Studios and the distribution business are once again taking center stage at NATPE Miami 2016; and digital media is again filling the role of buyers, on par with broadcasters.

With newly elected Andy Kaplan as NATPE chairman, and Armando Nuñez back on the NATPE board, the non-profit organization is showing due respect to the U.S. studios, which represent more than 50 percent of NATPE Miami’s income (and a good share of profits), whereas buyers represent an expense.

Kaplan is president, Worldwide Networks, Sony Pictures Television, and Nuñez is president and CEO, CBS Global Distribution Group. These two executives complement other studio executives on the NATPE board: Jack Abernethy, CEO Fox Television Stations, Craig Hunegs, president, Business and Strategy, Warner Bros. International Television, and Kevin Beggs, chairman, Lionsgate Television Group.

This upcoming NATPE Miami is also the first market for newly appointed COO and managing director, JP Bommel. He will later take on the CEO role, after current chief Rod Perth retires in March 2016 (Perth will continue serving on the executive committee of the board). NATPE also has a new chief marketing officer, Matt Palmer, who was hired after the departure of Beth Braen.

NATPE 2016, to be held at the usual Miami Beach Fontainebleau Hotel location from January 19-21 (a bit earlier than the 2015 edition), promises to be a record-setting market in part due to the larger time gap with Reelscreen, which has now moved to February. This later event, organized by the publication of the same name, is a smaller market focusing on non-fiction and unscripted TV production, but it has created the perception that it competes with NATPE.

This means, however, that LATAM companies will have fewer days to get ready, since they traditionally close for the Christmas holidays from December 23 to January 6 (while January 7 is the Orthodox Christmas). Another national holiday in the U.S. is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is celebrated on Monday, January 18 and will mean overtime-plus for union workers setting up stands and suites, and closed offices for major companies.

Figures from NATPE 2015 showed 230 exhibitors (107 from the U.S., 123 from overseas). Of these, 80 companies exhibited in suites and the rest with stands. Buyers arrived from 62 countries. A large contingent from 22 U.S. TV station groups gave the market a renewed domestic twist.

At this upcoming edition, these figures are expected to increase across the board. Participants are also attracted by a good number of midseason and back-up U.S. TV shows and a strong U.S. syndication market, especially for Spanish-language programs for the Hispanic TV market.

The increased relevance of NATPE’s domestic component is reflected in the selection of its 13th annual Brandon Tartikoff Award recipients. Among five honorees, only one is international: Endemol Shine Group’s Sophie Turner Laing, who was also awarded MIP-TV’s Médaille d’Honneur in 2013. The other nominees are syndicated TV star Steve Harvey, Viacom’s Doug Herzog, and producers Norman Lear and Quincy Jones.

To discuss NATPE’s changes and challenges, VideoAge visited Andy Kaplan in his Culver City office on the lot of the Sony Studios.

Kaplan has been attending NATPE, in various roles, since 1983: as a distributor, producer and network executive. He assumed NATPE’s chairmanship last August.

As for his vision, Kaplan said that, “if syndication is the past, digital is the future,” and  “in this migration period from old media to new media,” he sees NATPE as “the focal point for all: a place for people to meet and hear what’s going on. Distribution is secondary to learning about the trends.”

As for changes, Kaplan doesn’t see the need. “NATPE has lots of momentum and it’s coming in a great time, because with challenges come opportunities and NATPE is a part of the solution in the chaos that is surrounding television. Chaos and changes make people nervous.”

On the need to have increased participation of executives from Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, Kaplan said that they “are not taking advantage of what NATPE has to offer and that NATPE has to get that message out [considering that the market] has a conference program that is relevant, interesting and deals with the same issues [they’re facing].”

After Kaplan, VideoAge moved northeast to Los Angeles to meet with Rod Perth and JP Bommel to discuss what NATPE Miami has to offer.

“To start,” said Perth, “the market floor has exploded. We took over the ballroom at the Fontainebleau and combined it with the old market floor. All the conferences were moved to the adjacent Eden Roc hotel, but the Tartikoff Award ceremony remains at the Fontainebleau.”

Bommel announced that the dates of the next NATPE Europe are June 20-23 and that the market will return to Budapest, but in a hotel other than Sofitel, although he couldn’t yet announce the name.

Perth added that NATPE, “wants to be more relevant for the other 50 weeks of the year,” and that the association is thinking of organizing an event at the next L.A. Screenings.

As for this edition of NATPE Miami, Perth said, “the emphasis is to bring in creative people and show runners for scripted series.” He also announced a new “Buyers Hall at the Fontainebleau where TV channels are able to buy tables to meet with ‘creatives’ who are looking to pitch their ideas.”

He concluded by saying, “While the key words are ‘more dynamism,’ the message here is NATPE’s growth, which resulted from a strategy implemented four years ago, when I joined the association. We’re now Miami Beach’s third largest event.”

By Staff Reporters

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