Entertainment & Arts

NATPE Files For Bankruptcy, Citing Covid Impact And Vowing To Keep Holding Events

NATPE, which has convened annual gatherings of producers, syndicators, station owners and other TV stakeholders for decades, has filed for bankruptcy.

The organization cited the impact of Covid and said it planned to continue holding events, including the annual January conference, which has been shifted to the Bahamas from its longtime Miami base. The official Chapter 11 filing is expected to happen Tuesday, but today’s announcement is intended to give the industry and attendees advance warning. The intention behind seeking a formal remedy is to reorganize the organization’s operations.

The pandemic “prevented NATPE from holding events, which typically generate significant revenue,” a press release said. “These cancellations forced NATPE to operate on its financial reserves, which now require it to reorganize the NATPE business structure.”

In June, NATPE held its first in-person marketplace in two years at the Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest, Hungary. Due to the Omicron wave last winter, the group had to cancel its 2022 conference in Miami at the 11th hour. Earlier this year, it announced that it would shift to the Baha Mar Resort in Nassau, Bahamas, in January 2023, with a return to Budapest on the books for June 2023. Both events next year remain on the books.

As to the nature of restructuring, NATPE said it is “looking at all possible options.” Possibilities could include raising funds through strategic alliances as well as continuing to operate NATPE as a more streamlined and reorganized operation. While no executives were quoted in the press release, it said NATPE was “optimistic” about emerging from bankruptcy in a leadership position in the industry.

NATPE, short for the National Association of Television Program Executives, traces its roots almost to the advent of the medium. In the three-network era, the group gained prominence by creating common ground for various constituents to conduct business and exhibit their wares. In the 1980s and ’90s, as the syndication business reached its peak, NATPE symbolized the excesses of the era, as suddenly ascendant producers like King World found ways to spend their windfalls. The company, which syndicated the Oprah Winfrey Show and Wheel of Fortune before an eventual sale to CBS, rented out the Louisiana Superdome one year during NATPE, hosting a party for thousands of guests.

In more recent years, NATPE became a more scaled-down and diversified affair, but its main U.S. event in Miami defied expectations of it following the downward trajectory of the syndication and local TV sectors. The streaming boom offered a new piece of entertainment real estate to explore, and the Miami location offered an opportunity to invite international buyers and sellers. While the go-go days of NATPE’s past were largely in the past, the event found stability, at least until the Covid curtain fell in early 2020.

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