NATPE 2020: View from the market

Ian McKee, CEO of online content marketplace Vuulr, gives his take on this week’s NATPE market in Miami.

This week marked our debut at NATPE Miami, so of course the Vuulr team was anticipating lots of sunshine, numerous poolside business meetings and little need for donning extra layers.

Mother Nature clearly wasn’t on our side. Instead, we encountered the colder snap of Miami’s North Beach: freezing weather accompanied by a fierce wind that interrupted the opening party event with such a gust that everyone grabbed their food and beverages and dashed indoors.

But all meteorological challenges aside, business ticked over nicely inside Miami’s famous Fontainbleau Hotel this week – and, as a Singapore-based newcomer who made our official global launch here on NATPE Day One, we were particularly buoyed by meetings with a variety of distributors armed with large and interesting content catalogues that could potentially appear on our online marketplace in the near future.

Naturally there was a big Latin American presence at the conference who were very interested in the opportunity that a digital marketplace could offer in terms of distribution.

Ian McKee

While NATPE is a bit smaller than the larger markets like MIPCOM in Cannes or ATF in Singapore, the event was great in terms of quality of organisations and delegates attending.

Discussion about the wider industry proved rife and exciting, and it was pleasing to hear so much chatter about the TV business moving into a new digital era. Conversation was dominated by the continued rise of SVOD services and the so-called streaming wars. How will Netflix perform this year? Will its subscribers drop significantly? And can Disney+ really take them on?

There was also talk-a-plenty about the growth of AVOD services such as Tubi and Roku and the potential threat they pose towards traditional international broadcasters, particularly off the back of this week’s announced partnership between Tubi and Mexican broadcast giant TV Azteca. AVOD is certainly a trend to keep an eye on, and I am in no doubt that the uptick in these operators means content deals will change in the coming years, as the industry moves towards a new era of pricing models.

What also struck me was the overall positive attitude to a new concept like an Online Content Marketplace like Vuulr. Despite NATPE being one of the world’s oldest face-to-face TV markets – traditionally built around the forging of US syndication deals – I maintain that the average delegate reaction towards trying a new – and very different – digital way of trading was 20-30% more positive compared to people I speak to at other international events. Here, there was a nimbleness of thinking and a glass half full approach that was unlike any other markets I’ve seen. Perhaps this market has a more competitive approach to be early adopters of new technology and processes?

Hence I found NATPE 2020 refreshing, and not just because of its cooler climate. It was great to see how such a relatively small event in terms of size – around 5,000 delegates – could pack such a great punch. All this came as various stars showed their faces around ‘Magic City’ to plug their soon-to-be syndicated shows – a tradition of this market – including none other than Drew Barrymore, ahead of her upcoming – and aptly titled The Drew Barrymore Show.

So as our team now moves on to Sundance, Realscreen in New Orleans next week, as well as my own meetings in LA, we’ll take stock of all our Miami notes and reflect on a market that meant business. But next year we’ll be hoping for better weather.

Ian McKee is CEO of online content marketplace Vuulr.

Tags: NATPE, Vuulr