NATPE in court, online & o’seas

Stations, studios reconnect at confab

FROM NATPE

NEW ORLEANS — Consolidation, convergence and courtshows were the watchwords on the NATPE floor this year.

The onslaught of dot-com companies on the New Orleans convention energized activity, but did not significantly distract traditional TV program sellers away from the task at hand — chalking up station clearances for a potpourri of pilots for the upcoming fall season.

“NATPE is changing,” said King World CEO Roger King, who was honored Wednesday with a roast for his career in the rough-and-tumble syndication business.

“New media is definitely adding a lot to the market, yet in terms of socializing and shaking hands, it’s vital for the industry for station general managers, studios and networks to be able to get together and reconnect,” King told Daily Variety.

And reconnect they did. A number of pilots, especially a handful of court shows, picked up clearance momentum during the four-day market. King World’s “Curtis Court” joins Warner Bros.’ “Moral Court,” Pearson’s “Judgment Day,” Columbia’s “Judge Hatchett” and Twentieth’s “Power of Attorney” as the most hyped shows readying for an all-but-certain fall launch.

“Today’s a great day for us,” Pearson distribution prexy Joe Scotti said. “We’ve really been able to put ourselves on the map this year. This is the first time in a long time we’ve been on a track this successful thanks to ‘Feud,’ ‘Truth’ and ‘Judgment Day.’ ”

Pearson, which just saw its gameshow “Family Feud” nail a 2.6 rating in the latest Nielsen numbers, sparked added interest from station G.M.s gathered in the Crescent City.

Execs at the Pearson booth Thursday were still pinning down deals for upcoming shows “Judgment Day” and “To Tell the Truth,” the latter also a virtual go for September.

The phenomenal success of ABC primetime series “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” spawned a batch of syndicated hopefuls, at least three of which have locked up enough station deals to likely be in production this summer for a fall start.

Pearson’s “To Tell the Truth,” Telepictures’ latenight “Street Smarts” and MGM’s “Sex Wars” are all getting pickups.

O’seas outfits appear

International outfits also made their mark on what used to be a cozy domestic event. A passel of British companies — the BBC, Channel Four and Itel — took advantage of the global mushrooming of channel outlets to score carriage deals for their shows.

“Satellite channels have opened up amazing opportunities for international buyers and sellers,” Itel exec Mike Morris said. “People are hungry for programming, and the French, Germans and Latin American buyers have all come into New Orleans looking for product.”

As the big-time studio syndicators packed up their paraphernalia Thursday, many NATPE-goers wandered into the new-media pavilion to take a peek at what the future of television is going to look like — and see which dot-com companies will be players in the entertainment arena.

“This was clearly our coming-out party,” said Scott Carlin, media group prexy of Digital Convergence.com. “We needed NATPE like breath this year. This helped build our company.”

Cross-media matches

Traditional media companies pacted with the newfangled dot-coms in a variety of deals.

Among the key agreements, Twentieth Television and InnovaTV.com will offer broadband customers the ability to access interactive magazines featuring excerpts from certain Twentieth programs.

Columbia TriStar Interactive and E-Poll.com announced a deal in which E-Poll will provide its polling software to CTS’ new Showbiz Scoop Web site.

“Every new-media company I’ve talked to here says that this experience has exceeded their wildest expectations,” said Nina Steiner, director of new-media sales for NATPE.

“They’re all coming back next year, and many of them — including Microcast and Vast Video, just to name a couple — have told me they plan to double the size of their booths in 2001.”

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