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At NATPE, No Surefire Hits but Much Digital Talk

Of 8,000 Attendees Many Were Focused on Web and Mobile

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LAS VEGAS (AdAge.com) -- The National Association of Television Programming Executives conference, like syndicated TV itself, may be a shadow of its former self.
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The week-long event at the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino pulled in nearly 8,000 people and digital issues were high on their minds.

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Once the place to launch a major new syndicated show, it now better serves as a networking event for programmers and content creators. Still, its ability to accurately reflect the current state of the syndicated-entertainment industry across all platforms remains unrivaled.

Nearly 8,000 people attended, up from last year's 7,515.

An eager crop of cellphone execs at last Monday's NATPE Mobile conference (which had 500 attendees) and increased representation from the web alongside TV panelists underscored the fact that this is an industry in transition.

'Fresh perspective'
"We're really planning for a fresh perspective to start in syndication," said Mitch Burg, president of the Syndicated Network Television Association. "The metrics are changing because of digital video recorders in this new era of engagement, so first-run shows are harder to launch, where shows that are 10 years old or older are succeeding."

The difficulty of launching a successful first-run show in syndication was reflected in the absence of a major personality-driven vehicle, such as last year's success story, "The Rachael Ray Show." The Fox-distributed "TMZ," based on AOL's popular gossip site, is the 2007 season's best shot at a breakout hit.

Has the daytime landscape become too crowded to welcome any new personalities? Bill Carroll, VP-director of programming at New York station-rep company Katz Television Group, said it's all a matter of timing. With shows such as "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Jeopardy" extending their contracts into 2010 and beyond, it's getting harder and harder to line up a hit when there's nowhere to put it.

Appropriate content was also a topic on the minds of many web-based panelists at NATPE, particularly at a panel featuring execs from AOL, NBC and YouTube. Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire said that even as more and more content is syndicated online, there's still resistance from major content providers to frame advertising around it.
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