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Leading the Way on the International Stage

With at least one-third of its attendees coming from international markets, NATPE, in 2012, has positioned itself well as the kickoff to the international selling season that starts in Miami, heads to MIP in France in April and ends with the L.A. Screenings in May.

“I see it as a marketplace with a conference attendant. We need it to be the preeminent marketplace for the global content business, based in the U.S.,” Rick Feldman, NATPE president, said during a press conference last week. “We’ve always held NATPE in January so naturally it makes us the  first market of the year. I like being that. A lot of the international people have told me that over time MIP might play less of a role for them. At least there’s discussion around that happening.”

NATPE remains a marketplace of TV shows, but of a different sort than it once was, given that there used to be 70 to 80 producers selling to hundreds of TV stations. With consolidation, there are far fewer domestic TVstation buyers and studio sellers. However, by bringing independent producers, cable networks, digital platforms and international players to the conference, NATPE has evolved into a new type of market.

This year’s conference, which took place once again at the Fontainebleau Resort on Miami’s South Beach, was a bustling gathering of TV producers, distributors and executives from all over the world. Some studios hosted potential clients at breezy poolside cabanas in near-perfect weather, while others held forth in airy suites with ocean views.

“I’m overjoyed [with how NATPE has gone] because everyone I’ve talked to has been overjoyed,” said Feldman. He estimated that attendance for this year’s NATPE was up 10 to 12%, with approximately 5,000 people attending.

“Registration the first day was good, we were really busy, so I think the final tally will be north of 5,000,” said Feldman. “Relative to international, from the buyer perspective we had maybe 10% more buyers. When I went to see the sellers, everyone said that the people they wanted to see were here.”

Deal-making at this year’s market—at least among domestic syndicators—was less of a focus because most of the key deals had been done heading into the show. Still, several syndicators announced additional clearances for their shows. Disney/ABC Television’s Katie is all but done at 93% of the country. NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey Twentieth’s Ricki Lake and CTD’s Jeff Probst all are in the same position at 90%-plus. The newest entry to the mix, Twentieth’s Dish Nation, which features radio DJs chatting and cracking jokes about the day’s events, is already at 70% of the country.

Several international distribution deals also were announced at NATPE, including Ben Silverman’s Electus grabbing international distribution rights to three off-Spike series—Flip Men, American Digger and Car Lot Cowboy—and selling the second season of VH1’s Mob Wives to nearly 100 territories worldwide. Electus also has already sold its new NBC reality competition, Fashion Star, to Asia’s DIVA Universal Network, bringing the show to 20 Asian territories. Comedy Central also said it will launch Comedy Central Latin America on Feb. 1, opening to 10 million Latin American homes.

Deals also get started at NATPE and then get closed months later. For example, Netflix showed up at NATPE last year and started talking to the studios. What emerged were industry-changing deals with Warner Bros. and CBS for CW content and with AMC for episodes of Mad Men.

This year’s show also felt a bit like NATPEs of old, with several celebrities in attendance. Charlie Sheen, who will star in a 10-episode test of sitcom Anger Management for FX, was the central attraction at a Monday-night party, with contending talk divas Katie Couric and Lake stopping by to check out the scene. Prior to the party, both Couric and Lake greeted buyers of their new shows in hotel suites.

NBCUniversal brought Steve Harvey to the show, and also broadcast Access HollywoodLive poolside. Host Billy Bush, who later that night emceed the Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards, got to spend more time with Sheen than he planned, and Couric, Lake and Harvey came by to chat, while paparazzi chased down Sheen. NBCU also hosted a private party at the Versace Mansion with some of the cast of Parks and Recreation, which the company is taking out for sale to cable networks and digital platforms.

“We love having talent here because it brings a sexiness to it,” said Feldman. “People take pictures, it creates buzz and all of that. But it has to be talent that’s relevant to content that people are absorbing. If we can accommodate it, we want to have it. Having Katie Couric and Charlie Sheen running around and being by the pool is good for us.

“This year there are four new shows, so people are here. There have been some pretty fallow years when there wasn’t new stuff, so there wasn’t any talent. After seeing how successful it was to bring talent this year, I think we’ll see more of it in years to come without a doubt,” Feldman added.

NATPE’s organizers succeeded in managing the hotel space, eliminating most of last year’s long elevator lines to get to suites to see sellers.

“The thing that we were most nervous about was changing the con! guration from last year. The first thing we had to do was make sure the elevator problem was almost completely ameliorated, and to a large degree, we did that,” said Feldman.

Next year, NATPE’s 50th, the market will again be held at the Fontainebleau, for the third year in a row, and the organization has an option to return for 2014. Next year’s dates fall one week later, from Jan. 28–30.