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NATPE: better in Budapest

The NATPE Budapest 2016 Market & Content Summit, which launches today, is J.P. Bommel’s first European event since taking charge of the US based industry association. He tells Stewart Clarke about his plan for NATPE’s return to the Hungarian capital.

JP-BommelTBI: This is your first NATPE in Europe in full control of the organisation. What have you set out to do with the Budapest event?
JPB: The thing we changed this year is to make sure that the focus is on local content, so we’re not a US content show going to Europe, but celebrating what’s local. That will work well with the combination of the Hollywood studios doing screenings right after the LA Screenings.

TBI: How do the 2016 numbers stack up?
JPB: We have over 415 buyers committed to come – over double last year when we had 188. We have about 120 exhibitors, and 20 new ones that didn’t come last year, from as far afield as Hong Kong, Israel and Turkey, as well over 25 countries within the CEE region. A good ratio is two-thirds buyers to one-third distributors. It’s a true marketplace when you have that.

TBI: You’re clearly keen the event has a local feel, what have you done in practical terms to ensure that happens?
JPB: We introduced aggressive pricing for local producers and distributors and tailored the programme for them. We wanted to make sure they could come in and could afford a table or viewing station, and that has worked well. You also need to make sure you have the global buyers. We have Spanish, French and German buyers coming, and we want them to have an opportunity to see local content.

TBI: How does NATPE Budapest stand out in the calendar of international TV markets and events?
JPB: I love MIPCOM and all of those shows, but we’ll have a calm business environment where people can take time to have a discussion, and not have to rush every 20 minutes to their next meeting. That’s why local shows like NATPE Budapest are important. We have three days for business, and have evening events and parties, and have made sure people have the time to get together and forge new relationships.

There are some economic difficulties in the region, and not every buyer or producer has the opportunity to fly to LA for the Screenings, or has the means to go to Cannes for MIPTV or MIPCOM, and even if they do, who do they get to meet? We wanted to make sure the emphasis is on local content, and it is an opportunity for local producers to have time with people they don’t normally meet.

TBI: Why return to Hungary after two years in the Czech Republic?
JPB: When I got to Natpe in September we made a decision to move back to Budapest to answer a couple of issues: one, distributors say they like it because it is very accessible; and two, Budapest is the Hollywood of eastern Europe. A lot of producers shoot there and the Hungarian government is very supportive of that. You have a lot of TV companies there, the HBOs and Sonys, so it is a natural media capital in the region.

TBI: Will Budapest be the location beyond 2016?
JPB: We’re flexible always and want to hear the trends and what people in the market say, but we feel Budapest is right place and we have the right spot. There are no other plans than to stay in Budapest and grow it.

TBI: What part will the US studios play?
JPB: NBCUniversal, CBS, Lionsgate and Warner Bros. are all holding screenings, and that’s key because it is the first opportunity for some buyers to see what was launched in LA a few weeks ago. It’s the first time the studios have come to Budapest and done that.

TBI: What about the two that aren’t screening, Disney and Fox? Will you get them signed up for next year?
JPB: They are coming to see what it is all about. They have heard the buzz, because we’re back in Budapest. I have no doubt they are all going to be there next year.

TBI: Last time out in Prague was clearly challenging for NATPE Europe. Is this year make or break in terms of your activity in the region?
JPB: I don’t think so. I don’t think we showed the love to the buyers last year and that is where we missed the mark, in giving the buyers a really good reason to be there. Planning is everything, and as early as September we had a plan in place. We talked to the studios and got commitments in advance. We hired three local people on the ground to talk to producers and buyers so they knew we were paying attention.

We put together an advisory committee of local executives and influencers, and we really used local insight and intelligence to guide us. That’s why we are doing a panel on copros and looking at how local producers can do coproduce with studios, and why HBO is doing case study on Aranyelet. It’s not a case of ‘am I making money, or am I losing money? Are we staying in Budapest; what are we going to do?’ I think we have found our right footing and we want to grow that. All the signs point to the fact that we have found our rhythm in the region.