Syndicators hope that the passion and energy of new NATPE chief Rick Feldman for his new job and the TV business will be what the organization needs to revitalize itself after two years in the doldrums.Feldman, former chief operating officer of USA
Broadcasting and former general manager of KCOP-TV Los Angeles, takes the helm of NATPE today, after the association conducted a three-month search for a new president.
He replaces Bruce Johansen, who stepped down from NATPE in January after 10 years on the job. The association chose Feldman in an unanimous vote after considering 43 candidates and narrowing them down to five who were interviewed last week. Former Emmis executive Madelyn Bonnot had been the leading candidate until she dropped out the week before final interviews because she determined she could not relocate her family to Los Angeles from New Orleans.
"At the end of the day, Rick had the broad experience in every area," said Peggy Kelly, chairman of NATPE's board of directors and senior vice president of global client services at advertising agency Universal McCann. " He's incredibly energetic and passionate about the job. He's an idea-a-minute kind of guy. He has a reputation of being terrific with staff, and he's very eager to take on the challenge."
Feldman takes on the task of rebuilding NATPE as the annual convention moves permanently to Las Vegas next year after years of lagging attendance in New Orleans and syndicator complaints about the expense of transporting stars and syndication staffers there. More basically, though, by the time NATPE arrives each January, the syndication buying frenzy is already over, mainly because consolidation has made clearing shows easier.
"I think Rick is a terrific guy," said Dick Robertson, president, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. "I've known him for many years, and he is an absolutely superb executive. If anybody can figure out how to solve the various issues that are challenging NATPE, I'd put my money on Rick."
Other syndicators were just as enthusiastic as Robertson about Feldman. "Rick loves the television business, and he really wanted this job," said Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Division. "He's got the fire in his belly to do it, and he's got the relationships at the agency level, the station level and the studio level."
Feldman wasn't ready to reveal specific ideas he might have to revitalize NATPE, but he said he's ready to roll up his sleeves.
"I have a different take, a different perspective and a lot of energy," he said. "I have ideas about what I want to do, but first I want to make sure that my ideas make sense for everybody. That means meeting with all the syndication chiefs and NATPE's board of directors before deciding what direction to take NATPE in next."
Other candidates in the final running, sources said, were former Columbia TriStar President Barry Thurston; Lisa Markham, who ran Tribune's KSWB-TV San Diego and Pappas Telecasting's KMPH-TV Fresno, Calif.; and Jamie Bennett, former president of Pearson International and former head of programming, production and development for Buena Vista Television.
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