By Sara Alessi
NATPE’s board finally appointed Rod Perth president and CEO of the venerable U.S. TV market organizer last month (see World section), after conducting a search to replace outgoing CEO Rick Feldman that lasted a month longer than anticipated.
The announcement couldn’t have been timelier, with NATPE Budapest now upon us. (When NATPE acquired full control of DISCOP East in June 2011 the market was renamed NATPE Budapest). Now the million-dollar question is: Will changes at the NATPE organization — with its new CEO and a new market to run — impact the event in any way? VideoAge checked in with NATPE and exhibitors alike to find out.
Most NATPE Budapest exhibitors were enthusiastic about their futures work with NATPE. “We’re looking forward to working with NATPE, this time in a different setting. Their approach is a good one, which is not to change too much this first time and then look at what may need improvement, if anything, for next year,” said Federico Vargas, Canada-based CCI Entertainment’s director of Sales.
Patrick Elmendorff, managing director of Germany’s Studio 100 Media, was also “looking forward to experiencing the market under NATPE’s organizational skills.”
Similarly, Mark Benmore, VP of Sales for U.K.-based Content Television and Digital said his company was “looking forward to experiencing [its] first NATPE Budapest event.”
Beth Braen, NATPE’s vice president of Marketing, confirmed that there won’t be any major changes this year because the organization’s main focus is to “learn and understand the needs of the buyers and sellers that attend.” However, she went on to say that next year could bring some changes based on those findings. “We will look at how the event can evolve to make it as productive and efficient as possible for everyone,” she said.
From Madrid, Melissa Pillow, Telemundo Internacional’s Sales director for Europe, predicted, “NATPE’s control…should bring a higher attendance of buyers compared to previous years.” Mandy Rogers, Sales and Business Development manager at South Africa-based multi-pan-African content provider M-Net agreed: “The success of NATPE in the U.S. and the fact that it is a well-known name…may attract new buyers and distributors.” A month ahead of the market, Braen noted that registration was “pacing on track with years past.” This year, NATPE charged a “nominal, upfront fee for buyers, so they are financially invested in attending.”
By the beginning of May, 250 registered buyers had already completed their paid registration, and NATPE expected that number to grow as the event approached. Braen also reported that, “all of the major studios are returning,” and new companies have registered as well.
Among the exhibitors VideoAge surveyed, the general consensus was the market mainly attracts buyers from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Middle East and Western Europe. NATPE Budapest holds an important space on the market calendar because, as Studio 100’s Elmendorff said, it offers companies the “opportunity to meet with broadcasters and clients…who usually do not attend other markets such as MIP-TV and MIPCOM.”
Asked whether the association with NATPE would increase the number of conferences in Budapest, Braen replied that the organization would evaluate this possibility with the new CEO.
According to Braen, the organization’s main goal for NATPE Budapest is consistent with its goal for every NATPE event: to “organize a successful market that results in the maximum amount of networking and business deals possible.”
Participants are looking to get down to business and will come to Hungary equipped with programming geared toward the region. Canada-based Breakthrough Entertainment is looking to make its mark: “Since we could not attend DISCOP East in 2011, we have approximately 35 new programs across a variety of genres to present to many of our Eastern and Central European clients for the first time,” said Kate Blank, director of International Distribution. The company is pushing its lifestyle, factual and children’s programming.
Jo Lovell, director of Program Sales, Europe for New York-based A+E Networks finds their “HISTORY [channel] flagship series…have traditionally been very popular in the CEE region,” adding that “more recently, our Lifetime catalog…has attracted the attention of several buyers.”
London-based Power recently acquired 21 new first-run feature films from Bankside Films, which the company is putting on display, as they find buyers have a need for action/adventure, disaster, and family programming. Power treats the market as an “opportunity to take an inclusive approach to all CEE territories,” according to VP of Sales and Acquisitions Steve Turney.
Similarly, Vargas said CCI Entertainment is also looking to capitalize on interest in films with its slate of six thrillers, in addition to its children’s series and lifestyle programming. He elaborated, “The movie thrillers are a priority for us at this market, as this genre fits well with the programming needs in the territory.” But, as always, he noted, “the most successful genre really depends on the needs of the individual broadcasters.”
Telemundo’s Pillow has found, “Traditionally, telenovelas are one of the most demanded products in this market,” but she has also noticed a demand for children’s programming and even “many requests for scripted formats from Central and Eastern European producers.”
Roberto Corrente, Sales executive at Colombia’s Caracol Television agreed that “Telenovelas and drama series are without any doubt the favorite genres” in the region. “That’s why we consider NATPE Budapest an incredibly attractive window to show our…catalog to our Central and Eastern European clients,” he said.
In terms of parties and events, Braen revealed that participants can expect two big parties: “Simply Cocktails” on Tuesday, June 26 and “Club 21” on Wednesday, June 27. In addition to these bashes, CBS Studios International, NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. will all screen programming.
But indie exhibitors like Telemundo’s Pillow may not be thrilled with this news. “Last year, a screening of major films and series that lasted the entire market kept a great percentage of buyers occupied, making them unable to attend all the meetings scheduled.” Pillow added, “Hosting screening events…is a great idea if they are not presented during the traditional market days.”
Many market-goers are wondering whether the event will continue to be held in Budapest. Quite a few participants expressed hope that the city would become the market’s permanent home because, as Caracol’s Corrente stated, “it is a very good strategy to develop a relationship between the city and the event that takes place there.” Corrente believes the city and event have already developed this “connection.” Studio 100’s Elmendorff finds “Budapest is a wonderful venue to hold a market,” and Telemundo’s Pillow is “delighted with the location, city and climate.” Likewise, M-Net’s Rogers said, “The location is great and returning attendees know the city well.” However, Power’s Turney took a bit of a different view: “As long as the buyers come, the location is largely inconsequential to us.”
In any case, Budapest enthusiasts can rest easy for now. “Right now we are happy in Budapest and our plan is to stay here,” said Braen. “No decisions will be made until…we have an opportunity to evaluate this year from a strategic standpoint” with the new CEO.
But as Telemundo’s Pillow put it, “There is nothing better than Budapest in June.”