50 Years of Putting Content First
By Carol Patton
This year NATPE celebrated its 50th Anniversary reflecting on the past half-century of television and the need to keep pace with rapid change, the theme: Beyond Disruption. The disruptive influence of digital may very well soon fulfill all its threats as many of the old models of Television viewing become unsustainable.
VoD and digital platforms are creating behavioral changes in media and entertainment consumption. The use of DVR, Netflix, iTunes, and other over-the-top (OTT) services that also port their viewing experiences across mobile continues to lure viewers as tablets and Smartphones have become ubiquitous. And we still have to consider the impact of second-screening, social TV and every other “this month’s big new idea.”
It is considered a defining moment in the history of entertainment that House of Cards, the first fully funded internet channel drama released “every episode at once” on Netflix.
NATPE was founded in the ‘60s and you may not remember what content was like then. But in that decade beginning with mass live audiences for the Kennedy-Nixon televised debates and ending with Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon we saw Westerns peak and decline, the birth of the soap opera and TV ad dollars never before imagined. At the beginning of the decade there were 31 Westerns in primetime; Gunsmoke, Bonanza and The Rifleman reigned supreme. In 1963 ABC launched the first night time soap, Peyton Place.
The ‘60s also gave birth to Star Trek, Sesame Street, 60 Minutes and the first televised Super Bowl. I needn’t remind you these shows are still around today.
NATPE’s first meeting took place in New York City in the year of 1964 with 71 members attending, mostly TV programmers . The agenda was typed on one sheet of paper. In 1970 NATPE in Miami attracted just 326 people. The 1979 event in Las Vegas attracted 3,380 Television Executives.
Fast forward to 2013, a pivotal year to say the least with over 1,000 buyers attending and over 160 countries represented, not to mention sellers, exhibitors, members and press. Back again in Miami this event featured 200 panelists, moderators and keynotes with 40% of them from the world of digital. For three days the Fontainebleau Resort Hotel bustled with 3 or 4
seminars, keynotes and work shops offered every 30 to 45 minutes, an exhibit floor with a happy hour every afternoon at five pm, meetings in the towers of both the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc Resort Hotels, an opening night party, a 50th birthday celebration party, a closing
night party and sandwiched in between the Brandon Tartikoff Awards. It’s a whirlwind of activity. No one leaves.
This NATPE Conference came together in the spirit of solving problems just as it did in 1964. Media Link’s Michael Kassan, who believes digital raises the bar for the whole content industry, believes this year will be a game changer. “The business is in a state of absolute
chaos,” he said, “and I’ve always been a believer in chaos theory, which says that within chaos there is opportunity. We believe that my space is your space – it’s everybody in the pool. We call it ‘incest with intent.,’ I also believe that this will finally be the year of mobile, and that moves us to the next level. Mobile has not come into its own as anything other than a communications platform yet, but as it becomes a content platform, it gets really
Before you say, well that’s it for television, read here what media mogul Mark Cuban had to say in his keynote interview putting TV back in the drivers seat. He says it will remain the dominate force in entertainment. Actually it all has to do with “zero latency” and from his point of view, TV has a great advantage.
He really pushed back against the digital disrupters, saying “The reality is that when you watch television it is a unique experience that you can’t get online. It happens instantly, with zero latency.”
“Zero latency,” a new term to me, means according to Cuban that everybody sees everything at once on TV no matter where it is in the world. The “Cable Nevers” (defined as a younger set who wishes not to pay for or can’t afford cable) believe that their mobile devices will keep them informed and entertained. But Cuban says if you didn’t see it live on TV, by the time you see it on YouTube or iTunes, you’ve missed it. The instigator is TV because when you turn it on, it always comes on. Mobile is the second screen, the screen you watch when you can’t watch TV or that you watch with TV. He says TV is still the access medium to live action. The instigator of conversation, talk, Tweets and texts, etc., is live television. That is the common denominator of all viewing.
Cuban also threw digital under the bus questioning the viability of over-the-top (OTT) services as the future delivery vehicle for content. “We are so internet-centric, people just assume the solution is going to come from the internet,” he said. “Trying to go OTT creates more networks and more choice is great, but when you have unlimited choice you also have unlimited expense in trying to get your content to rise to the top. Ala carte choices make content too expensive. He added, “People like bundles and will pay the premium to save time.”
You can’t multi-task on a smart phone; you can’t watch and tweet at the same time as in watching TV with a second screen.
He agrees social media’s growth will be significant, but added that TV has become the medium of starting conversations that more and more people will participate in. He describes Television as the best alternative to boredom. Facebook he says is the ultimate time killer.
Change is being embraced. NATPE’s new President and CEO Rod Perth concluded, “We want to represent the leading edge not the following edge. We want to be an engine that connects the multi-platform worlds of linear and digital with content creators, producers, distributors, social marketers and technology.”
From every vantage point and all I overheard, American content’s demand around the globe continues to skyrocket. A demand I believe the New England production and high tech industries will contribute to greatly.
NATPE announced it will return to Miami next year. Mark your calendars for January 27 – 29, 2014.
For more information visit www.natpe.org.