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Convention rolls out a mobile home

Program focused on emerging platforms

With the fruits of broadcast syndication becoming less and less able to sustain a big Las Vegas tradeshow, NATPE officials have effectively programmed their event full of keynotes and panel discussions relating to emerging platforms in recent years.

This year’s outreach includes the fourth annual NATPE Mobile++, a one-day event-within-an-event Jan. 28, designed, in the words of NATPE prexy-CEO Rick Feldman, to offer attendees “a crash course in mobile content, allowing them to leave the event with insights and strategies that they can begin applying immediately.”

NATPE officials say more than 700 mobile content owners, aggregators, distributors, producers, operators and virtual network operators will be on hand. Mobile and digital personnel from traditional media brands including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, BBC, BSkyB, Endemol and Fremantle will also attend, as will execs from major carriers including T-Mobile and Verizon.

“We’re not trying to be a handset show,” explains Feldman, dismissing any comparisons to other more gadget-oriented confabs, including the Consumer Electronics Show and Europe’s 3GSM World Congress mega-mobile event. “But what’s really important to keep in mind is that content is eventually going to cross over (to mobile).”

NATPE’s transition from glitzy hub of TV show dealmaking into a tech confab full of blue-sky bantering about future platforms began nearly a decade ago under former prexy Bruce Johansen.

In 2000, for example — the last year the confab was held in New Orleans — NATPE began courting online video constituencies, with companies like RealNetworks demonstrating the latest and greatest in digital distribution technologies to what was then almost exclusively an analog audience of TV broadcasters.

So, might platforms like mobile and broadband soon “emerge” to once again return NATPE to its roots as a pure-play programming marketplace? Feldman doesn’t believe that will happen in the near future.

“We know from just walking around the show floor that there are mobile deals that begin at NATPE and there are deals that conclude at NATPE. And I think the way things are evolving, mobile will be just another screen, but it’s still really in a nascent stage,” he concedes.

“I think we all need to take a step back and reflect on the business as it really is. The technology is changing very quickly, but the ability to monetize this content hasn’t really kept pace. There’s been a lot of talk and running around about online video, for example, but there has yet to be a robust business generated around it.”