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Attendance down at Mip Asia market

HONG KONG — The Chinese were out in force at this year’s Mip Asia television market (Dec. 4-6), but that wasn’t enough to stop the attendance slide at the event’s fourth go-round in this newly minted Chinese city.

Market organizer Reed Midem said Mip Asia attracted 2,110 delegates from 47 countries, compared with 2,260 from 54 countries last year. There were 307 exhibitors from 30 countries on 200 stands, down from 366 exhibitors from 37 countries with 229 stands last year.

Organizers are hoping to revitalize the market next year by taking it to Singapore. They are banking on avoiding Hong Kong’s exorbitant prices and taking advantage of the proximity to Malaysia, Indonesia and India, countries with huge populations that send few delegates to the market.

It will run next year from Dec. 10-12, in conjunction with the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Assn. of Asia confab, which is also hotfooting it out of Hong Kong. That event will run next Dec. 9-11.

Even though sellers complained that there were fewer buyers this time around, the opposite was true. The number of buyers, 987, was up nearly 14% on 1996. But with the Asian currency crisis still unfolding, there’s little doubt the buyers were keeping a tight hold on the purse strings.

“There aren’t a lot of deals here,” said Serena Aw of Hong Kong’s Sil-Metropole film studio, which usually does most of its business at the European markets. One bright spot for organizers was the uptick in Asian exhibitors, up 16%, to 87 companies.

When Hong Kong was a British colony, the mainland Chinese broadcasters and production houses did not venture over the border. Now that it’s all one country, the mainlanders have taken the opportunity to make their presence felt with standing-room-only press conferences, elaborate stands and a fancy invitation-only chowdown in the Grand Hyatt ballroom. They even brought along a phalanx of the country’s top stars to help sell their latest project, a 43-part historical drama called “The Water Margin.”

A major gripe of the Chinese delegation is that while they import thousands of hours of foreign programs every year, they are constantly pressured to allow in more. At the same time, the Americans and Europeans continue to turn up their Western noses at Chinese products. Of the 2,173 hours of programs the Chinese exported last year, 90% went to Asian buyers.

And Ma Yuanhe, director general of the foreign affairs department at China’s Ministry of Radio, Film and TV, is expecting Jack Valenti to apply more pressure when he arrives in China Dec. 9-11 as part of his Asian tour.

Ma said 20 American films are allowed into China each year and he expects Valenti to push for an increase. “That may well be his wish,” said Ma, who refused to elaborate on what his response will be.

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