We are living in interesting times and nowhere is the effect of change more evident than here in Las Vegas at the 2005 NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) convention.
The highly conglomerated syndication business is represented. But as one high-ranking executive of Columbia Tri-Star told me, “… we’ve had to learn how to make money with shows that do a 1 rating.” That’s down 60ish percent from just five years ago when a 3.something rating was considered average.
We are hearing new vocabulary from the keynoters and even the convention goers. Words like “multicasting,” “streaming,” and “broadband” are thrown about at cocktail parties like flavor-of-the-month terms-of-art. To be sure, everyone wants to sound like they are on the cutting edge of technology. The uninitiated are still struggling with the concept of TiVo and pundits of all sorts are weighing in on the mythical “TiVo-killer” applications and methodologies. I think it is going to take a while for the industry to come to the realization that there is no such thing as business as usual and that the paradigm has changed forever.
For the first time, this show feels old. The participants are clearly divided into the “I’m young so I’m supposed to know this stuff” crowd and the short-timers. The level of ignorance about the impact of advanced media and the ways to navigate the ever evolving landscape are extraordinary.
That being said, I am very optimistic about NATPE and the future of programming in general. The tools and techniques are changing, to be sure. But, big ideas and great creative are still here. You just have to look harder to find it. As the suits start to feel pressure to breakout, be original and make more money, we will see this show come back stronger, newer and more exciting than ever!