NATPE has come a long way since it opened 35 years ago with 71 attendees. Last year, close to 17,000 people came to New Orleans from around the world, making NATPE arguably the largest stop on the fast-paced international television market circuit. KidScreen’s special report on NATPE looks at how the once mostly American television market has grown with the expanding television industry to represent a truly global perspective, including, especially in recent years, a greater Latin American presence.
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While NATPE may have begun purely as an American syndication market in 1963, it has now evolved into an international free-for-all that is the most attended market in the world. NATPE rivals MIP-TV and MIPCOM in global importance, and in the process, has become the key market to do business with Latin America (see story page 52).
Roughly 3,300 of last year’s 16,700 registered NATPE attendees were international, representing 87 countries, including such remote broadcast outposts as Sri Lanka and Iran. Of the 670 exhibitors, 242 were international. Registration for the 1998 conference is on a pace 20 percent ahead of last year’s total.
International attendance at NATPE has grown robustly over the past 10 years. In 1987, only 523 of the registered attendees represented international interests, according to NATPE registration records. The international presence has grown steadily each year to where it represents approximately 30 percent of the total attendees.
According to Beth Braen, vice president of creative services for NATPE, the bounce in international representation can be credited to the increase in U.S. distribution outlets spawned by the growth of cable, and the rising interest in the Latin America region.
The organization has been making a concerted effort to make the convention an international market since the early 1990s, when NATPE formed an international committee and hired regional representatives to advise it on the issues of importance to the international community. Because of the globalization of media and the opening of new distribution outlets around the world, NATPE believed it was important to expose some of the smaller U.S. players to the opportunities available abroad and to apprise international distributors of developments in the U.S.
NATPE organizers poll their regional representatives to determine the types of seminars and panels that will be of global interest. ‘We try to make sure that all of our constituencies have something there for them at NATPE,’ says Braen. This year, for example, a session will dissect how programs get developed in England, France and Germany, and examine the concerns, roadblocks and regulations that must be answered to produce a program in these markets. ‘That’s something a U.S. producer would find as equally useful as an international person,’ she adds.
As much as international companies come to see what’s new on the American front, many are now using NATPE to further business relationships with companies from other regions of the world. ‘People from France don’t just go [to NATPE] to see U.S. productions, they also go to see what is coming out of France,’ says Marc du Pontavice, president of Paris-based Gaumont Multimedia.
‘It has become like a MIP in America, except it is significantly larger because of all of the American production companies that are there who can’t afford to come to Europe,’ says Andras Erkel, senior director of Varga Studios in Hungary and VARGA tvc in the United Kingdom. ‘There are also more Latin American and Asian companies here than in the European markets.’
With more international business being conducted, many companies have asked the NATPE organizers if the market could be extended to a fourth day. Due to scheduling considerations and a conflict with the Association of Local Television Stations (ALTV) convention that precedes NATPE, the floor cannot be opened for business on the Monday prior to NATPE. However, the ALTV has made an agreement with NATPE to allow nondomestic business and meetings to be held off-site that day. ‘We are trying to turn Monday into blocks of opportunity for international people to meet and take in sessions,’ says Braen.
NATPE tries to mirror changes in the broadcast industry. It is now expanding to look into other industries that may find the market helpful. These include the domestic and international advertising community (to prepare for the upfront season), new media and Internet outlets.
‘What’s happening at NATPE is that it doesn’t matter how you get the content out to people,’ says Braen. ‘You need to have the content to do it, and that’s what you can see and find at NATPE.’