Longtime station exec Rick Feldman has been tapped prexy and chief executive officer of the National Assn. of Television Program Executives.
The two-year appointment comes three months after Bruce Johansen, a 10-year vet of the job, announced he would be stepping down to pursue other interests.
The move also comes as the nonprofit trade org struggles to find new purpose and energy in a changed business landscape in which a handful of syndie players dominate.
Feldman, an affable people-person on a first-name basis with the top program buyers and sellers in the biz, told Daily Variety he would “do my homework” to find out what issues are still out there and then get down to solving them.
One salient problem came into focus two years ago when the Hollywood studio heavyweights deserted the convention floor of its annual market and began questioning the usefulness of the show for their dealmaking purposes. The recent confab in New Orleans was a disjointed affair with a disappointing turnout.
While recognizing that the biz has metamorphosed because of media consolidation, tougher economics and geopolitical uncertainties, Feldman believes that “the gestalt” of an effective NATPE convention is encouraging participants from the various parts of the biz to spend time together.
Feldman said he didn’t know yet whether it was essential to entice the major Hollywood studios back to the convention floor or whether having them holed up in separate hotels during the four-day confab would be adequate. (NATPE actually began as a hotel-based gathering.)
Feldman, who praised Johansen for his tireless efforts and his building of NATPE into a global event, said he would continue to work to keep international buyers and sellers coming to the annual trade show.
Johansen, who has tried over the past two years to mollify the various constituencies that make up the organization, will serve as a long-term adviser to the association and its board of directors.
Syndie vet turned producers rep Chuck Larsen, who has dealt on and off with Feldman over the years, called him “a good manager” with “loads of enthusiasm” who should do a good job for the org.
Apparently, some 35 execs expressed interest in Johansen’s job, and the list was only whittled down during March. While Johansen ended up making some $550,000 a year, a leaner, meaner NATPE decided to offer about half that sum for his replacement.
The appointment of Feldman was unveiled by Peggy Kelly, chairman of NATPE and senior VP, global client services, at ad agency giant Universal McCann, and Lew Klein, co-founder of NATPE and chairman of the org’s search committee formed to fill the position.
There were five finalists on the shortlist and the decision was reached late Tuesday night. NATPE would not confirm the names, though former Columbia TriStar syndie topper Barry Thurston had been widely reported as one of the contenders. A cocktail party honoring Johansen was skedded for Wednesday evening.
Feldman will assume leadership of NATPE effective Monday and will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and strategic planning of worldwide activities.
Reporting directly to the NATPE board of directors’ executive committee, he will be based at the association’s headquarters in L.A.
“Rick’s breadth of experience in television is well suited to lead NATPE and he will be charged with developing new initiatives to satisfy the needs of our domestic and international constituencies. Working with the board, his mandate will be to position NATPE for the future,” Kelly said.
“I realize the challenges before me. But with the support of NATPE’s executive committee, board of directors and staff, as well as all of those in our industry who believe strongly in the value of NATPE, I envision a bright future for the association,” Feldman said.
Most recently, Feldman was exec VP and chief operating officer of USA Broadcasting in Los Angeles. While there, he was responsible for overseeing a group of four stations including WAMI in Miami. During that time Feldman launched indie stations in such major markets as Dallas, Atlanta and Boston on behalf of USA.
Moreover, he supervised the company’s Stationworks, its centralized, digital distribution facility in Los Angeles designed to function as master control for the entire station group. He also managed USA’s WAMI-based Group Promo department, which served as the promotion production facility for all of USA’s stations.
Change of address
Feldman lost his job when the USA station group was sold to Univision in late 2001.
Prior to USA, Feldman served 16 years at KCOP in Los Angeles. He first joined in 1983 as general sales manager and in 1987 he was promoted to VP and station manager. He became president and general manager in 1993.
KCOP earned more than 30 Emmy Awards for its locally produced programming under Feldman’s guidance.
In addition to Klein, Kelly and Johansen, the NATPE search committee included Tony Vinciquerra, NATPE’s immediate past chairman and president and CEO of Fox Networks Group; Carole Black, prexy-CEO of cabler Lifetime; Dick Lippin, chair of the Lippin Group; Emerson Coleman, VP of programming at Hearst-Argyle TV; Dennis Williamson, senior corporate veep of Belo Corp.; and Mickey Gardner, NATPE’s Washington counsel.
NATPE will hold its 41st annual conference and exhibition Jan. 13-16 at the adjoined Venetian Hotel and Sands Expo Center complex in Las Vegas.