Market back on track after mid-90s slump

PARIS — After a crisis in the mid-1990s and a stabilization last year, the annual Monte Carlo television market (Feb. 23-26) has reported that marketing efforts have paid off.

Acknowledging that the event was battered by declining attendance and general discontent three years ago, market director David Tomatis told reporters in Paris that with two months still to go before the market kicks off, buyers already signed up for the 1998 gathering number 330, compared to 220 this time last year.

And while some of the U.S. heavyweights, such as Disney and Fox, continue to avoid Monte Carlo, Tomatis has been heartened by the return of NBC Enterprises and Japanese toon-sters Toei Animation among the exhibiting companies, as well as the first-time arrival of Dutch giant Ende-mol.

“I don’t think people are asking the question about the future of the market anymore,” noted Tomatis. “We have made a particular effort to attract Spanish, British and German buyers and that effort has been worthwhile,” he added.

Much smaller than the likes of NATPE, or the Cannes-based markets Mip Television or Mipcom, Monte Carlo’s trump card has traditionally been that it provides time for buyers and sellers to discuss business. At its peak, the market, housed in the Hotel Loews, attracted some 150 exhibitors, but that figure dipped around 1994 before stabilizing at 130 last year.

Fighting back has involved keeping participation prices steady for the past three years, while attempting to improve services. In 1998, Tomatis and his team are introducing a screening room for buyers, allowing them to watch programs away from the sales reps.

“The service is free and distribution companies can make six programs available,” commented the mart director. In its first year, the new service offers 15 screening booths.

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