Timely U.S. event puts NATPE on the buzz court.


Despite NATPE's successful attempt to reinvent itself as a global-minded and tech-focused market, the announcement of the demise of the UPN and WB networks on the first day of the conference helped bring the focus back to NATPE's traditional bread and butter: syndication.

While 48 percent of the country's UPN or WB affiliated stations knew right away whether they'd become affiliated with the new CBS/WZarner Bros hybrid channel (and WB and UPN replacement) the CW, many television stations were still unsure of their future affiliations, with some fairly certain they'd be cut out of the deal altogether. But what was presumably bad for local stations was good for syndicators. With stations in need of programming, syndicator flare became all the more attractive. And the possibility of programming shows (particulary off-network series and movies) across day-parts in which they had been excluded in the past became a true reality.

"Clearly, the [CW] announcement was timed for the convention," mused CABLEready CEO Gary Lico. "It was smart, because everyone at NATPE was able to act and react. It gave NATPE a certain spark and relevance."

Tim Voit, evp of Sales at Litton Entertainment, marveled at Warner Bros and CBS Corp.'s secrecy. "Everyone was really surprised, it was a well-kept secret," he said.

Voir and others concurred that while, at first, there was a bit of a feeding frenzy, this initial reaction was followed by a more contemplative state. "Initially when the buyers heard, they were, like, 'Oh my god', but when they stopped to think, they realized, 'Hey wait a second, we're only losing 10 hours of primetime programming."

Voit continued, "The major groups have retreated a bit." "People are gathering information and looking at their plans," he said.

"NATPE was already off to a good start, but this was big news," he said. "It did help our business and I expect more of our shows to get primetime airings."

But in terms of the "new and improved" NATPE--which conference organizers had enthusiastically touted--globalization and up-to-the minute technology were both alive and well. The market was attended by an increased number of Internet companies and mobile carriers, along with a whole slew of executives looking to bring traditional TV shows to less traditional outlets. And the majority of the event's 50 sessions focused on how to do just that. NATPE president and CEO Rick Feldman said, "The definition of the TV executive is changing ... now...

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