot here in Canada were financed in part by the clearances gained at NATPE (clearances refers to how many stations have 'pre-bought' your show, as it were...you generally need 80% - 90% of the 212 (I think?) stations around the U.S.). It was the scenario Boghosian describes below where we were front ended in development and pilot and production costs through a joint venture between an independent producer and a program syndicator, like King World...or Tribune. And if you aren't already confused, some markets (Chicago, New York, L.A.) are more valuable than others. All all of this is factored in...or at least was.

But the times are a changin' and have been changin' for some time. Syndicators are sruggling big-time, and need some fixing.

Paul Boghosian writes...

Now, for the uninitiated, the annual NATPE conference is all about deal making. Essentially, there are two kinds of programs that are sold at NATPE: New, first run programming, specifically designed for syndication and these programs are often times front ended in development and pilot cost by a joint venture between an independent producer and a program syndicator, like KingWorld. Or these first run programs may be developed in house, by a network such as NBC, and then syndicated aka sold through their in house syndication arm. In the case of NBC, NBC Enterprises. Programs that you may be familiar with in this category include game shows such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, political talk shows such as the Chris Matthews Show and. of course, the giant talker of all time, Oprah.

The most profitable type of sale is the off-network sale. These are programs that have already proven their success in the marketplace, have already had prime time network broadcast runs, have at least 100 episodes in the can and are now syndicated for sale to independent stations, network affiliates and are ready to be sold to international networks. Successful series in this category include Seinfeld, Friends, and most sitcoms that you see over and over again, after they have had their network run.

But this annual bazaar of program sellers and buyers, station owners and distributors, content providers and producers, has been going down hill in the last four or five years. As networks have consolidated their programming, as producers and syndicators are developing and selling programming all year round and as more modern means of communications have made less relevant and meaningful this annual confab of the buyers and sellers of television programming, NATPE needs to be revitalized.

Henshaw follows up yesterday's opus with this report from NATPE and the new technology rollout and its potential impact on Canadian tv. And Broadcasting & Cable magazine offers up some interesting solutions to the sydication dilemma in an informative article.

Tough out the reads. A lot of it will seem headache-inducing, but it's good stuff to know.

SONG&ARTIST? - "Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that's ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher
There's a thousand pretty women waitin' out there
And they're all livin' devil may care
And I'm just the devil with love to spare..."


Callaghan said...

Vivaaaaaaaaa Las Vegas.

wcdixon said...

Well at least we can count on music trivia bringing Callaghan out of the cave...

Bill Cunningham said...

It makes things confusing but it also opens up the opportunities.

People who are able to provide a package of movies or tv programs are the ones who will succeed as these outlets look to eliminate paperwork and acquire product in bulk. It's the same amount of paperwork to license 20 movies as it is to license one.