Outlook for MIP poor after market, industry bumps

PARIS — Equal delegations of Asian and non-Asian television sales execs will gather in Hong Kong’s swanky Convention & Exhibition Center Dec. 4-6 for the fourth edition of the Mip Asia television market.

Despite an anticipated record number of buyers — estimates are that some 800 will be patrolling the stands looking for product — this year’s event comes at an inauspicious time. Currency slides and stock market slumps in Asia have left many local companies count-ing their coins as their purchasing power has dropped by nearly 30%. Ironically, this has translated into a decline in the number of sellers compared to 1996.

Reed Midem Organization, which runs Mip Asia, has been in this situation before — its veteran Mip TV mart lost money for the first 12 years — but Midem’s television division director Rene Peres admits that the economic downturn in Asia “will make things a little more difficult.”

The clearest indication of how difficult, is that standholders, looking to sell their programs to Asia, are down in number. Peres estimates the shortfall will be around 10% from 1996’s 229 stands and that the bulk of the defectors are from outside Asia. “I think some Western sellers have looked at the economic situation in Asia and decided that Buyers won’t have the cash to purchase,” noted Peres.

The upside is that local companies, led by a strong Japanese contingent, will be sending more sales execs than ever and that the film community, including first-time mart attendee American Film Marketing Assn., is beginning to test the Asian waters. AFMA’s umbrella stand will play host to the likes of Alliance, Trident Re-leasing, Moonstone and Troma, although exactly what Asian acqui-sition chiefs will make of Troma’s “Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town” is anyone’s guess.

Peres and his team have been playing down the significance of the Asian economic difficulties, insisting that Mip Asia offers a one-stop window on a market which is for long-term players.

“The difference between Asia now and two years ago is that new television services actually exist, whereas in 1995 people were talking about projects. Those channels may be suffering financially for the moment, but they still need to fill their hours with pro-gramming.”

What’s new this year, Peres says, is that “Western” acquisitions execs will also be out in force this year, spurred by the fact that half the sales stands are touting Asian fare. The U.S. still leads the pack in terms of stands (40), but Japan is almost level pegging “In the past we have had a handful of acquisition companies from the West,” noted Peres. “This year there are over 100.”

With so many entertainment execs still looking hungrily at op-portunities to do business with China, Mip Asia is this year hosting two conference sessions aimed at explaining how best to work with the Chinese. “I think we are going to see that the heavyweight Chinese players are now in a position to co-produce and it will be fascinating to find out on what terms,” commented Rene Peres.

On the on-going question of whether Mip Asia will remain in Hong Kong, Peres remains diplomatically discrete. A return to the former British colony has not entirely been ruled out for 1998, but Singapore is making a very strong bid and Bali is also an outside runner. Rumors that the event could be heading down to Australia, appear unfounded, largely because many Asian countries don’t consider the great Oz to be part of the region.

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