NATPE welcomed the usual mix of buyers, sellers, programme-makers and hustlers to Miami last week. Buyers from Latin America were out in force, with a smattering of acquisition execs from Scandinavia, France and Germany.
During the week, two of Spanish-language TV’s biggest players, Univision and Televisa, said they were unifying production and development, a major development in the Hispanic content world.
The NATPE conference, meanwhile, is now housed further along Collins Avenue from the Fontainebleau at the Eden Roc, and this year had new strands in the shape of a music-meets-TV track, and expanded reality programme.
A+E boss Nancy Dubuc set the tone when, in her opening keynote, she said that unscripted producers need to start getting more innovative and original and focus less on the business model.
It was not lost on the producers in town – several of whom made the point bluntly to TBI – that the A+E has arguably been part of the problem, running eleven seasons of Duck Dynasty as well as several other reality franchises in the ob-doc category, which many claim has started to feel stale.
In fairness, the A+E channels also have shows at the edgier end of the unscripted range – Married at First Sight, Alone and 60 Days In for example – and it has cancelled Duck Dynasty last year.
Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of Dubuc’s call to action, when the boss of one of biggest basic cable channel groups in the US tells reality producers to step up and offer more innovation, they better get their thinking caps on.
It was a coup for NATPE to snag Bob Bakish as a keynote speaker so soon after he took the full time job as CEO of Viacom. The new boss admitted recent years had been a horrible period for the company, but came out fighting, pointing to channels and brands it owns in the US and beyond.
Bakish (pictured) said he will present his turnaround strategy in full next month, but gave a few pointers. Alluding to the lack of cooperation between Viacom units and channels, he said he will be getting rid of the siloed bases that had evolved. He also said he’d seen the need for management change at channels, notably MTV, which has struggled domestically.
The Viacom chief told TBI there will be greater cooperation between the media giant’s US and international operations – rarely has as US media CEO talked so extensively about business outside the States in a keynote address to an American audience, in fact.
Perhaps the amount of time dedicated to talking up recent purchase Telefe in Argentina, and earlier acquisition of Channel 5 in the UK, are an indicator of greater ambitions in free-to-air outside the US.
In terms of free TV at home, Viacom shares majority owners with CBS (the Redstones), but Bakish shrugged off the idea of any pact with the broadcaster. Exploration over a merger had seemingly ended towards the back end of 2016.
By the time NATPE Miami 2018 kicks off, the industry will be able to judge if Bakish has delivered on the turnaround he kicked off in Miami this year.
The new Viacom boss also took questions from the floor, which, resulted mostly in bizarre programme pitches (including a new entertainment format that would ‘improve relations between the US and Russia’).
Like Telemundo and others, Viacom has set up a Miami studio and said during NATPE that it is making live-action series Formula from that base, and for all of its Lat Am-based Nickelodeon channels.
What was clear is that Latin content has great currency internationally. Ahead of NATPE, TBI got the drop on the news that Keshet International is setting up a regional production base in Mexico, and Spanish-language formats are set for new remakes in several instances.
Ben Silverman, no stranger to taking content from Lat Am to the world, has picked up new scripted and entertainment shows from Colombia, TBI learned in Miami, with a view to US remakes. Endemol Shine Group is also understood to be close to snagging European rights to a Colombian-originated talent format.
Miami itself, meanwhile, faces issues if it wants to be a major international production hotspot, with local subsidies scrapped in the Sunshine State last year (HBO’s Ballers is reportedly relocating shooting from Florida on this basis).
Shooting in Miami is challenging, but Tandem is going to try nonetheless. The prodco, part of StudioCanal, brought music producer T. Bone Burnett and Nashville creator Callie Khouri to town to talk up Deep City, a show about modern day Miami. Khouri told TBI they want to make it in the city.
Nancy Dubuc also talked about scripted and how, at the high end, the model is increasingly becoming vertically integrated: own the studio, make the show, transmit the show, distribute the rights.
Starz’s programming chief Carmi Zlotnik said that despite being acquired by Lionsgate, which has a large distribution machine that needs feeding with rights, Starz will still consider copros.
With the likes of Netflix fully funding drama series, the sense was that broadcasters – even in large territories – are having to look to copros to match the ambition and scale of the streamers.
The OTT players can also be part of the copro story, All3Media America scripted boss Nina Lederman said, assuming they can get sufficient rights to market a show as an original in several of their territories.
Netflix was central to many conversations, not least how to get into its Soho House party on the Tuesday of the market, but it was Amazon, YouTube and Facebook that actually took to the stage at NATPE.
Former Lifetime MTV exec Susanne Daniels was candid about her experience at YouTube, where she heads up content, and said for the first few weeks she didn’t understand the language her new colleagues were speaking.
Red will be launching in several international territories this year, Daniels said, and she is keen to add to the YouTube vlogger-based content and reach out to the ‘traditional’ TV industry in 2017.
Facebook was also in town, with Matt Jacobson, head of market development, talking to Lionsgate’s TV boss Kevin Beggs. His session started off with anecdotes about his time in TV syndication, formerly the bedrock of the NATPE show, and never really got around to any business-defining takeaways for TV execs.
While the trade press failed to get anything approaching a story, Jacobson managed to be completely engaging and hold the room.
One of the last presentations of the week, Jason Dorsey’s session on ‘Gen Z’ will be, TBI predicts, the most high-energy conference session of 2017.
With Dorsey, co-founder of The Center for Generational Kinetics, in full flow, TBI had to leave for the airport, thankfully avoiding being singled out by the effervescent host in the process.
NATPE as an organisation was also reaching out to the younger generation, announcing a ‘Next Gen’ mentoring and membership programme for up and comers in the TV business.
If NATPE helped shape the agenda for the year ahead, we can look forward to a resurgent Viacom, new global reality TV franchises, Netflix drama copros, and a new wave of TV execs at events such as NATPE.