In the wake of the third year without a NATPE Market and Conference, station unions and groups gathered on the Fox lot in Los Angeles last week in an event initiated by Fox.
The two-day unofficial event, called The Summit, was supported by other major distributors, including Debmar-Mercury, CBS Media Ventures, Sony Pictures Television, and Warner Bros. Discovery, and was attended by station group executives from those groups. such as Sinclair Broadcast Group, Fox Television Stations, CBS News & Stations, NBCUniversal Local, Weigel Broadcasting, Nexstar Media Group, Scripps, Tegna, Standard Media, Cox Media Group, Hearst Television and more.
Unlike NATPE, the event was devoted solely to issues facing syndicators, who develop, produce and sell syndicated programming, and the buyers of their television stations. In recent years, NATPE had expanded to include content producers and buyers both nationally and globally, as the declining syndication business did not generate enough revenue to support a full conference.
“For me, the event was limited in a good way,” said Mort Marcus, co-chairman of Debmar-Mercury. “The only people that were there were people we wanted to talk to. I was on a panel and the people in the audience were announcers standing up and asking questions. We had healthy and collaborative industry discussions on both days.”
During the course of the event, the executives present had candid discussions on topics such as exclusivity, multi-platform distribution, programming costs and other factors.
“There is a tension between the station groups and the unions,” said Stephen Brown, executive vice president of programming and development for Fox Television Stations and Fox First Run. “Distributors need to find revenue streams to cover shortfalls in ad revenue, while stations say, ‘We’re giving them valuable time and in some cases money, so we want to have some kind of exclusivity.’ There’s a natural tension there, but that can be worked out. We had the beginnings of open-air conversations that we don’t normally have.”
Fox and others They were so pleased with the event and the candid conversations they encouraged that they hope to hold it again next year and expand it.
“I think it turned out very well and I’d like to keep doing it,” said Steve LoCascio, president of CBS Media Ventures. “We need to trust each other and we need to try something different. The half hour format for He drew was really different and partnering with Fox on pictionary It was another example.”
Whether unions and station group executives will attend such an event rather than a restarted NATPE under new ownership remains to be seen. In January, Canadian company Brunico Communications, which produces events such as the Realscreen and Kidscreen Summits and the Banff World Media Festival, announced that it had acquired the bankrupt association’s assets, reportedly for $150,000 plus outstanding debt. Brunico has said that he plans to run NATPE Budapest in June and then bring NATPE back next January. ■