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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

October 5, 2006

Tombers is Off To MIPCOM

Like thousands of other people who work in and around the television business, I am off to MIPCOM, the fall version of the MIP TV Markets, the bi-annual confab that brings together buyers and sellers.

Like all markets [look at America’s NATPE] it is undergoing transitions and transformations. From a relatively small and clubby group of people who landed on the famed Croissette years ago, it has grown to much larger numbers, approximately 12,000 plus this year. And yet that is down a bit from its halcyon days in the late 1990’s.

The television business is changing and last spring, while the business was still about the buying and selling of traditional programming, all the talk was about mobile. In the months post MIP, there was a dramatic shift in network requests regarding program proposals. It was becoming expected that producers arrive for their pitch with broadband and mobile opportunities plotted out as well as having a sound proposal for a linear television program. Programs that had all of those elements conceived moved to the top of the development pile for consideration.

It is a fundamental shift in the way television is perceived. Discovery Networks USA is beginning to organize itself around “content areas” rather than networks. The WGA is agitating for greater compensation for work by its members on content for additional platforms beyond television. ABC has been blazing the way for broadband exploitation of linear content, beginning with the ability to download complete episodes to creating intricate content around its series LOST, which has become the poster child for content in the “post television” universe.

How to cope with all this change, this expansion of definition of “content” is an issue facing all producers of all kinds of programs.

CINE is in conversation with the PGA and the producers of the REAL SCREEN conference in D.C. to see if it is possible to produce a panel that addresses these issues for individuals working in the non-fiction world for that conference.

It is a Wild West sort of content world out there where some projects are being conceived for the web, so that they might be tested to see if they can make it to the larger screen. It is now possible to push content out to mobile phones all around the world from one source, marrying content and advertising in a “New York minute” designed to appeal to the youthful consumers who are the biggest demographic contingent of mobile video content consumers., and are internet examples of content aggregators that are seemingly successfully exploiting this thing called “user generated content,” the explosion of content created by anyone with a digital camera or camera phone, catching extemporaneous moments of life from Oprah attempting to fill her car with gas to the results of mixing Mentos and a liter of Coke. All interesting…

These services are also providing other opportunities – including a failed pilot for one network that ended up on YouTube and found its way to another network which was encouraged by the positive response on the net. Political discourse is being changed by the dynamics of video file sharing from “non-professionals” as is advertising and seemingly everything else in Western Civilization.

It is, as Dickens famously noted, “the best of times and the worst of times.” The business and content creation challenges and opportunities for producers are enormous, rapidly evolving and being influenced and shaped by countless users who are defining what will be visually and intellectually arresting content.

There are those who work in television who feel they are living in a land as ungovernable as DEADWOOD and as confusing as the plot of LOST. MIPCOM will probably provide no answers but certainly will give clues as to the direction of the world in which we live and by which we hope to make a living.