With NATPE 2010 less than three weeks away, buyers and sellers alike have their fingers crossed that a successful market will set the tone for the year to come. VideoAge spoke to Irv Holender from Los Angeles, principal director of Toronto-based Fremantle Corp., and Stamford, Connecticut-based Thomas Sitrin, director, International TV and Affiliate Relations of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). We asked how they expect this year’s market to match up against years’ past and what they see as Latin America’s primary growth areas.

VideoAge International: How is NATPE shaping up for Fremantle Corp.?

Irv Holender: The markets have gotten weaker and weaker over the last few years. Our feeling is that by expanding the amount of co-productions we have going on around the world, we will continually produce good family product. So that’s our focus for NATPE this year.

VAI: How is NATPE shaping up for WWE?

Thomas Sitrin: We are looking forward to NATPE. It’s a great way to usher in the New Year, and allows us to connect with our international affiliates and prospective broadcasters, as well as prioritize our collective agendas for 2010 and beyond.

VAI: Do you expect more buyers than last year?

IH: From the preliminary list I’ve seen, there will be less than last year. I think the reason for that is a combination of the economy and the direction of the industry. More and more people are asking for scripted programming.

TS: With NAPTE being the inaugural trade show each year, we anticipate a healthy attendance by international buyers. Last year, most businesses and industries underwent a diligent operational examination, and the reactionary measures taken drastically impacted how business was conducted across the board. With the year behind us, there’s an increased level of comfort amongst all and this will undoubtedly restore confidence in the way we do business once again.

VAI: Are you happy about the change from the convention format of past years to the hotel suites?

IH: We’ve been involved with suites for almost 30 years at AFM, so we’re used to it. I still like the booth concept, but unfortunately the majors turned it down. It’s becoming more of an appointment market rather than people walking in on you. But, NATPE has suffered more because the majors are not supporting it, than because of the shift to suites.

TS: WWE has been exhibiting in the suites for the past several NATPE’s and we believe it’s a great alternative to the floor.

VAI: In your view, is the TV business improving?

IH: We’ve seen an improvement with family product, especially in the international market. With the consolidation of networks, we find that the need is for specific programming and product that has continuity.

TS: It’s still too early to tell, however, the TV business is a living organism, perpetually evolving and adapting to the changing environment. Last year, there were downturns in many areas of TV, but there was an immense progression in digital media connectivity (including analog switch offs) and platform penetration with new IPTV operations and channel availability. The increased viability of digital and mobile platforms has proven to be a brilliant balance to the temporarily deflated global economy.

VAI: What is your company’s growth area?

IH: Right now our growth areas are co-productions and family shows like The New Adventures of Black Beauty, as well as prime-time series. This year we’re also celebrating the 40th anniversary of All My Children. And shows like Snapped and Look Alike have been renewed and picked up for additional seasons.

VAI: Which Latin territory do you see improving or increasing?

IH: I think overall, the Latin market will be improving as digital platforms mature. You’re going to see more and more regional network deals being done. From our point of view, the VOD sector, meaning distributing the back catalogs digitally, seems to be the fastest growing area in Latin America.

TS: We have broadcast partners in Mexico (Televisa and TV Azteca), all of Central America and all Spanish speaking countries in South America. We are looking forward to improving our market stature mostly in South America, with an emphasis on Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

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