MIPCOM is behind us,  the AFM is around the corner, and ATF is coming up. We thought now would be a good time to turn our attention to the next big TV market on our radar – NATPE 2012. With just about three months to go before the start of the Miami Beach market, we decided to check in with CEO Rick Feldman to see what’s in store for this year’s “Content First”  (we like “Content Sales First” better) event. Oh, and check in on those darned elevators, too.

VideoAge International: You just got back from MIPCOM. What were people there saying about NATPE?

Rick Feldman: You know what, honestly, the conversations I had there were the same conversations I’ve been having since last January – “We love it, it’s fantastic. Get those elevators fixed.”

The decision to move to Miami was a good idea, it brought about 1,000 more people to NATPE. It brought a lot more Latins, obviously, and Europeans too. But we have to make sure that logistically we handle it better in 2012.

VAI: What are you doing to fix the elevator issue [in which executives had interminable waits for elevators en route to visiting exhibitors in the suites]?

Rick Feldman: We’re cutting exhibition inventory in [The Fontainbleau’s] Tresor tower in half, and have moved them to the other three towers. We’re not putting all the exhibition that wasn’t on the floor into one tower. It’ll change the dynamic of the marketplace when they’re spread out in all four towers. So much of the activity was happening at Tresor, and now it’ll be more balanced. It should make the elevator issues a lot less of a problem.

No doubt [the elevator problem] was a hindrance to people’s appreciation of the market. I totally get it. But I tell everyone I’ve gone to NATPE 31 times and there was an elevator issue all the years we were in Vegas … but yes, this one was worst. The reason it happened was because buyers wanted us to consolidate sellers. But from an operations standpoint it just didn’t work.

VAI: Any big changes to this year’s market?
RF: Honestly, not much. We’re just tweaking things to make it operationally better.

The move to Miami was a big change. And one of the things we realize is that people don’t want changes all the time. They want stability. They want to know what to expect. Frankly, most of what we did last year worked.

VAI: How about the conferences at NATPE?

RF: We’re trying to get a better handle on those. Some people think we do too much. So may we cut down on what we’re doing at lunchtime, so people don’t feel conflicted. We’re going to take a “less is more” approach. But we’ll continue to focus on a global, multi-platform world, which focuses on creation, distribution and financing of content.

For the most part, NATPE is a United States-focused conference, so much of our conferences will focus on the U.S. What we try to do is reflect the business writ large. We figure people will go to an hour or two, not six or seven hours. The only real track we’re doing is an advertising track on Tuesday, cause we think it’s something you need regardless of where you are in the world. The rest will consist of conversations with interesting people.

VAI: What are you expecting in terms of participant numbers?
RF: Our registrations are running a little bit ahead of last year. I don’t want to say attendance is significantly ahead, but it is ahead. Unfortunately NATPE tends to be a market that grows at the end. Every year, about 1/3 of our attendees sign up in January. It drives us crazy– which is why we have early bird discounts (currently underway) — but that’s the reality.

I do expect more European exhibitors in 2012. One of the great things about next year is that we have a lot of companies that were not there last year – from countries like France, India, Iran, Turkey and Africa.

VAI: Can you tell us anything about the Brandon Tartikoff Award nominees, or specifics about the conferences?
RF: That’s all going to be announced in a few weeks [we’ll keep you posted here on VideoAge’s Watercooler].