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NATPE: Home of… Cable?

NATPE's 55th edition,held Jan. 17-19 in Miami Beach, in some ways resembled one from way back when. Paul Williams headlined a new music track, and the full-day Station Summit brought together major broadcast groups and syndicators for discussion of their rapidly evolving shared marketplace.

And yet, given the absence of the kinds of marquee national syndicated show launches that have long defined the conference, it was interesting to see that when the samba stopped, cable networks left a notable impression. Nancy Dubuc, CEO of A+E Networks, appeared in the opening keynote, and new Viacom CEO Bob Bakish the following day. Also mixed in were the Reality Breakthrough Awards, which honored shows from HBO, ESPN and USA Network, plus sessions featuring other cable executives and shows including AMC’s mega-rated The Walking Dead.

Dubuc touched on the need for established cable networks to stay aggressive on the branding front. “We want to stand out when content is brand-specific to us,” she said. “We’re coming into an era where that network brand is really going to be important. Networks aren’t really networks anymore, they are really programming services.”

Bakish, the longtime exec at Viacom who last fall vaulted to the CEO role after the exits of Philippe Dauman and Tom Dooley, appeared at a keynote session and acknowledged the company has had a year-plus of “drama.” And yet, he said, “Viacom still has the largest share in pay TV of every demo it serves.” And yes, he does see a recovery happening: “We are starting to see some green shoots.”