For the National Association of Television Program Executives' next meeting in January in Las Vegas, the NATPE group is putting heavy emphasis on protecting content. "We're about everybody watching, wherever they watch, as long as their rights are protected," said Rick Feldman, president and CEO of NATPE.
Considering that NATPE had primarily been a place where deficit-financing TV producers went to claim big paydays for their off-network shows from syndication license fees and barter advertising sales, it's no wonder the group is firmly pushing this agenda.
Traditional syndication revenue has already been in danger over the last several years, as TV producers increasingly look beyond additional TV coverage to legal distribution on mobile phones, computers, and devices such as Apple's iPod. They now face a more dangerous issue, one that's preoccupied the minds of music executives over the last couple of years.
Responding recently to a question about peer-to-peer networks freely exchanging TV shows over the Internet, which could in future years become a major concern, Bob Wright, chairman of NBC Universal, told Broadcasting & Cable: "That is certainly a fact. Peer-to-peer will potentially hurt the syndication rights or DVD rights. Those things are all coming into play."
Traditional TV producers and distributors who come to NATPE every year are no doubt focused on these areas--the legal transformations and the illegal. TV stations and cable networks have realized that big changes in distribution windows are on the horizon as well. Already there has been some modest grumbling from ABC affiliates concerning the network's move to put full episodes of its popular prime-time shows on iPods.
Before all those authorized changes occur, growing renegade Internet technologies--maybe ones that are still in the embryonic stage--might do bigger damage. TV executives will need to do some very grown-up thinking to stay a step ahead.