By Isme Bennie
Broadcast executive Jay Switzer, a long-time NATPE attendee and former NATPE board member, has always believed strongly in the market’s importance for Canadians. His key reasons: the right time of year, the right mix of attendees and the opportu-nity to meet with them directly. Another bonus: NATPE is member-directed and not-for-profit.
But recent industry moves in Canada will affect Canadian participation in NATPE 2013: the sale of Alliance Films to Enter-tainment One (eOne), though pending final approval as of press time, will put one fewer Canadian company on the floor.
The surprise regulatory denial of Bell Canada Enterprises’ bid to buy Astral Media will likely have altered any pre-planned NATPE acquisition strategies. So it’s business as usual for now for both companies. Kevin Wright, SVP Programming, Astral Television Networks, will be at NATPE accompanied by Tory Jennings, director of Programming, The Movie Network. They will be checking in with content partners to learn about their upcoming programming slates and plans. Per Wright: “It’s a compact and efficient market. We’re always looking for high quality, cinematic dramas suitable for pay[-TV].”
Bell Media will be represented by its senior programming team, which includes Mike Cosentino, SVP, Programming, CTV Networks. “NATPE is uniquely positioned midway through the broadcast year, at a crucial time in the network development cycle, and therefore provides a timely opportunity to speak directly to key studio insiders,” Cosentino said.
Barb Williams, SVP, Content at Shaw Media concurred. She will be at NATPE together with Phil Piazza, VP, Content Acquisitions and Global Scheduling, who oversees acquisitions for all of Shaw’s broadcast and specialty outlets. In addition to intelligence gathering ahead of the May Screenings, Williams finds the sessions at NATPE valuable. “There’s always interesting things to learn about the trends, successes and developments from other broadcasters and producers from other territories,” she said.
For the large Canadian broadcasters such as Bell Media, Shaw, and Rogers, whose purchasing is affected by U.S. network schedules and the financial benefits of simulcasting with them, NATPE is less of a shopping trip and more of an occasion to find out about series renewals, cancellations, and what’s in the pipeline. But they will also keep an eye out for programming for specialty services. Bell Media, for instance, will be looking for female-targeted quality dramas for its recently rebuilt Bravo channel.
Hayden Mindell, director of Programming at Rogers Media Television, will also have cable programming on his agenda, but his priority for NATPE will be daytime programming for CITY-TV.
Most cable-only groups will be shopping for genre-specific programming. Don Gaudet, recently appointed VP, Programming and Production for Stornoway Communications, is attending NATPE together with programmer Victoria Fusca. They will be looking for documentaries, reality shows, and magazine shows about pets — and animals in general — for the revamped Pet Network, as well as programming for the company’s information and dance channels.
Beverley Shenken, VP of Programming for Zoomer Media, will also be looking for genre-specific programming. Shenken finds NATPE’s timing fits in well with her forward planning. And she says the presence of boutique suppliers, particularly from the U.S., is extremely useful in finding niche programming for the channels she programs. Her needs for Vision TV include British series, great movies, documentaries and programming about world faiths. For digital channel One: Body and Mind, Spirit, Love, she will be looking specifically for new age lifestyle series with a non-Western approach. Movies with multi-faith holiday themes are also high on her list.
The Corus Entertainment team, led by president Doug Murphy, will include top television and digital executives. High-profile movies and series are on the company’s wish list for pay-TV; American reality series and TV movies for its women’s channels; and for its kids and family channels, reality and sitcoms, particularly, “functional families in dysfunctional settings.”
Hollywood Suite is a bouquet of movie-driven channels founded by chairman Jay Switzer. Ellen Baine, VP of Programming for Hollywood Suite, finds that NATPE allows her more time to meet her company’s studio partners — Warner, Sony and MGM — in an atmosphere more relaxed than at the L.A. Screenings. She will also be connecting with fellow programmers from the newly acquired AXN brand and will meet other Canadian independent broadcasters face-to-face to see if there are ways they can help each other out at this year’s NATPE.
On the production/distribution side, companies will be looking to acquire material to represent in the Canadian market, for international homes for their programs, and for co-production opportunities. Randy Zalken’s Fremantle Corporation will be at NATPE for all of these reasons. Zalken’s sales offering includes over 500 hours of diverse Spanish-track programming.
For Tricon Films and Television, connecting with NATPE’s Latin American client base is particularly important. The company will be promoting its slate of comedy programming, specifically Comedy Bang! Bang! and Bunk, as well as announcing new projects.
Peace Point Entertainment Group will also introduce new projects, its new third-party catalog Stealth Media, and will have an expanded presence at NATPE this year. In addition to the bridal fashion reality show Keasha’s Perfect Dress, president and CEO Les Tomlin will launch the Superbodies franchise for the 2014 and 2016 Games in Sochi and Rio.
Montreal-based Filmoption Interna-tional will be active both acquiring and selling programming at NATPE. President Marysse Rouillad feels that NATPE has picked up greatly in the past two years, and is a cost-effective way to meet both European and North American clients. She will be looking for a U.S. home for Avoiding Apocalypse, a series on climate change, and Waterfront Cities of the World.
Filmoption will exhibit as part of Espace Quebec, the Quebec stand, which will house about 10 Quebec-based companies. Though it will have no direct presence, the Ontario Media Development Agency is supporting four companies via its Export Fund: CCI International, Microtainment, Shaftesbury Films, and Cookie Jar Entertainment.
Last January, Canadians represented four percent of attendees, but the Miami location has become an added incentive to participate, and this number could increase. As one heat-seeking Canadian joked, “Does [the fact that I] like going to Miami in January count as being important?”