Intl. exchange keeps NATPE relevant

Foreign buyers and sellers rely on syndie market

Though NATPE’s appeal as a domestic syndication market has diminished, international buyers and sellers still find themselves reliant on the annual get-together.

“For the Latin Americans, it is especially important because it is close,” says Dan Waite, DIC vice president of international sales and regional manager for Latin America. “It’s a lot cheaper to fly to the United States and stay than going to Cannes for Mip or Mipcom.

“For buyers from weaker economies in Latin America like Paraguay, Uruguay (and) Nicaragua, to go to Europe is exorbitantly expensive. Even a lot of the larger companies like (some from) Brazil and Mexico are skipping Mip and just going to Mipcom in the fall because it’s just too expensive. That’s why NATPE has stayed very important for them. And it’s a great face-to-face time.”

Rigel Entertainment CEO John Laing has also observed the decline of Latin buyers traveling to Europe — in turn increasing the incentive for his company to attend NATPE.

“We go to NATPE to remind the international buyers, as well as the U.S., that we exist,” Laing says.

Waite adds that the timing of NATPE gives Latin buyers an early opportunity to eyeball what’s on seller slates — and then proceed at their own pace.

“In our case,” Waite says, “we’ve gotten delivery of some new shows late in the year. I’ll have them dubbed into Spanish and Portuguese to present for screening for the first time at NATPE. There are some people who say right on the spot they want that show. Others take several months to make up their mind.

“Even though the Latins are starting to produce a lot of their own stuff, too, they follow the trends here. So business may not get done in the first month of the year, but after the first few months, you are going to close business.”

Regent Entertainment Worldwide Sales co-president Meggan Kimberley also feels the calendar plays a role in NATPE’s global stature.

“Regent has come to depend on NATPE as a way of touching base with its television buyers in between Mipcom and Mip,” says Kimberley. “The Latin American presence is also particularly important.”

Ellis Entertainment founder Steve Ellis agrees that NATPE remains “an important tentpole between the various markets through the year to maintain relationships.

“What we are finding is that what used to be done on one market 10 years ago, you have to attend two or three markets to begin a new opportunity, nurse it along and then close it over a six-month period. That’s just the nature of the business now.”

Ellis notes that it isn’t as if when you’ve seen one international market, you’ve seen them all.

“There isn’t as much overlap as before,” he says, “so you have buyers and sellers at NATPE you don’t see at the other markets. One of our goals is to expand our business with the Latin American and South American countries that come to NATPE in greater numbers than they do the European markets. It’s an opportunity to see them in a significant way … and to pitch projects and formats we’ve got.”

Though much business in this era is conducted via phone and email, Laing contends that in-person contact remains vital.

“It is still a relationship-based business,” he says. “And there is no better way to get a read on who you are dealing with or to detect new trends, whether domestic or international, than to be there when they roll out.”