NATPE Chief Talks "Peak TV," Convergence and a Very Crowded 2016 Market

Courtesy of NATPE
Rod Perth

"The world 'digital' almost seems like an overused, tired bucket for virtually every sector of the business."

The National Association of Television Program Executives descends on Miami Beach this week to a very different conference. The market, which has shifted from syndication to more unscripted fare in recent years, has also grown significantly — much like the volume of content being produced.

On the eve of the annual affair, which runs Jan. 19-21 at both the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotels, exiting NATPE CEO Rod Perth spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the evolving marketplace, the changes he's seen during his tenure and why the surge in programming is only good news for the group's membership.

What do the organization's diverse group of members have in common?
We continue to be dedicated to being relevant and trying to stay ahead of all of the dynamic changes that are going on. I think we've done a good job of that. When I got here four years ago, we repositioned the event considerably. We believe that the business is divided into sectors, and the walls between those sectors are dissolving. They're all interdependent. And we reside in the center of that. "Convergence," which is the word of 10 years ago, is even more relevant today. Even a local television station or a international cable channel or a buyer from Iceland, you need to know how all of these factors influence your business.

What's changed most about NATPE and the climate during your tenure?

When I got here, I believed that we needed to embrace all of the new digital possibilities. Now the world "digital" almost seems like an overused, tired bucket for virtually every sector of the business. It's kind of a metaphor for how you've got to be creative. Viewers are in charge. It's no longer the networks or anyone in the business. They are clearly embracing OTT, mobile and various new technological breakthroughs that allow them to watch whatever they want. The one constant and through line during these disruptive times is that it's always content first. That's why I think NATPE is still growing.

Is there a particular trend you're catering to this year?

The entire business being interdependent and overlapping suggests that there's a tremendous amount of sharing. Even local television stations, which by their own assessment might have been a little faster to embrace that change, they have done it fully now. On the international side, the journey of locally produced programs in countries has become a fully formed business. Formats are the currency of everyone. Even non-English-language television shows are airing in the U.S. These are breakthroughs. They're changing the paradigm in dramatic ways.

There's been a lot of talk of "Peak TV," for both reality and scripted — what challenges does that present to the marketplace?

It always goes back to the best creators with compelling stories having to stand on their own despite the competition. That's the one constant to all of this.

What are you doing in the days leading up to the conference?

It's like playing whack-a-mole. Ultimately, we're serving so many constituents of the business. The good news is that we're growing. We were bursting at the seams at the Fontainebleau, so we've tripled the size of the market floor. We needed to move into the Eden Roc next door. It's all positive stuff, but it adds to the unexpected challenges.

How do you feel about this being your last go as CEO?

Whatever accomplishments we've had, which I hope people think are considerable, we credit to an outstanding board of directors and staff. JP Bommel will replace me with the title of managing director and chief operating officer. He will, in effect, take over the business on March 1. He'll be a terrific leader of the organization.

Any advice for first-time attendees?

I would tell them that no matter what event you attend, it's all about the homework in advance and curating the events that happen to fit your needs, what you need to learn and where you can best network and meet influencers.