HONG KONG – The third annual Mip Asia in Hong Kong was marked by a flurry of deals ranging from MGM’s agreement to provide Hong Kong with film classics to E! Entertainment’s biggest sale yet to Japan.

Yet the market, which ended Saturday, clearly failed to establish itself as much more than an intra-Asian affair.

The only major U.S. studio with a booth this year was MCA, even though executives of other majors, including Paramount, Columbia and Disney, were seen walking the floor. MCA wasn’t complaining.

“This event is certainly no Mipcom,” said Peter Hughes, executive VP of international at MCA. “But this year I’ve noticed changes in the quality of the business and deals. We’ve had much more … substantial deals, mainly in feature films, with some Japanese companies,” including licensing the “American Gothic” series to a major Japanese firm, Hughes said.

Lack of majors

The lack of major studios with booths at the event was the source of many exhibitors’ grousing, but others said they were glad the Americans stayed home.

“The buyers have come with money to spend,” said Peter Rhodes, managing director of Reed Midem Organization, which hosts the event. “Some clients have said they like the fact that the Americans aren’t here, because they get the deals instead.”

Participants numbered 2,085, about the same as last year’s 2,087, yet down one-third from the first show. The number of exhibitors was 364, up from 311 in 1995. Japanese accounted for the largest number of participants, while Asians overall took 156 booths. Europeans held 127 booths, up 12.6%, while Americans had 61 booths, down 22.9%.

Some of the intra-Asian deals included HVD Entertainment of Malaysia’s signing a deal with Taiwan’s Golden Slogan for a minimum of 200 hours of drama-led programming. The deal will represent at least $250,000 in business.

Beijing TV Enterprises launched its export drive at Mip Asia, with the sale of an entertainment documentary to ATV Hong Kong. And the Japanese continued their own export juggernaut of animation productions, according to Tokyo Broadcasting System and NHK.

While Asian trade accounted for the bulk of deals at the event, there were notable exceptions.

Gary Marenzi, president of MGM Telecommunications Group, announced a deal Friday with Hong Kong’s cable TV, run by Wharf Cable, to provide Hong Kong viewers with MGM classics and recent releases 365 days a year starting Jan. 1. Officials would not reveal dollar figures for the deal.

“Hong Kong is the focal point of this industry and region,” Marenzi said. “This deal got us in the door. So many people want to get into this market but can’t because of the limited capability here,” Marenzi added, referring to the relatively few cable channels in Hong Kong.

E! Entertainment’s largest deal to date in Japan was with Vis-a-Vision, a Japanese program buyer. E! Entertainment will provide “FYE!” “In Focus,” “The Gossip Show” and “E! News Daily.” The programs will be shown on channels on PerfecTV, the direct-to-home digital platform.

Xavier Roy, chief executive of Reed Midem, acknowledged that Asians dominated the event, but said that was a source of its strength.

“We don’t expect Mip Asia to ever reach the size of Mipcom. Here it’s more regional. But it’s an important market that can’t be ignored,” Roy said.

Next year’s event will take place Dec. 4-6 in Hong Kong after the British colony is returned to Chinese rule.

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