Rick Feldman, NATPE

With the market's international attendance growing, NATPE's president is seeing the fruits of his labor.

Thanks to the efforts of NATPE president Rick Feldman, the crucial international component of the market is stronger than ever -- a 180-degree turnaround from a few years ago, when consolidation in the TV industry had prompted budget-tightening all around, and NATPE had lost many of its international attendees. The Hollywood Reporter's international editor Steve Brennan spoke recently with Feldman about his approach to TV professionals outside the U.S. and his grand design for NATPE as a worldwide TV industry event.

The Hollywood Reporter:
How important today is the international sector to the NATPE annual conference?
Rick Feldman: Very important. But we don't really try at NATPE to break down the sectors like that. We are not talking about domestic or international or cable or broadcast -- we are talking about video content. At the moment, about 30% of our attendees come from outside the U.S., but we don't divide international and domestic. We are about TV, and it makes no difference where it gets produced or where it is going to air. What we celebrate is television the world over.

THR: Having said that, have you been looking to ramp up the international side of the market?
Feldman: First of all, let me say that we are a reflection of the business as it currently exists. While our staff has done a very good job of explaining to people what we are about and to make it as easy as possible for people to experience the kind of environment they want at NATPE, a lot of what happens is a function of events beyond our control.

THR: But you'd agree that for television, the international market is very good right now -- for the Americans, in particular.
Feldman: Four or five years ago, American programming was not doing well abroad. But over the last two years, new opportunities and distribution methods have created a healthier (global) market. Fortunately, because of that, we have had support from around the world. Our Latin American friends continue to be very supportive. Their telenovelas have been very successful, as evidenced by their big presence at (the Central and Eastern European TV market) DISCOP.

THR: And you have been traveling quite a bit to put the word out that NATPE is an important market?
Feldman: Yes. I think we are doing a good job of spending time with people and telling them how important the American market is and how important it is for them to be at NATPE. I've been traveling and talking to people around the world about NATPE.

THR: What's the response been like?
Feldman: Very good feedback. Many have been telling me that it's important for us to have the creative people on the panels -- the producers. And we have responded. For example, at this convention, we have Dick Wolf speaking, as well as the producers from (ABC's) "Lost," along with leading production figures such as Jon Feltheimer and Harry Sloan and Ben Silverman. There's just a lot of stuff going on.

THR: A lot of that is a response to what you are hearing in the international markets?
Feldman: One of the things we have tried to do is to listen to what people want to get by coming all the way over here. And one of those things is to hear successful producers talking about a show from the concept, the deal, getting it on the air, the marketing -- the soup to nuts of American production -- because success is rare, and the alchemy for making a (hit show) is a special chemistry.

THR: But is that what NATPE is about -- providing creative forums?
Feldman: We are definitely a business-to-business show. We are business people talking to business people about what the future looks like and how to maximize content. But at the same time, we want to introduce the creative to the show because without them, there is nothing to sell.

How hard a sell has the conference been overseas?
Feldman: Well, when people ask, "Why should I be at NATPE?" I never tell people that it is going to be easy to take content that is created in, let's say, Poland, and find an easy buyer in the States. So, when people ask me (if) they have a good chance of selling product in the States, I say they probably don't have a great opportunity. But I also say that sometimes opportunity is hidden under a rock, and you need to find those opportunities and hear about ways to create programming as efficiently as possible -- then you need to be at NATPE. You need to see how it all holds together and how the biggest market in the world is producing content and what it is exporting and importing. You need to hear about the new outlets, the new channels, the distribution streams that are out there.

THR: If you had one message for attendees from around the world who are arriving in Las Vegas, what would that be?
Feldman: I guess it's that I am truly interested in what people have to say after they have had the NATPE experience, and that I am very desirous to hear the good and the bad so that I can help make an even better experience.