Is Broadcast TV Done With NATPE?

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MIAMI BEACH, FLA. — As is the case with many a conference attended by media and entertainment industry executives, the hotel lobby of the host hotel and satellite locales is largely empty before 9am, thanks to a night of hearty partying.


At NATPE 2019 that was no different. There are plenty of people attending sessions, roaming the halls, and attending parties, including big soirees presented by A+E Networks, Viacom, Telemundo and Univision, which sponsored NATPE’s poolside celebration despite stiff winds coming from the Atlantic, to the east.

Stiff winds are also blowing toward broadcast TV. Should the industry’s leaders even attend NATPE anymore? Fred Kalil, the veteran media broker, is one of several individuals RBR+TVBR spoke with that question whether it’s still worth it.

Kalil, the VP of Tucson-based Kalil & Co., is at NATPE 2019 along with President Frank Kalil and VP Jason Anderson.

Speaking from their suite in the Tresor tower of the Fontainebleau, Fred Kalil shared with RBR+TVBR how, 25 years ago, NATPE was a grandiose affair, with “big shows, big sets, and syndicators” making a big splash, spending millions of dollars on ensuring their presence outshone all others.

Today, he asks where television is.

That’s not to say TV is absent from NATPE. The marketplace is full of individuals looking to sell distribution rights on a global level, with representatives from Spain, Turkey and China looking to lock up deals.

Yet, the conversation after just one day here in South Florida has been all about OTT — and how Silicon Valley has trumped television at the world’s biggest event for television producers and the new elite, such as perennial attendee Byron Allen.

Known for his hustle and deal-making at NATPE across the last several years, Allen evolved from being best known as one of several commentators on the NBC comedy talk show Real People to a media mogul that in March 2018 acquired The Weather Channel and its Local Now streaming service through his Allen Media LLC.

Allen was also a serious bidder for Tribune Broadcasting, which has struck a merger deal with Nexstar Media Group.

Otherwise, NATPE’s evolution has perhaps reduced its appeal to broadcast TV’s leadership, while CES 2019 in Las Vegas is emerging as a conference that requires C-Suiters from both broadcast radio and television to not only attend, but make their presence known.

Why, then, is Fred Kalil at his 30th NATPE conference, while Frank is at his 45th annual event? “We do a lot with TV,” Fred Kalil says.

For Anderson, NATPE offers a lesson in how digital is changing the monetization model.

It also gives Anderson, and others from Kalil & Co., ideas on how its clients may start to participate in the “UGC” space — that being user-generated content.

“Broadcasters are really trying to figure out how to tackle that,” Anderson notes. “It is all about how to monetize media, based on how it is consumed.”

As seen on Tuesday, consumption through digital devices is dominating the conversation — even as TV station owners roam the halls and “do everything else needed to run their business,” Fred Kalil observes.

“In the past this was deal central,” Mr. Kalil continues. “This was bigger than the NAB. That was 15 years ago, but it is getting better in terms of attendance.”

It’s just that the focus isn’t necessarily on UHF and VHF delivery of video content.

That won’t necessarily impact Kalil & Co. negatively. On the radio side of the brokerage’s business, 2018 was a blockbuster year, dollar-wise — its best ever. Yet, the deal volume was the one of the smallest seen in years.

The absence of true discussions on broadcast TV was noticed by one media industry veteran who attended a party hosted by MGM celebrating the grand opening of its Miami office, which serves the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets.

MGM is known for syndicated programs Couples Court, in its second season, and Paternity Court, in its sixth season. Such fare is what is making headlines, with names such as Kelly Clarkson and Tamron Hall gaining the most notice for daytime programming that could be the next Harry or, in the hopes of broadcast TV, a great addition to Ellen.

While that is content that continues to have demand, an entire shift in focus to OTT — and who retains ownership of the content — is how this industry professional views NATPE today. With experience in the 1970s as a station manager in a large Texas market and some 35 years in television syndication, distribution and production in the U.S. and international markets, this individual is convinced broadcast TV’s best days are behind it — and has no solution for combating the big dollars and disruption being brought to the industry by Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube.

On Wednesday morning, in the lobby of the Nobu Eden Roc, adjacent to NATPE host hotel Fontainebleau, one very high-placed television industry executive placed a phone call to a colleague.

How did he describe NATPE? “This is more boring that ever. It may be the last year I come here. This used to be a tent-pole event. Now there are maybe a half a dozen broadcasters here. The Eden Roc used to be jam-packed. Now, I’m one of four people in the lobby.”

Several others were present by 10:15am. Most were in attendance for a Symantec Knights Roundtable Conference event.

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