TV heavyweights flex int’l muscle at confab

Hit-heavy studios seek mart moolah

CANNES — It’s been 20 years since the Croisette last saw a single U.S. TV distributor with a trio of international series hits.

But Disney, with “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and increasingly “Grey’s Anatomy,” now fits that bill. One could argue Alliance Atlantis, which sells the three “CSI” series abroad, does too.

For the last such coup by a single supplier, you’d have to go back to the mid-1980s, when “Miami Vice,” “Magnum” and “The A-Team” minted millions for MCA TV, the precursor of NBC Universal.

In other words, there are some hot hands among the Hollywood heavyweights at Mipcom, with each one bent on parlaying its new shows into primetime, or at least cult status, in the top territories.

Trying hard to pump its latest cache of newcomer series is Fox, which in the ’90s basked in the glory of “The Simpsons” and “The X-Files” as those two series took the international markets by storm.

This time around, Fox is releasing the stars of its sophomore hit “Prison Break” — including Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell — onto the Riviera resort, where they’ll be glad-handing station toppers from around the world and submitting to one-on-ones with key foreign press.

Fox Intl. TV toppers point out that the show is doing impressive ratings numbers in a variety of territories, including France (M6), Britain (Channel 5/UKTV Gold) and South Africa (MNet).

All the Hollywood majors will be heavily repped at the trade show, with the Mouse House planning a blowout on its boat today to talk up its new crop of potential international hits. Disney is bringing over top distribution exec Laurie Younger to do the honors. Others, including the newly pumped up MGM and newly retooled Paramount Intl. TV, will try to cut a wider swathe on the Croisette.

U.S. indie players also are hoping to make a splash:

  • Robert Halmi’s RHI Entertainment will unveil deals for its latest raft of miniseries, including “Marco Polo” and “Killer Wave,” as well as action thriller “Grizzly Rage.”

  • Animation house DIC is celebrating 25 years in the biz and will be making a push for new animated series “Horseland.”

  • “The Bold and the Beautiful” distributor BBL is stepping up efforts to secure deals in a handful of territories that remain elusive, including the U.K., Spain, Japan, China and Russia.

  • Jon Helmrich’s IBC is celebrating its fifth anniversary and a benchmark 3,000 programming hours licensed abroad in that period.

Though the buying and selling of program rights is still the bread and butter of Mipcom, new media will take center stage at the 22nd annual fall trade show, as producers and distributors come to grips with digital platforms and how to make them pay off.

Disney’s Anne Sweeney will deliver a keynote whose title says it all: “The Today and Tomorrow of TV and the New Entertainment Consumer.” The co-chair of Disney Media Networks and prexy of the ABC TV Group will discuss how the Mouse House is repurposing its content and producing original material for the iPod and for technology yet to hit the market.

Other panels and workshops spread out through the day will focus variously on how to commission content for new digital platforms, how to write for these new outlets and how to brand content for them.

“The titles may be cumbersome (“The Broadband Consumer Experience, Emerging Value Chains & New Business Models for Film and TV”), but a lot of folks are expected to show up to learn about these new outlets,” said one longtime Mipcom attendee.

Among the speakers are GroupM Entertainment’s Peter Tortorici, Reveille’s Ben Silverman and Talkback Thames’ Johnathan Young as well as Microsoft’s Gregory Nelson, Hutchison 3G’s Morgan Holt and MobiTV’s Greg Brannan.

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