By Leah Hochbaum Rosner

As NATPE nears, television executives are readying themselves for three days of buying, selling and, perhaps, gambling — the market does, after all, take place in Las Vegas. This year’s event, which will be held January 28-31 at the Mandalay Bay Resort, expects a who’s who of industry insiders, including PorchLight Entertainment’s president of Worldwide Sales, Ken DuBow. VideoAge spoke with DuBow about what it is about NATPE that makes PorchLight keep coming back and what NATPE leaders could do to make it better.

Video Age International: At a time when some companies seem to be opting out of NATPE, why do you feel it’s still an important market for PorchLight to attend?

Ken DuBow: I’ve been coming to NATPE since 1980, so I’ve watched it transform quite a bit. I hope to see U.S. cable buyers and North and South American broadcasters at the market. I am not, however, holding out much hope for Europeans or Asians. NATPE has always been very productive for us as a development market for finding new productions. We’re hoping for good sales in North and South America, but I have no expectations for anywhere else in the world.

VAI: Why has NATPE fallen from grace in recent years?

KD: Large distributors don’t need NATPE because it’s so compacted, and so few decision-makers attend. At the same time, the market’s not good for smaller exhibitors, either, because people get distracted by the big guys who do attend. NATPE has never been able to replace MIP-TV or MIPCOM in terms of importance. It just doesn’t fall at the right time of year.

VAI: Will PorchLight be on the floor or in a suite at NATPE?

KD: On the floor. Being in a suite is really a waste of time for a small company. Plus, you don’t get to see people. You’re like Tom Hanks on the island [in the movie Cast Away] talking to [his volleyball,] Wilson. When we’re on the floor, we’re among other companies. NATPE is such a quick market. It’s three days and people only stay for two of those days.

VAI: A number of studios have opted to stay home this year. What do you think will happen to NATPE if the studios ever decide to drop out altogether?

KD: If the studios decide not to support it, NATPE won’t work at all. Sony Domestic’s not going this year, but they’ve each had their turns. I don’t know why NATPE was never able to take a world stage. Reed Midem [organizers of MIP-TV and MIPCOM] outmaneuvered them because their markets have always been driven by big domestic studios.

VAI: Is there any way to fix what ails NATPE?

KD: The permanent Las Vegas location is a big turn-off to a lot of foreigners. Something should be done about that. Also, I don’t have any time to attend sessions. The sessions definitely up the number of people in attendance at NATPE, but not the number of buyers. And the most important thing at a market is buyers. NATPE needs to bring more of them.