January/February 2011
Volume 31 No. 1

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My Two Cents

How unpredictable the international TV business can be! Now that American TV execs are able to find soft toilet paper in European hotels while attending TV markets, they’re getting cold feet about some of the markets held there.

Years ago, before going to markets such as MIP-TV and MIFED, American execs either shipped toilet paper from the U.S. or carried it in their luggage. When underlings did not ship toilet paper on time or it failed to arrive at its destination, the resulting scenes became legendary.

Now that the toilet paper question has been resolved, Americans are finding other “hard” problems with markets such as MIP, which some find to be too close to the L.A. Screenings, the U.S. studios’ main market.

Naturally, the organizers are of little help. When MIP, for instance, was looking to replace its U.S. sales representative, the job description demanded a person with “digital” experience. Mind you, not with “U.S. studio experience,” but “digital,” as if Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook or AOL were, all of a sudden, going to be among the newfound large exhibitors. Unfortunately for market organizers, the “digital” crowds are buyers; therefore they don’t need or want a stand!

Being a simple soul with good intentions, I tried to explain to market organizers that the key to the success of an international TV market is the U.S. studios. Indeed, major buyers don’t go to markets to look at documentaries about crocodiles. They go to meet with studio executives and, only if they have the time, will they pay a visit to the people who actually sell for a living. For a TV market to be successful, it has to meet the needs of the studios.

To that, the answer was basically: “The message is clear as long as the needs of the studios did not interfere with the…. BBC Screenings!” At that point one couldn’t help but give up. I understand that market organizers too are subject to trends and pressures, but they still need to be clear about their core business, which is to facilitate the buying and selling of content. At one point, for example, NATPE thought of itself as being in the real estate business, disastrously pushing for more and more space to rent (by lowering the floor cost) to encourage larger booths. Nowadays TV trade show organizers think that they’re in the distribution business, looking to attract more and more digital platforms that, as we know participate, but only as buyers.

It never ends. When, after four years of lobbying to bring NATPE from Las Vegas to Miami Beach, we were rewarded with the actual move (yes, it was by default, but I didn’t care. The results are what count), we had to face yet another challenge: The missing Europeans. Over the years NATPE has, for many reasons, lost the support of the Europeans.

However, Miami Beach has the appeal to bring them back, if for nothing else, for its travel convenience and subtropical climate, much appreciated during the winter. NATPE organizers’ solution was to offer a discount incentive, as if major European buyers flush with euros (that, to boot, are worth 30 percent more than the dollar) need such charity. European buyers will justify a trip to sunny Miami only if it makes business sense. They are able to finance vacations on their own.

Now, how do you get European buyers to Miami? By bringing in the BBC Screenings? Pleeaaseee! The trick is to persuade U.S. studios’ European sales execs to be in Miami Beach. If the European studios’ divisions would go to Miami, so would the buyers.

It was early in 2008 when, failing to persuade NATPE to consider Miami Beach — or as a secondary option, Los Angeles — I wrote to Jeffrey Soffer, the key owner of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, who was then renovating the complex, suggesting an approach to NATPE organizers in order to bring the market to Miami Beach.

Now fast forward to October 14, 2010, when VideoAge received its first request for advertising at NATPE 2011. Imagine, MIPCOM had barely ended six days earlier and companies were already planning for NATPE, without first giving consideration to earlier trade events such as the AFM, the Roma Cinema Fest or the Asia TV Forum. Never before have distribution companies shown such a keen interest in NATPE. This can only prove one thing: The market is really needed and the past lack of interest was simply due to the wrong venue, and not the wrong dates.

We at VideoAge take pride in the renewed success of NATPE and the fact that, as an executive from AETN pointed out, VideoAge was one of the catalysts for bringing NATPE from Las Vegas to Miami.