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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at
If you're not familar with it, MIPTV is a huge international event in Cannes, France. According to Reed MIDEM’s TV Division Director René Pérès it's "...where international players from the TV industry make an appointment with the TV world. Offering five days of non-stop business, it is the place to do or prepare the maximum amount of decisive deals in a few days. For those involved in TV broadcasting, programme production & distribution for TV, video & the Internet, advertising, licensing & merchandising, consultancy, service companies, and new media…it’s the market where programming policies are implemented and trends are spotted. Opened in 1963, MIPTV has firmly established itself in the TV executives’ calendar and has become a must-attend event. Buying and selling, promoting, networking, learning, discovering…all form part of the MIPTV working week. The Palais des Festivals in Cannes provides the perfect backdrop for this flourish of activity. And this year, we’ll be celebrating forty years of the MIPTV market, with a range of special events." Our Mat Tombers hopped a plane to France for the event and has filed several reports starting with one before actually heading to Cannes.

By Mat Tombers
Reporting from Cannes, France EXCLUSIVELY for

The First Day of War, On the Way to MIP

While I write this, CNN is on in the background, as either it or the BBC have been for much of the day. I have worked from home today as I am preparing to leave for MIP on Saturday.

First of all, I assume, wrongly, that everyone in the world knows what MIP and MIPCOM are.

There are three great television conventions. One of them is NATPE, which is held here in the U.S., a gathering of all who sell television programs and all of those who buy television programs. For years, it was very domestically oriented and then, about a decade ago, it began to attract buyers from abroad. Cable networks began to use it to meet their suppliers and the tone of the gathering changed from a gathering of independent televisions stations to a full fledged television market, attracting global buyers and sellers. It was also held generally in either New Orleans or Las Vegas, which gave everyone ample opportunity to indulge in the Seven Deadly Sins.

MIP and MIPCOM are the other two great markets. If you are a serious buyer or a serious seller of television product, you are at these two conferences, held at the Palais des Festival in Cannes, France and buy and sell. MIP happens in the spring; MIPCOM in the fall. The Cannes Film Festival gets the best weather - other media are relegated to shoulder weather season.

It sounds glamorous but it's all business.

If you were at NATPE this year, you are painfully aware that the markets are changing because television is changing. NATPE was a diminished market, tiny in comparison to halcyon days of only two years ago. Media consolidation and depressed markets have taken their toll.

Rumor has it that the MIP market is beginning to show the signs of change, also. It's that pesky media consolidation and depressed markets having their way.

There is no doubt this year will be very different. How could it not be? As I write this, the cavalry is charging into Iraq, bombs are falling there though we haven't yet seen the campaign of awe and confusion…yet. Thank god.

People are dropping out of MIP now that the bombs are really falling. But I will still go. I will be covering it for, giving the best insights into the market I can while the Iraq war plays itself around us, shaping the world of tomorrow as we go through today.

Friends even think I'll be safer there than in New York. After all, the French have been the most vocal with their disapproval of what we're doing. I'm flying a German airline - they've been number two in disagreement with the U.S. [Though I wonder how the French are feeling about the traces of ricin found in Paris?]

But I've never traveled during a time of war. Like this. It's a quiet war so far and being conducted, if any war can be conducted so, with some restraint. May it stay that way.

New York is on high alert. Both the Governor and the Mayor have spoken about the steps being taken to stop terrorism, though they can't say much for obvious reasons.

I get on the subway at Wall Street, which is more heavily guarded than at any time since 9/11. Barricades were being put in place outside the U.S. Court of International Trade to prevent a vehicle from having a run straight from the street into the building.

A quiet, resigned fear is upon all of us. The die has been cast. One Rubicon was crossed on 9/11; another was crossed when we fired into Baghdad. There is no going back. We will all now live in the world that we have created, from both sides. The action has its reaction and so on and so on…

How television responds to all the action and reaction will, in part, be shaped by the conversations that happen at MIP and the take on the industry and the world these professionals will be having over the next week. That will shape their actions and reactions.
Day 1

So, this is how it is, tonight. I flew all night from JFK to Munich, and I was prepared for anything. A friend of American Public Television announced her decision to pull the plug on their group coming to Cannes because of stories of long and bitter delays.

I experienced one of the easiest check-ins I have for a long time. I got to JFK long before it was time for my flight and my check-in went very smoothly, much more smoothly any other flight I’ve had for a long time. But then, the airport was distinctly less populated than it has been.

Mileage put me into Business Class, which was only half full. There were only three or four people in First Class and Economy was a little less than 2/3 full. But it all went smoothly. We took off from JFK on time and we landed in Munich early. The only odd thing was the armored vehicles parked on the tarmac at Munich. The transfer to Nice was easy; I did Passport Control in Munich and it was easier than almost any I’ve been through for a long time.

I took a taxi in from Nice Airport and I was ripped off, but only mildly, by a taxi driver who spoke English and was very pleasant. So I wasn’t all that upset about being ripped off. When I left, I wasn’t so worried about Al Qaeda but I was bit concerned about the French.

We’re NOT on good terms with them and I know how difficult the French can be, because I’ve been in France a number of times and witnessed both their best and their worst. This has been okay. And I didn’t think it was going to be okay.

I know this isn’t a normal MIP. I was able to get, at the last minute, a hotel room within walking distance of the Palais. And that isn’t what should be, though, selfishly I’m glad.

At 7:00 I went to the Terrace Bar at the Majestic to meet someone from NRD but we never connected. May be I wasn’t obvious enough about looking for someone; may be he didn’t see me being obvious enough about looking for him but the Terrace Bar on the Sunday night before MIP should be completely impossible. It was crowded but not impossible.

The feel is a little bit, so far, of NATPE this year. Diminished but not dead. But this conference is not as diminished as NATPE was this year but it doesn’t quite feel the way it should.

However, the people that are missing are the ones from the Coalition of the Willing. The Americans, the Aussies but not the Brits. They seem, as they always seem, to be everywhere.

MIP Days 2, 3, 4

I am sitting in my hotel room tonight; the war is going on in the background. MIP is happening around me.

The conference is going on, despite the war. As an American who is here, I am considered a bit of a wonder. The joke is that I am one of the five Yanks here. It’s not quite that bad. There are more than five of us but the most obvious absences are the Americans.

This afternoon, as I was nibbling on my sandwich in the area between the Espace Riviera and the 01’s, I felt particularly badly for the Australians who were sitting at the table with me and who had come all this way – which is a LONG way if you’re coming from Australia, to meet people who aren’t here.

The Japanese are not here. The question is whether it was the war or was it the SARS flu that is going on. The rumor is it that they didn’t come because they didn’t want to be on a plane so long that they would contract the flu that is now flu to be feared.

But it might be the war and the flu was a good excuse.

But all around me the business of television is going on. The people who are staying in apartments rather than hotels are always eager in the morning from updates from those who are in hotels. What’s happening in Basra? Is there an uprising?

But no one has real answers. The war is going on longer than some people expected. The Gulf War gave us an expectation that war went on for seventy-two hours. That’s not what’s going on here.

What’s going on here is that war is going to go on now as long as I am alive and as long as anyone who reads this is alive. And we will be doing business against this backdrop of war as long as we are doing business. Business is the life blood of commerce and it is commerce that pays the taxes that pays for war so we will be at war and we will be paying for war as we do everything we need to do to keep alive.

This is the choice that George W. Bush has made for us. We may win this round but we will be forced to fight round after round to not lose what we might have gained.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the backdrop against which we will be doing business for the rest of our lives. Everyone who is here knows that but they don’t want to admit it. But it is what everyone knows in their heart and soul.

We have changed the tapestry which is the backdrop against which we will do business. It won’t be the same for the rest of my life; it probably won’t be the same for any of us.

Tonight I had dinner with a new friend of the last year. We had a meeting one day a few months ago and he looked at me and said then: it just didn’t seem right that we, Americans, would be invading a country and I totally understood. The internal image of America we grew up with was that of a country which does not invade any other country unless they have thrown the first stone.

Right now I am talking about the psychology of what is going on. In my next report I will talk about what I learned about the specifics of the business while here.