NATPE 2014: Day 1

The “Second Screen” panel at NATPE 2014 in Miami. (NATPE)

Welcome to NATPE 2014!

The 51st annual gathering got underway in Miami Monday, as syndicators, programmers, producers, and content creators converged in Miami for the three-day conference. Here’s what went down on Monday:

– During NATPE’s opening keynote speech, Twitter managing brand of global brand strategy Jean-Phillippe Maheu said his social media platform would influence this spring’s TV upfronts, as more and more viewers use Twitter to engage with their favorite programs, events, – and brands. Arby’s used Twitter during The Grammys Sunday night to ask R&B/rap star Kendrick Lamar “for their hat back”, referring to the gallon hat he was wearing (the tweet reminded most people Arby’s was actually still in business.)

Twitter is also changing the Hollywood creative process, as writers and producers are seeking ways to connect and engage with their audiences (many writers rooms’ have Twitter accounts for that reason.) Twitter TV head Fred Graver pointed out the networks urged them to work with producers, to work with showrunners and talent to connect with fans. So far, its’ working: CBS’ The Good Wife and NBC’s Law & Order: SVU have had their best seasons creatively in years.

Of course, the best example of a TV program integrating with Twitter is ABC’s Scandal, which has become a red-hot hit thanks in part to social media.

– One thing we may see more of in the industry is the “10/90 model” – where cable networks (or studios) air the first ten episodes as a test and if the series does well, commit to ninety more episodes for a total of 100 for syndication – one championed by Debmar-Mercury, which has used the model for Tyler Perry’s shows and Anger Management, and for soon-to-be projects for George Lopez and Martin Lawrence.

During a panel moderated by Broadcasting & Cable, Ira Bernstein of Debmar-Mercury said he could see a major broadcast network interested in the company Kevin James’ project, using the 10/90 model. Also discussed at the panel is the use of testing first-run strips in odd times of the year – recently Tribune tested Serch on a handful of stations, and Fox tested both Kris and The Real on select stations last summer.

While testing shows in a few markets is nothing new (Studs, A Current Affair, and Wendy Williams each went the “slow rollout” strategy to become hits), syndicators are using as many non-traditional ways to launch shows successfully in an era of station consolidation.

– Ever hear of  “second screen”? To drag out an old phrase from the 1990’s, its Interactive TV, only better. You’ll be hearing a lot more of “second screen” as consumers watch their favorite program on one screen and interact with content related to the show on another screen (tablet, laptop, smartphone, etc.) In a joint study released by NATPE and the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association), it showed Hollywood’s producers and creators see “second screen” as becoming a permanent part of the viewing process – but this has a long way to go before this is achieved. Earlier in the study, it was revealed that 91 percent of second screen viewers accessed content, but only 42 percent synchronized their content experience to live TV.

The study was discussed during a panel on Monday which you can watch here.

– At another NATPE panel on Monday (this time hosted by TVNewscheck), station group CEOs said they were making progress toward the TVEverywhere platform, which allows users to watch their cable channels, networks, and local stations on mobile devices if they have the proper authentication credentials. Among the network O&Os, ABC launched its Watch Now app last year and NBC is well on its way to launching their own. NBC Owned Stations President Valari Staub said NBC’s app would launch this spring in markets where it owns stations (including Chicago), and for affiliates this fall. The move comes as station groups are realizing viewers want to watch their content on the go whether if its on a tablet, smartphone, or laptop.

The news on the TV Everywhere model was less clear for other station groups as many of the panelists felt building something like TV Everywhere would be complex and time-consuming, as Nexstar CEO Perry Sook and Graham Holdings Stations CEO-President Emily Barr pointed out. The panelists also said apps are a new way of tapping into revenue streams.

– NATPE CEO Rod Perth announced the event will return to Miami in 2015, but will not compete with RealScreen, another TV conference, which is being held at the same time , but taking place in a different city (Washington D.C.) Despite it, NATPE registration is up from a year ago.