By Leah Hochbaum Rosner

As the Writers Guild of America strike moves into its 11th week — with no new talks scheduled between the warring factions — U.S. and international TV execs are preparing to tackle other challenges at the 45th annual NATPE market. And while some U.S. studios have made headlines by choosing to opt out of the convention, Craig Cegielski, svp of Programming and Sales for Santa Monica, California-based Lionsgate, is actually looking forward to the event. Cegielski feels that his company, which is bringing a number of series to the event, including Weeds (which airs on Showtime) and Mad Men (on AMC), is in a unique position since it essentially operates as an indie, but has had huge success with its series. VideoAge spoke with Cegielski to learn why he believes NATPE is a “market of opportunity.”

VideoAge International: How will the WGA strike affect Lionsgate at NATPE?

Craig Cegielski: It won’t. We’ve already completed production on new seasons of our shows Mad Men and Weeds, so we’ll be able to continue our business as usual. We can produce programming year-round.

VAI: Will you be in a suite or on the floor?

CC: Up in the suites. We might end up making a move next year, though. NATPE still holds incredible opportunities to meet with domestic and international buyers. There’s definitely an advantage to being on the floor if you’re not a destination. But we are a destination. We’ve never had a problem. We’ve always had a very busy suite. There may, however, be some action on the floor that you don’t get in the suites.

VAI: In recent weeks, there’s been some talk of NATPE’s decreasing significance in the industry. Why do you feel it’s still an important market for Lionsgate to attend?

CC: For us, NATPE’s always been a great place to introduce product to Latin America since [Latin American buyers] don’t necessarily travel to MIP-TV or MIPCOM.

VAI: A number of studios have either dropped out of NATPE or have opted for lower profiles at the market. Why do you think this is? And will NATPE be able to survive sans studio support?

CC: The studios are doing two things: they’re reevaluating their spend during a strike environment and they’re also making a conscious decision based on the current environment. I don’t believe it’s a foretelling of NATPE’s future. NATPE’s kicking off the year for all of us. It’s giving us an opportunity to restate our business plans and showcase our content. I expect that we’ll conclude business we started at MIPCOM, as well as begin talks about international co-productions.

VAI: So you expect NATPE to be a lucrative market for Lionsgate?

CC: We’ve always been able to turn markets of opportunity into markets of pure strategy. We’ll be at NATPE showcasing our wares to buyers. The rest will just fall into place.

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