TV, NATPE struggling to regain footing

The TV industry was unprepared to handle the short and long-term implications of the digital disruption. Have they met their goals?

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WASHINGTON,  January 26, 2016 – It has been four years since Rick Feldman left his position as president and CEO of National Association of Television Program Executives, and so much has changed.

Credited with reviving the languishing annual convention for TV network executives, Feldman turned over the convention’s reins to his successor, Rod Perth, who announced his own resignation in March.

But has Feldman’s vision for NATPE been fulfilled?

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When Feldman took over as president of NATPE in 2003, attendance was at an all time low. At its peak in the 1990s, the convention attracted 10,000 people, but numbers were down to less than 3,000. The TV industry was unprepared to handle the short and long-term implications of the digital disruption.

NATPE’s focus on domestic television syndication needed to change, and that’s what Feldman set out to do.

Feldman expanded the convention’s focus to include digital, satellite, VOD and mobile content and moved the annual convention from Las Vegas to Miami Beach in order to reach out to Latin American, European and Asian markets. NATPE also hosts an annual convention in Budapest and Africa.

Feldman’s vision has – to date – proved to be the right one, helping offset the challenges to the convention brought on by industry fractionalization. NATPE’s new mission is less specialized. It isn’t just about television but about all types of content.

Perth says that NATPE is all about bringing content creators and distributors together.

“We’ve tried to bridge the creative world to the rest of the moving parts that constitute the business. We’re placing the chief marketing officers of major international brands in the room with creators, showrunners, writers and producers,” Perth says.

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However, at its core, NATPE’s audience is still a television one. The program executives that attend to buy and sell content on the market floors are still treading treacherous digital waters.

This is the challenge to NATPE’s incoming president: NATPE isn’t Real Screen. It isn’t MIPTV. It needs to expand its audience, not cannibalize what other industry trade shows cover.

As OTT platforms like Netflix and Hulu continue their expansion, will the TV industry continue to lose its footing or will it emerge stronger than ever? What will be the long-term impact of second screen?

One thing is for certain: NATPE organizers aren’t betting all their marbles on TV’s survival, and who could blame them?

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