For any sales agent or distrib who seeks business with the rapidly developing territories in Eastern Europe but can’t find time to meet with, say, the buyer from Lithuania or the new Czech private channel at Mip, the Discop East market in Warsaw June 10-12 was the place to be.
Over 50 distribs from Western Europe and the U.S. and about as many buyers from Eastern Europe and Russia convened for three days of surprisingly active trading at this brand-new event — the Intl. Discounted Television Program Mini-market for Eastern and Central European Territories (Discop East for short).
And while one French distrib received the unusual barter offer of furniture for programming from a Romanian channel, all participants polled by Daily Variety were enthusiastic about results and said they’d be back again next year.
“The main thrust at Mip is the major territories, while a lot of buyers from territories we want to do business with, like Central Europe, the new Baltic states and Russia, simply don’t travel. We found this market to be worthwhile,” said David Ellender, director of TV sales for Manifesto.
Of course, program markets catering to a developing TV business can have their drawbacks. Pace was decidedly leisurely, particularly during the first day. A few buyers had never attended a market before and clearly had no inkling of how the commercial process worked.
“They’re taking our brochures but not making any appointments,” one distrib grumbled on the first day.
By day two, however, East had met West and liked what it saw.
“We need to acquire legitimate programming for the former Soviet republics, and this TV market satisfied that need. Most of our channels here are still in diapers, and we don’t have the means to go abroad,” said Gregori Libergal, who manages Internews Broadcasting, a syndicated-type circuit based in Moscow.
Discop East market organizer Remi Salette of Paris-based Happening Prods. said the second Discop East is skedded in Warsaw mid-June 1994 (slightly later in order not to coincide with the L.A. Screenings).
Three more Discops on horizon
Discop East is the first of four discount programming markets organized by Happening with the aim of hooking up sellers with buyers from developing territories. Discop Asia is skedded Dec. 1-3 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with other Discop events for Africa and Latin America to follow in 1994.
Only complaints from sellers were that the market, held in the Hotel Sobieski in central Warsaw, was too spread out on the hotel’s seven floors, and that organizers could have provided more social events for participants to meet.
But sales exex from Freemantle Talbot, Britain’s ITV companies, Mega Entertainment (“Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”), telenovela king Leda Films, Canada’s Alliance and children’s programmer HIT all reported doing more than satisfactory biz. The people at Silvio Berlusconi Communications weren’t complaining, either.
The market was dotted with buyers from small private cable satellite or regional channels like Duna TV and TV 4 in Hungary, Slovenia’s Kanal A, RTV in Estonia, and ATV and Top Canal from Poland. The only fully licensed national private web in central Europe, however, is Czech Independent TV. (Polish private TV licenses will be awarded this summer). The Prague-based CIT is due to go on the air in February, and buyer Michael Morris is putting together its library.
“We’ve had discussions with all the major distributors here about acquiring product,” said Morris. Distribs agreed that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are the only territories in the region able to pay in cash — and increasingly insisting on it. The Baltic states, Russia and the Balkan countries still operate largely on barter or cash-and-barter.
But several program sellers said that they are working on syndication-type deals to supply product to cash-strapped broadcasters in Central and Eastern Europe.
“We’re very near to duplicating the U.S. syndie market here,” said Freemantle senior veep Doug Gluck.