In its heyday, NATPE was the industry’s biggest party.

Syndicators, such as King World and Paramount, assembled huge booths, threw lavish fetes and paraded their stars in front of legions of TV station buyers. This year, which is NATPE’s 50th, the conference is a much smaller affair: both more intimate and more international.

With the its move to Miami Beach in 2011, the confab has become the kickoff market for the year’s global selling season, with buyers coming in from Canada, Latin America and Europe to start sampling the wares.

“I love kicking off the year at NATPE,” says John Pollak, president of Electus Intl., which is bringing NBC’s “Fashion Star,” TNT’s “The Hero” and TBS’ upcoming “King of the Nerds” to the mart as well as upcoming series featuring cable stars Bear Grylls and Dog the Bounty Hunter. “Buyers are much more receptive at that market than at other ones. Most of the time they come in with their budgets renewed and money in their bank accounts that they can spend,” he adds. “Ever since the switch from Las Vegas to Miami, there have been more buyers coming over from Europe. Toward the end of the Vegas run, it felt like the buyers weren’t there anymore.”

“I think NATPE is the first must-attend market of the year for anyone who is involved in television and content, and that includes both linear and digital content,” says Rod Perth, NATPE’s president and CEO, who will be running his first convention.

Maria Kyriacou, managing director for ITV Studios Global Entertainment, says: “NATPE kicks off our calendar year, and it’s become a good market to connect with our clients in Canada and Latin America. We tend to focus a lot of our efforts on them.”

This year, ITV is bringing several new shows to NATPE, including “Mr. Selfridge,” starring Jeremy Piven, which just premiered on U.K. commercial web ITV1 to an audience of more than 7 million. There’s also “The Audience,” in which one person in need literally has 50 strangers that follow him or her around for a week, offering constant advice; “Come Dine With Me,” one of the world’s biggest formats in which people compete to see who throws the best dinner party; and “Who Dares Sings,” in which contestants compete to see who can most accurately sing a song.

As Perth noted, digital content is expected to join more traditional fare on the confab’s centerstage.

“Broadcasters around the world are now much more open to acquiring content that doesn’t necessarily start in traditional television,” says Pollak, noting that Electus has three YouTube channels where it incubates content. “They are starting to realize that there’s great content out there that starts on a non-linear platform.”

Local television production also appears to be on the rise, with countries including Singapore, China, Turkey and South Korea producing their own shows.

“There are so many ideas out there that have legs and can travel,” says Pollak. “Smaller emerging countries are creating original content that can be sold into the U.S. and then sold around the world.”

“One of the things I’m struck by is how vital Latin America, including Mexico, has become in terms of producing shows and selling them,” says Perth. “Internationally, there are just more television producers. Broadcasters in those territories don’t have to rely as much on the U.S. market.”

NATPE also tends to focus more on format-driven series than other international markets, such as Mip TV or Mipcom in Cannes, says Eden Gaha, president of Shine America, which is bringing such shows as Oxygen’s “The Face,” NBCU’s “The Biggest Loser” and Fox’s “MasterChef” to NATPE.

Gaha says: “NATPE is a key market for us.”

NATPE @ 50
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