TBI Weekly: Five key takeaways from NATPE 2020

NATPE has traditionally marked the start of the conference year for many execs across the Americas and Europe, with delegates heading to the warmer climes of Miami for discussion, deal-making and dinners overlooking the ocean.

Yet the sunshine and downpours that accompanied this year’s event were reflective of the wider disruption facing the business – from the “existential threat” facing broadcasters to the surge in Spanish-language programming, NATPE 2020 more than ever highlighted just how quickly the TV business is changing. Here, Tim Westcott and Maria Rua Aguete, analysts at TBI sibling IHS Markit, provide their key takeaways from the event.

Distribution, evolution & revolution

NATPE may have diminished in size from the days when the market was the size of a small village, but buyers and distributors are still getting long-haul flights for a few minutes of face-time. Syndicators are still launching new shows for the US TV market, with Drew Barrymore, Nick Cannon and other stars in attendance.

Still, everyone knows that a global deal with an SVoD platform makes distributors largely redundant. But it’s not a black and white world; big distributors also have production arms, which are fine with getting a big cheque from a streamer, especially with the cost of scripted content (in particular) inflating. And you can always just sell a limited-time window so you get your show back after 18 months (such as All3Media selling Fleabag to Amazon).

SVOD fatigue, AVOD acceleration

However, ‘subscription fatigue’ – the idea that consumers will not continue to pay for the array of streaming platforms launching into the market – is certainly becoming a thing. This was heard from YouTube, explaining its volte-face over charging for its originals, and Tubi, the AVoD platform, which announced an expansion to Mexico.

To be honest though, Q4 results from Netflix – with big subscriber growth outside the US – somewhat contradict this idea. John Hendricks, the founder of Discovery, meanwhile predicted that, with the inexorable rise of on demand, the number of linear TV channels in the US will dwindle from the hundreds to some 40 or so – the broadcast networks, news and sport channels. Instead, content will be packaged into on demand services, which will slot into different pay tiers. Some, like his streaming outfit CuriosityStream, will be bundled in with other services.

New kids on the block

NATPE also provided a stomping ground for recent additions to the streaming world, including execs from services such as Topic. NBC was also talking up its soon-to-launch Peacock service, which will be a hybrid of ad-funded and free-to-view (with bells and whistles like voice activation, contextual ads and one-minute spots), plus some subscription elements (such as the English Premier League). And original programming, of course. Execs did cite subscription fatigue, but Peacock is looking like a strong proposition (even though it also sounds a lot like Hulu, now owned by Disney).

The Spanish-language surge

Spanish-language content’s ongoing growth was also an unmissable element here in Miami. What’s changing quickly, however, is that interest is not just among Spanish speakers but from audience around the world – with execs keen to capitalise on the success of Netflix’s Oscar winner Roma and La Casa De Papel (aka Money Heist).

Netflix’s VP of acquisitions for Latin America and Spain, Rodrigo Mazon, underlined this shift by highlighting that four out of the top 10 most-watched international series in the US last year were Spanish. Little wonder then that Spanish-language producers are rapidly ramping up their output – two key players in this space, Mediapro and WarnerMedia’s Turner Latin America, both held events here in Miami to draw attention to their production prowess.

Capitalising on events

With such interest in Spanish scripted fare, it’s perhaps little surprise that event organisers are also looking to capitalise. Raúl Berdonés Montoya, president of Grupo Secuoya, was in town to unveil IberSeries alongside the newly launched event’s president Samuel Castro Hansson.

The show will take place in the Spanish city of Granada between 25 and 30 May this year, with the ambition of highlighting the importance of Spanish-language scripted series within a global context. Its launch, joining events such as Pamplona-based co-production forum Conecta Fiction, promises to provide further opportunities for producers, distributors and platforms. And with Spanish being the world’s second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese, there will surely be plenty of demand.

Tim Westcott is research director for channels and programming at IHS Markit, and Maria Rua Aguete is executive director, focusing on media, service providers and platforms. IHS Markit is part of the Informa Tech division that is also home to TBI.

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