The participation from the international contingent at NATPE is expected to be respectable rather than overwhelming, though there’s no doubt that the globalization of the biz continues apace.
More and more American shows — think “The Office,” “Ugly Betty,” “Deal or No Deal” — are being formatted or otherwise sourced from overseas originals. A healthy 30% of exhibitors at the Vegas confab are based outside the U.S.
One company bent on upping its profile Stateside is Granada, a major British producer and distributor, which has hired Aussie-born but British-bred David Gyngell to boost those efforts.
“We haven’t perhaps sold ourselves as well as we should in the U.S.,” he says, indicating a larger presence in store at events such as NATPE and greater efforts to reimagine British programming as Yank series.
A number of Granada shows have already been refitted for the U.S. market (“Cracker,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Nanny 911”), but why not a Yank version of its series “The Street” or its Helen Mirren vehicle “Prime Suspect”?
Another company with similar ambitions is Canuck format specialist Distraction, which is taking its own stand for the first time on the convention floor.
“We have a lot of nonscripted projects coming together in the next few months, and a key aim this year is to boost our presence Stateside,” says Distraction CEO Michel Rodrigue.
Meanwhile, the companies responsible for the traffic in the other direction — the Hollywood majors — will mostly all have their international teams on hand.
Fox Intl. TV president Marion Edwards and CBS Par Intl. TV prexy Armando Nunez both say they expect most key foreign clients to show up, especially the Latin Americans. The timing of the event, though, means there are not that many new U.S. network shows with episodes ready to entice buyers to sign deals.
“We use the opportunity to bring our global sales team together and to talk with clients about our midseason entries,” Nunez says.
Lionsgate senior VP Craig Cegielski concurs that competition for U.S. product is stiff in most major territories abroad, and the cable development cycle so ongoing Stateside, that most buyers need to show up so as not to miss out on anything.
“Nowadays the foreign contingent comes and asks questions about scripts, marketing campaigns and online possibilities.” (Minimajor Lionsgate has a number of shows on cable, its hottest title being “Weeds,” which airs on Showtime Stateside.)
A few other execs are not so convinced that NATPE is a must-attend for international folks.
Disney’s Tom Toumazis, the Mouse House’s top distribution exec based in the U.K., says he can see most of his key European clients either in London or on the Continent. “I looked around last year and thought: Why are we getting together here in Vegas when we can do it so much more conveniently back home?”
Most European program buyers have recently maxed out on U.S. drama series, points out another international vet, and the big Euro TV station players have L.A. reps who constantly update them about what’s coming down the pike. With Mip in early April, the L.A. Screenings in June and Mipcom in October — all of which pull a hefty European crowd — NATPE may find that its foreign focus shifts more to Latin America and to Asia. Asian buyers in the past decade have warmed to NATPE as stations in most nations have increasingly opened their skeds to foreign programming.