TV executives from around the world ankled Monte Carlo Feb. 16, with opinions on the future of this TV market as divided as ever.

At least two U.S. heavyweights, Warner Bros. Intl. TV and CBS Broadcast Intl., are giving serious thought to foregoing the market in 1996.

CBS insiders said that if the company did come back, it would probably be with a smaller sales force, while Warner TV Intl. prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger admitted that future participation was under review.

But other U.S. majors, including the Paramount team, MGM/UA and MCA TV Intl., were upbeat, promising to return for next year’s gathering Feb. 12-15.

“This is a very good market for us. If we dropped anything it would probably be Mip TV,” said Paramount Intl. TV topper Bruce Gordon, whose views were shared by his counterpart at MCA, Colin Davis.

Buyers appeared to be happy, with BSkyB’s acquisitions topper Jeremy Boulton talking deals with MCA’s Davis, among others. Scandinavian buyers, who have traditionally supported Monte Carlo, were reported to be actively acquiring packages from the U.S. majors.

As the market wound down, most execs argued that as long as the big U.S. distributors continued to attend, the buyers would remain loyal. That in turn means that smaller independent sales operations will return to Monte Carlo.

One year after quitting Warner Bros. Intl. Television, and armed with a new $75 million fighting fund from banking partners, Michael Jay Solomon marked his return to Monte Carlo by closing an output deal with French web M6, believed initially to be for three years. Solomon will distribute a combo of M6 product in Latin America.

In typically upbeat form, Solomon told Variety he is about to team up with “two major European players” to form a worldwide TV acquisitions operation and will separately form a TV production company in Europe later this year. Solomon Intl. Enterprises was tub-thumping the miniseries “Catherine the Great,” which premiered here and reported sales to Spain, Sweden and Finland.

While Monte Carlo’s main problem continues to be its proximity to NATPE, the more relaxed atmosphere in the Hotel Loews venue and the abundance of “quality time” for buyers and sellers to talk or screen product has encouraged some sales companies to unveil product at Monte Carlo.

“We essentially launched ‘Outer Limits’ here, although we did a couple of deals in Las Vegas,” said MGM/UA Telecommunications group president Gary Marenzi, who estimated “between 40% and 45% of dollar business on ‘Outer Limits’ will originate from this market.”

Granada LWT Intl. also chose Monte Carlo to launch its “Band of Gold” (six episodes of 52 minutes each), bringing thesp Geraldine James down to support the series. “There is too much happening at Mip TV or Mipcom,” observed sales topper Nadine Nohr. “The effect of a launch at those markets gets diluted.” Norway’s TV Norge bought the series on the spot here.

Although the market wasn’t swamped with announcements of major acquisition agreements, several of the larger sales companies insisted that they were well down the road to closing large package deals.

The BBC expects to conclude negotiations on packages destined for Scandinavia, Benelux and Eastern Europe within the coming weeks and MGM/UA’s Marenzi said he was in talks with Scandinavian buyers as well as Britain’s Bravo.

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