Screens, Brands and Tweets Are the Talk of the Town

It's long past time to stop thinking of NATPE as a one-stop-shop marketplace where TV stations come to buy programming from syndicators, and start thinking of it as the place where all producers of content—whether traditional studios, digital players or brands— come to showcase their wares.

“NATPE is increasingly the place where people come together, form relationships and try to figure out where the business is going,” said Jordan Levin, chairman of NATPE’s board and president of Alloy Digital.

“We [as a board] recognized that the syndication marketplace, through consolidation and other factors, had become less dynamic and that most deals were done before NATPE even took place. We also recognized that businesses that are dependent upon content are becoming much less cyclically driven. The net result of that is that you start to shift the emphasis away from transactional business and instead facilitate bringing together the right people to have the right conversations,” Levin added.

The 51st annual NATPE convention, held in Miami Beach Jan. 27-29, was again a lively meeting of programming executives across the content spectrum, including traditional media companies such as Warner Bros., CBS Television Distribution, Debmar- Mercury, NBCUniversal, Twentieth Television, MGM, Endemol USA and so forth, but also including many digital players, such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, and brands such as Chipotle, Unilever and Subway.

This year’s events didn’t feature much in the way of breaking news, but there were plenty of parties, with Debmar-Mercury, Twentieth, NBC, Endemol USA, Telemundo, MediaLink and others all holding events, and panels frequently being standing-room-only. Conversations were as often about second and mobile screens as they were about the TV screen, with everyone acknowledging that TV Everywhere has arrived, but that most industry folks still haven’t figured out exactly how to monetize it yet.

Along those lines, NBCUniversal station chief Valari Staab said that this spring NBC’s owned stations will roll out NBC Now, allowing viewers to live stream NBC station signals 24/7. The rest of the country’s NBC affiliates should be right behind, with apps available this fall. NBC is following in the footsteps of Disney/ABC, which made a similar announcement during last spring’s upfronts.

Blurring Lines

It’s also becoming clear that content can come from anywhere and the lines between brands, producers, marketing and content are increasingly blurring. Chipotle Mexican Grill announced during the show that it, together with production company Piro, had produced four episodes of an original comedy, called Farmed and Dangerous, which satirizes the country’s factory farm system, on Hulu.

Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle chief marketing officer, described the program’s goal as “values integration,” instead of product or brand integration, meaning that the company’s first priority with the project is to find a palatable way to get the word out about local and sustainable eating, while Chipotle, which spends less than 2% of its annual budget on marketing and doesn’t buy national television ads, also manages to get marketing value out of the project.

While important digital brands were present at the show, Twitter seemed to be the digital brand du jour.

Twitter went so far as to say that it expects its Twitter TV ratings, which it releases each day in partnership with Nielsen, to impact pricing at this spring’s advertising upfronts, said Jean-Philippe Maheu, Twitter managing director of global brand and agency strategy, during the show’s opening keynote, which was moderated by Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award winner and former NBCUniversal executive Lauren Zalaznick.

According to Maheu, Twitter surveyed 12,000 people who both watch TV and tweet about it, and found a 37% increase in advertising recall among those people.

“Brands really love the platform because they are really able to double down on psychographic profiles,” said Maheu. “They can associate themselves with TV shows that they are already sponsoring.”

Brands, which are starting to set up on-call social media teams, also are learning to use Twitter in creative ways, but it requires some quick thinking. During this year’s Grammy Awards on CBS, Arby’s tweeted out: “Pharrell, can we have our hat back?” referring to the giant brown hat that award-winning performer/producer Pharrell Williams had donned for the evening. The tweet was retweeted 75,000 times for 3.5 million impressions, said Maheu. Timing, of course, is everything.

Speaking of which, NATPE 2015 will be held a week earlier next January. The show, which will again take place at the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc Resorts in Miami Beach, will run Jan. 20-22, said Rod Perth, NATPE CEO. That scheduling change is designed to get NATPE away from RealScreen in Washington, D.C., which has become an increasingly popular event.

Said Levin: “What’s important about NATPE are not the announcements, but which business deals people can reflect back on and say those conversations started at NATPE.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.