NATPE wrap-up

The 49th annual National Association of Television Programming Executives closed its three-day run on Wednesday from the Fontainbleau Hotel in Miami. The gathering attracted many attendees from the around the globe, especially from South American countries, who were seeking Spanish-language programming. In addition, NATPE had a growing digital contingent, thanks to the growing influence (and clout) of Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. Here are more highlights and news items from NATPE 2012:

– NATPE “winning” with Charlie Sheen: The biggest attraction at NATPE was the presence of former Two And A Half Men star Charlie Sheen, who appeared at an invitation-only event to talk about his new FX show from Debmar-Mercury, Anger Management. Sheen says he’s happy with the new venture and he feels more relaxed and was looking forward to the faster-paced production schedule and working with showrunner Bruce Helford, who was executive producer of The Drew Carey Show.

In fact, Sheen was in such a good mood at the panel, he would even give his former boss Chuck Lorre a hug (now that’s forgiveness.) There is a lot of buzz surrounding Management – the show has sold well internationally, despite FX ordering only ten episodes. If successful, ninety more episodes will be produced to air on FX and to be sold in broadcast syndication, similar to how Tyler Perry’s sitcoms were sold.

– Digital companies were more than represented at NATPE, and none was bigger than Netflix. The beleaguered video-streaming service outlined its plans to devolve into more original programming during a NATPE panel moderated by former NBC executive Jeff Gaspin. Netflix plans to launch new drama Lilyhammer on Feb. 6, and early next year, plans to add new original drama House Of Cards and revive former Fox sitcom Arrested Development. According to Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, Netflix is aiming to have five first-run shows on its streaming service in 2013, and pointed out his service’s real competitors are HBO, Showtime, and Starz – premium channels the service no longer does business for the most part, and is still trying to get away from its image as a DVD rental service. After months of decline, Netflix stock shot up 22 percent this week on news of its fourth-quarter subscriber and financial growth.

Mad Men creator Matt Wiener said that HBO passed on his pitch for his series “hundreds of times” during a panel at NATPE hosted by Broadcasting & Cable (Wiener got the last laugh of course – those executives are no longer with HBO.) The Brandon Tartikoff Legacy honoree pointed out Mad Men is based on real life and real people (sorry, no space aliens or time-traveling islands here.) Wiener even went as far to make this blunt observation: things haven’t changed for women in the workplace since the 1960’s, the era where Mad Men is set. Wiener notes the harassment and discrimination has been driven underground by legislation (and sadly, this is more than true in today’s ad agencies.)

– And speaking of the late NBC programmer, Brandon Tartikoff’s collection of 4,000 personal items including programming, project evaluations, letters, interviews, and speeches are being donated to the USC School of Cinematic Arts by his widow Lilly. The collection, which has been sealed since Tarktioff’s death in 1997, is being made so students can learn about one of television’s legendary programmers and help inspire future generations.

NATPE notes:

– Twentieth Television has now sold its new entertainment newsmagazine strip Dish Nation to 70 percent of the country for a September debut, including WFLD-TV here in Chicago. The series features radio personalities from around the country talking about the day’s entertainment stories while they are on the air.

– Also clearing 70 percent of the country for next fall is off-GSN game show strip Baggage from Sony Pictures Television and hosted by Jerry Springer. The series was tested last year on select stations, including WCIU in Chicago. It is not known however, if WCIU picked up the show for next fall since Sony did not release a station list.

– Univision announced its was adding English closed-captions to some of its telenovas, in hopes of attracting more English-language viewers. The first telenovela to get this treatment: El Tailsman, which debuts on Monday.

– Finally, MeTV is taking its talents to South Beach. The Chicago-based classic TV channel announced this week it has signed an affiliation deal with WPLG-TV in Miami for carriage on channel 10.2 and many local cable systems, effective April 24. With the Miami addition, MeTV now reaches 73 percent of the country. The announcement comes on the same week NATPE is holding its gathering in Miami.

And that’s a wrap for NATPE 2012.

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