New media grip MIP

Digital content is king at trade show

Fueled by a dizzying array of digitally driven gizmos and platforms, the 22nd annual Mipcom TV trade show, which wraps today, proved to be a heady mix of punditry and dealmaking.

An all-time record 12,500 participants crowded the convention floors of the Palais for the five-day sales bazaar, where everything from Hollywood series to Latin telenovelas, kidvid, Korean drama and original content for mobile phones vied for the attention of buyers.

“We’ve seen double-digit growth in the number of digital buyers attending this year, and they’re not just looking,” said Paul Johnson, head of Reed Midem’s TV division, which organizes the event. Overall, Johnson said, the growth in attendance was 10%, with this week’s edition drawing the largest single contingent of media mavens in the history of Mipcom or sister market Mip.

There was also, Johnson added, a notable uptick in the number of buyers from the Mideast, India and China, bringing the total of registered buyers to 3,800.

While the trade show doesn’t officially wrap until this afternoon, a more relaxed atmosphere had set in by Thursday afternoon.

Last keynoter of the week, NBC Universal prexy of digital media Beth Comstock, took the floor in the morning, telling her audience that times have indeed changed: “For years, we’ve heard ‘content is king.’ Well, like it or not, there’s been a revolution. Content is still king, but the monarchy has been overthrown. YouTube, MySpace, iTunes — it’s the invasion of the pronouns in a world all about me.”

Comstock’s address followed several other provocative sessions sprinkled throughout the week. Todd Wagner of 2929 Entertainment called for studios to radicalize their release schedules by moving to day-and-date strategies across all platforms, and MGM chairman Harry Sloan offered a stunning statistic: A trillion dollars is now being pumped into new media worldwide.

Those who attended the Mobile Awards at Mipcom would have seen just how quirky, playful and sophisticated this product now is: Japan, Taiwan, U.K., Oz and Italy came up winners in various categories.

There was also a modest star factor: Pierce Brosnan flew in to tout his upcoming role in MGM’s “Thomas Crown Affair” sequel, and “Prison Break” stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell glad-handed with foreign buyers on the Fox stand.

As usual, the Hollywood majors did not go out of their way to unveil big deals, though all made a point of saying that new ways of exploiting their material abroad are, if not routine, definitely more common.

Disney did announce a number of disparate agreements for shows like “The Amazing Race,” which is being localized in several foreign territories, and “High School Musical,” which is finding a following across much of Europe.

Warners put out a release, at the request of the buyers, to herald a multiyear deal with the Ukraine’s Inter TV and ICTV for movies and TV series, including this fall’s Warner-distribbed newcomers. Pricetag is estimated at upwards of $10 million as the territory is picking up steam commercially.

A much bigger deal, for Warners’ 2006 slate of shows and movies with Germany’s Herbert Kloiber, also came to light but was probably inked months ago. Deal renewed an existing agreement with the Teutonic middleman, who was rumored to have smacked down $120 million for German rights to the 2006 product. His previous agreement had apparently paid off.

In any case, money was not a problem at this year’s Mipcom: Everyone seemed to have enough of it to buy what they wanted.

“I’ve screened more shows here and seen more sellers than I get to do in a year back home,” said one Eastern European buyer rep. “And some of the shows I’m going to go after.”

At the preceding Mipcom Jr. two-day screening marathon last weekend, the most viewed show was Aardman Studio’s “Sean the Sheep,” and at the adjacent telenovela-thon, the most watched show was Tepuy’s sudser “Accessory to Love.”

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