FROM HAL: Our Mat Tombers continues his series of Exclusive
reports filed from MIP TV in Cannes, France.
TV -- CONTINUED!
By Mat Tombers
Embedded at MIP
MIP is the granddaddy of international sales markets. It
40th anniversary this year. In front of the Palais de Festival,
part, to house MIP, was a six foot cake and ten thousand plastic
flutes to celebrate the event. An anniversary poster was designed
British artist living on Mykonos and the city of Cannes planned
fireworks to celebrate the event.
However, at the last moment, the fireworks were cancelled
because the city
felt it was inappropriate to have fireworks while a war was
waging in Iraq.
And it was the war that put a cloud on MIP as well as the
rest of the world.
Whenever I introduced myself to someone from outside the U.S.
the same joke
was made: I was one of the five Americans that showed up.
Most of the
people who cancelled were Americans. They were followed by
cowed by the combination of war and SARS.
The first day, the Palais seemed as empty as NATPE this year,
a party thrown
to which no one had come.
The ones who were hardest hit were people whod come
from New Zealand and
Australia to meet Americans who didnt show.
On the days following the opening of MIP, a semblance of
to the market. When the final figures came in, the market
officially down by about a thousand people. The number of
companies, counting, though, I think the empty booths, was
actually up from
the year before. Many Europeans flew in Monday night and left
evening. In and out; quick and clean.
But MIP, like NATPE, is no longer the market that it once
was. It will
probably never be what it once was. Television is not the
business that it
once was. It is still a healthy business but it is not the
it was a few years ago; certainly it is not the business it
was ten or
fifteen years ago. But that THIS market even happened was
a statement of
the strength of television as a business that must continue
to be fed.
MIP, like NATPE, is suffering from the same set of circumstances
afflicts the television business everywhere. Consolidation
has taken its
toll, the global economy is fragile and its fragility affects
advertisers who are splitting their ad dollars across the
greater number of
channels that are finding their way into homes on every continent.
the most part, everyone wants to program toward 18
34 year olds.
This, a fact I have suspected, was confirmed by Lilliana
Manager of Beyond Distribution, who is based in London. She
also made one
of the wisest observations I have heard about international
most places in the world television is a way to show something;
it is a way to sell something.
Christina Denilauler at ZDF Enterprises pointed out that
just as domestically, there are fewer dollars or euros for
production and so
productions are smaller or more intricately financed. This
was a common
theme heard over and over again during MIP. Non-fiction programming
getting as difficult to finance as fiction.
[ZDF, RAI and a couple of other companies are producing Augustus,
Peter OToole and Charlotte Rampling, as part of the
series. The war cancelled a boondoggle for press; they were
going to fly
some to the set in Tunisia but rethought that when the bombs
began to fall
Christina also said the magic word of MIP: FORMATS!
FORMATS! FORMATS! FORMATS! A successful format is the Holy
production companies from Los Angeles to Moscow to Singapore
to Tokyo. The
entire conference murmured the word format as
a magic money mantra. If
only we can find a format our production company
will be saved or made!
But the reality, as pointed out by the head of Celador, creator
of WHO WANTS
TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?, is that there are only seven or so formats
managed to be successful in more than twenty-five countries.
in 160 plus countries.
Celadors challenge is not to be a one hit wonder while
most companies would
want to have one hit like MILLIONAIRE.
All in all, though, the conference was better attended than
it would be and the business was better than people feared
it would be.
The big themes [as in selling] in non-fiction are: the paranormal,
docusoaps and mysteries. History keeps going back over the
Egyptian, Biblical, Greek and Roman. Mummies have continued
to sell as well
as they ever have.
Yvonne Body, Head of Co-Production & Acquisitions for
agreed with the strength of history as a strand and agreed
that the themes
above have been strong sellers, especially if theyre
blue chip projects.
Jimmy Duggan, Head of Documentaries for Irelands Tyrone
justifiably was frustrated by the inability of audiences to
parts of history. Are there really not enough people on earth
a history of the Mogul Empire to justify a program?
MIP is also diminished because it is fading as a gathering
commissioning editors. Theyre seeking out their meetings
in smaller, more
manageable venues such as Sunny Side of the Doc, HotDocs or
places where its not just a market but places where
they can learn as well
as be pitched, where they can view as well as listen.
Kaye Warren of the ABC/Australia pointed out that commissioning
to be coming to MIP only when they need to look for funds
for docs they have
commissioned at home but for which they dont have all
It was, generally, a good market, a market of intense, good
pointed out by Christina Willoughby of Chrysalis Distribution.
For Gary Lico and his company, CABLE READY, it was the best
MIP ever. The
Asians were busy buying as never before and that boosted the
earlier expectations but it was more a market of acquisitions
pre-sales than a commissioning market.
Gary also pointed out a fact that has always been true but
in a time of
declining business is more true than ever before: relationships
MIP and MIPCOM have been THE gathering place. It is likely
continue to be that kind of place but they will not be as
much that kind of
place as they have been. The great, grand days of the television
are over like the business itself, they are becoming
specialized and products of consolidation.
READ MAT'S WEEKLY COLUMN HERE