If you are of a certain age…you know, some “snow on the proverbial roof”…you will likely remember the National Association of Television Program Executives Conference (a.k.a. NATPE) as the pinnacle of overindulgence. It was often an epic experience for industry folks..
More specifically, massively oversized booths on the NATPE floor (outlets like Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Television and the former Paramount and KingWorld, for example) featured a stream of executives pitching their programming to station representatives amid endless food and cocktails. Celebrities were front and center to represent their shows (I remember when Oprah Winfrey showed up to hype her then upcoming talker, not to mention Joan Rivers, who was then the center square on the revival of game show “The Hollywood Squares”). Scantily clan women and muscled men, most plucked from the wrestling world, walked the floor to strut their stuff. Entertainment performances from A-listers like Elton John and Steely Dan were the main evening attractions.
And, each Monday at every NATPE there came the inevitable programming presentations from the rep firms, who advised stations what shows to acquire. Personally, I still fondly recall standing in front of the audience as a representative of that venerable firm Seltel and joking about Pamela Anderson in the new weekly action/adventure “V.I.P.” The dreadful “V.I.P.” lasted four seasons.
Oh, and there were also those attendees strolling around (often in colorful ensembles) pitching their show ideas. That, unfortunately, is still present at NATPE!
Back then, the point of the annual gathering was for television stations to acquire product from distributors of syndicated programming. Nothing was deemed too costly to get a deal. It was a three or four-day whirlwind and a time to interact, party and do specific deals. One always tried to come away with something solid to justify the extravagance – or at least rationalize it. But, like tax deductions for money spent in NYC disco clubs and a lot of the other percs of being a salesperson, time and deteriorating budgets took their toll.The NATPE of today is a more subdued (yet still imperative) marketplace where the focus has shifted globally to new media, technology and international business.
That’s not to say there are not still syndication series deals being closed at NATPE. If anything, it is a time to meet and greet old colleagues, revisit war stories from yesterday, and be pitched on what every distributor will deem the “best” new product on the market.
This year, in fact, there are more new first-run shows in development than in many years. Consider that a major positive for a business in a bubble of sorts, where a reported 94 percent of the daytime audience still consume their content (talk, game, court and magazine, specifically) live. For an advertiser, you know exactly who your audience is in syndication. That’s a huge benefit. And, for a NATPE attendee, the conference is a testimonial, of sorts, to a component of the broadcasting business that still has tremendous value.
With names of the caliber of Kelly Clarkson and Judge Joe Brown likely to be present talking up their upcoming new shows, the face of content is still NATPE. And of immediate note at the upcoming conference is the keynote address by producer Tyler Perry.
NATPE is also partnering with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) to present an event designed to spotlight diversity awareness in entertainment.
For more information on NATPE, click visit https://www.natpe.com/