NATPE and the Future of TV

Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel who was also Chief Strategist to the Cisneros Group - a major media player -- reports from the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) in Miami on the technologies, trends, and trials roiling the TV and streaming markets.

As the 53rd NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) meeting adjourned on Thursday January the 19th and the world turned its attention away from TV and into politics to watch Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, the future of TV seemed to recover part of its shine.

The annual gathering of la crème de la crème of TV industry reflected the industry’s change of fortune.

Away are the days when panel presentations were headed solely by the Chiefs of Hollywood Studios or TV Networks (though they were vastly represented in the newer splintering of the myriad of channel proliferations). And over the last two decades, they would rub elbows with technology masters such as Microsoft, Cisco, HP, Amazon and Yahoo.

But as TV has been shaken by the technology wave, effectiveness and innovation chased extravaganza away.

Hollywood honchos gave passage to social media masters and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube had their day at NATPE. As TV’s business model continues to be impacted and disrupted by the internet, nontraditional content creation took center stage.

The stars of today’s discussions are content creators — whether for TV, radio, music or the internet. And with a multitude of channels and platforms to distribute their content, their mantra is uncertainty. This was clearly reflected in the market floor where booths were fewer and scaled down.

To be sure, the death of TV has largely been exaggerated, as TV continues to be the source of entertainment for most households and the content aggregator from the most diverse sources.

The device itself has morphed into a tablet as every manufacturer now offers “smart TV’s” that can access the Internet directly and a host of streaming sources, such as Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Google Play, and Netflix.

Also, advertisement revenue which is one of TV’s economic pillars ceased to shrink in 2015 and began to grow in 2016 as people grew increasingly unnerved with flashing cookies that not only distract you from enjoying or using the content you have searched for but also capture your email and browser to continuously pop on your screen with news about products and services you are not about to acquire.

Finally, the viewership matrix is giving signals of having fully absorbed the Netflix shockwave and have found joy in diversification devoting growing time to network and local TV. Consequently, today’s viewing habits while very diversified in term of receiving platforms ,tend to spiral around TV series, news and streaming content that mirror past TV viewing habits.

Time however has not been benevolent to cable as the entertainment value and economic attractiveness of cable services are in free fall.

Traditionally, TV business models were sustained by two income streams: advertisement and subscription revenues. Premium channels such as Showtime and HBO have been able to thrive on subscription only.

But as distribution devices multiplied and with them viewership habits diversified and portability and affordability became fundamental attributes of TV services, the business model for cable service providers has begun to melt down. Netflix and Hulu for instance give you all the content you desire for a fraction of the fees paid to cable service providers. Cable subscribers consequently are shrinking at laser speed.

These trends were clearly perceptible at the 53rd NATPE edition which was much more seemingly austere than ever. The glitz might however be gone but the business thrives. This year NATPE direct and indirect sales were expected to reach $5.2 billion, representing a sizable increment from last year’s $4.7 billion. As the disruptive new players, new delivery methods and new productions multiply and fragment that pie, portions may get smaller, but the overall pie still gets bigger. And as Miami continues to project itself as the destination for arts and entertainment, NATPE has a lot to gain from these annual encounters — glitz or no glitz.

Published by Latin American Herald Tribune on Monday January 23rd, 2017.

*The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author.*