For a quintessentially American market, NAPTE is getting a lot of notice from overseas. Last year, almost 20 percent of the 17,694 participants that attended were from countries other than the U.S., and the number of attendees from the Pacific Rim, though relatively small, had almost doubled in number from 1995 to 1996. Visitors from Australia, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Guam, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan attended the 1996 NATPE market. And while many from this part of the world admit themselves to be on the fringe of the market, several participants nonetheless rank the event in their top three of must-attends.
‘We treat it as importantly as MIP-TV or MIPCOM, whereas a few years ago, I think most companies would have seen things centering on MIP-TV or MIPCOM,’ says Torquil Macneal, vice president of international sales for Beyond Distribution of Sydney, Australia. This will only be the second year that Beyond, which distributes shows such as Ocean Girl, Blinky Bill and a new animated series called Plasmo, has set up a stand. Its introductory year proved to be successful enough to warrant the company’s return.
While Beyond, as well as several other players from the Pacific Rim, have only just started to attend NATPE, others, such as T’ei Animation from Japan and Jonathan M. Shiff Productions of Melbourne, Australia, have been attending for several years (T’ei since 1986 and Jonathan M. Shiff Productions since 1989). And then there’s the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF), which tried it out a few years ago, received a chilly reception and decided it wasn’t worth the time, but is back this year to check it out once again.
So what is it about this market that is drawing this contingent from halfway around the world? A change in American attitude for one. ‘A number of years ago, I attended NATPE to see what it was like,’ says Jenny Buckland, general manager of ACTF. ‘I came away with the view that it was very much an American market without a significant international presence. It also confirmed the fact that the American broadcasters themselves just weren’t interested in non-American product.’ A growing acceptance of live-action children’s drama programming ACTF’s specialty and interest from the U.S. in ACTF product at last year’s MIPCOM have swayed Buckland enough to test the waters this year.
Japan’s T’ei Animation had much the same reception as ACTF in the early years, but has continued to attend yearly since 1986. ‘In the first years, it wasn’t [successful for us]. Japanese animation was very new, and there was a lot of rebellion against anime,’ says Mary Jo Winchester, vice president of Los Angeles-based Cloverway Inc., T’ei’s U.S. representative. Today, its Sailor Moon is a success in North America.
Jonathan Shiff, executive and creative producer for Jonathan M. Shiff Productions in Australia, producer of the live-action program Ocean Girl airing on Disney Channel in the U.S., has noticed that the American market has opened up to foreign product in the last few years. ‘Producers, broadcasters and distributors out of North America are no longer in a position where they can say, ‘We’re not here to connect with internationals, we’re here to connect with affiliates.’ That’s increasingly falling away to a mentality of, ‘This is an excellent opportunity for us not only to look at our domestic situation, but it is a point of contact for international players.’ ‘
Still, Catherine Payne, sales executive for North and Latin America and New Zealand for Australia’s Southern Star, which d’es not have a booth this year, believes that international players take a back seat at the market. NATPE has become just one stop on a tour in her territory.
While grabbing the attention of the U.S. market is the prime motivation of any foreign producer or distributor at NATPE, meeting with Latin American buyers seems to be a close second.
Asako Yamaguchi, from the international sales and production division of Japan’s Nippon Animation, lists this as one of Nippon’s prime reasons for attending since the number of Latin American buyers that attend the markets in Cannes tends to be low. And Wendy Hallam, manager of program sales for ABC International (a division of the Australian Broadcasting Network), which attended the market last year principally to support distributors of ABC’s Bananas in Pajamas, returns this year with its own stand, and admits that Latin America is one of the markets ABC is looking to develop.
‘Everyone knows the Latin Americans will be there, and it is such an important and growing market. That may be one of the reasons why Australian and U.K. distributors want to attend. Not a lot of the Latin Americans appear to go to MIP-TV or MIPCOM,’ says Beyond’s Macneal.
With more openness from the U.S. to their products and easier access to the Latin American market, the attendance from companies from the Pacific Rim appears slated for continued growth.