Mip flips for Web

150 dot-coms among firms at tradeshow

For the first time, a substantial number of dot-coms dot the Croisette at Cannes this week during the 37th annual Mip trade show, the oldest and still most varied of the proliferating TV marts on the international calendar.

Organizers have gone out of their way to bring Internet companies to the five-day confab — total exhib tally should hit 1,150 companies, of which some 150 are dot-coms. There’s even Mipnet Day, a gabfest devoted to, you guessed it, convergence. Opening keynote today will be delivered by Bertelsmann Broadband Group prexy-CEO Werner Lauff.

There will also be panels devoted to digital rights, branding across platforms and pitch sessions for interactive program projects. Mip, which stands for Marche international des programmes, runs today through Friday. It’s preceded by Mip Doc, a two-day mini-screening marathon devoted to the licensing of documentaries.

Even the opening night Mip gala is being co-sponsored for the first time by an Internet company, Luxembourg-based Europe Online.

Meanwhile, there’s no lack of press announcements, cocktail parties and screenings by more traditional players, both U.S. and European.

Among the highlights:

  • Disney Television Intl. Europe will host a lunch Wednesday where execs will no doubt be at pains over the poisson to explain how things will work in that division. That’s because longtime Europe TV topper Etienne de Villiers has just ankled and an overall international prexy, Michael Johnson, has just been anointed back in Burbank.

  • Top execs from newly merged rival mega congloms — Pearson-CLT/Ufa and Endemol/Telefonica — will be on hand to talk about their tie-ups and their global strategy.

  • The newly named Kirch-Mediaset alliance, Epsilon, will be officially inaugurated at Mip. The group combines the German player’s massive program production and distribution machine with the Italian partner’s expertise in marketing. Hearing how these two quite distinct corporate cultures will mesh should be interesting.

  • A clutch of U.S. cablers, including the History Channel and Playboy, will host pours to announce the launch of additional channel spinoffs in various Euro territories.

H’wood heavies

Down in the exhibitor booths scattered throughout the newly enlarged palais convention center, the Hollywood majors will seize the occasion to talk up their most promising pilots for the fall season.

They’re also bringing to market a substantial number of midseason replacements, three times as many series as they peddled last year.

Among the likely midseason shows to pique buyers’ interest at Mip will be Disney’s quirky “Wonderland,” Fox’s ratings-grabber “Malcolm in the Middle,” and CBS’ medical drama “City of Angels.”

Given their huge libraries, growing store of current series and marketing muscle, the Hollywood majors are far and away the main sellers of movies and TV shows in the worldwide marketplace.

Warners, for example, can count 34 drama and sitcom pilots in its pipeline. Series versions of two popular pics, “The Fugitive” and “L.A. Confidential,” are widely tipped for fall network slots. Drama series are still the bestselling TV item that the majors bring to the international market.

Mip, though, is also a chance for the majors to focus on their growing stock of non-network shows.

Twentieth Century Fox Intl. TV exec VP Marion Edwards points out that Fox has 500 hours of non-net series fare, ranging from A&E biographies to the recent TV movie about the JonBenet Ramsey murder case.

55,000 hours of programs

Over at Paramount, international division prexy Gary Marenzi is talking up shows from the recently acquired Worldvision and Rysher libraries. His company handles a whopping 55,000 hours of programming — not counting product from CBS, with which Par parent Viacom is completing a merger.

“We’re developing strategies for selling more of this library stuff. There’s going to be more aggressive repackaging and repositioning of product,” Marenzi said.

Marenzi also believes that co-production can help alleviate the shortfall in revenues from Euro broadcasters. He points to “Largo Winch,” a series made with France’s M6 and Germany’s ProSieben as proof that such series can be done to the benefit of all parties.

At Universal, exec VPs Peter Hughes and Steve Jarmus will put the accent on hour dramas for cable and for syndication, including “Cover Me” (for USA Network), “Invisible Man” (for the Sci Fi Channel) and the action block “Cleopatra 2525” and “Jack of All Trades” (in syndication).

On the co-production front, U can point to “Randall and Hopkirk,” a comedy-drama from inhouse producer Working Title, as a model for future co-productions. Stars Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer will be in Cannes to tout the series. It is already airing on the BBC.

Columbia TriStar Intl. TV prexy Michael Grindon says his company will use the market to focus on its local production efforts abroad: “Above the Law,” made in Australia with Network 10; “Tequila and Bonetti,” for Italy’s Mediaset; and “Powder Park,” for Germany’s ARD.

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