Bustling bazaar

New platforms and outlets boost Mipcom

CANNES — “The market? It’s got a whole new energy.”

That’s how StarzMedia exec VP Tom Southwick described the feel of the just-wrapped 22nd annual Mipcom sales bazaar in Cannes.

And he was hardly alone.

An explosion of content, the creation of new windows for new platforms, and the race among the big media players to monetize new-media outlets and user-generated content made for heady days in the French Riviera resort.

A banner strung across the Palais says it all: “Everything you love all in one place. Now programming for Channel One through Infinity.” Though touting AOL Video’s kiosk, it could have stood for the market as a whole.

The ever-expanding array of new shows with high production values — not just the hot American dramas and British made-fors like “Dracula” but also shows from Germany, South Korea and India — suggests competition from outlets to secure rights to top-tier product, from wherever, is not about to level off.

Even that most Latin of genres, the telenovela, is now being reimagined by the Dutch, the Asians and even the Mouse House, with its current primetime retooling of “Betty la Fea” as “Ugly Betty.”

Leading the Korean assault was Geisha love story “Hwangjini,” whose presence was impossible to miss, thanks to an outsized billboard on the front of the Palais.

The Korean Broadcasting System show sold to Vietnam, Taiwan and China — and a German paybox is “interested,” per station execs.

“In the three years we’ve been coming to the Mip markets, our international sales have grown 30%-40% a year,” says KBS marketing director Kim Shin-II.

“We’ve achieved an outstanding record in a very short period,” the topper adds, pointing out that last year, KBS made $40 million from foreign licensing.

Among the Germans, veteran producer Jan Mojto talked about his latest projects to likely spark international interest: Among them are a dramatic retelling of the Hindenburg disaster and a “Schindler’s List”-like saga set in and to be shot in Nanking, China. Both will be shot in English.

Mojto says the production quality of German series and minis is now uniformly high, and that these shows are traveling much more easily abroad.

Alongside the sales bazaar itself, organizers laid on a panoply of panels and keynotes devoted to the issue of the day: how to monetize the new media.

“Turning short, amateurish, free content into longer, professional and paid-for content is what we’re all trying to figure out,” is how one panelist put it.

Google’s deal to buy one such Web site, YouTube, for an eyebrow-raising $1.65 billion got everyone talking.

“This user-generated stuff is all hooey,” was one response; “It’s the end of the old-guard Hollywood producers,” was another.

Mipcom’s Personality of the Year, Time Warner chairman-CEO Richard Parsons, had one of the more measured responses:

“People do have a great desire to communicate with each other without a massager of the message, but I don’t think these things will overrun professionally generated content.”

Most of the record 12,500 participants bore him out, as they purposefully went about the business of buying “professionally made” programs. Chock-a-block meetings took place throughout the newly expanded Palais during the first four days of the bazaar. Mipcom wrapped Oct. 13.

Among the Americans, Disney continues to have a hot hand, and Mouseketeers were working hard last week to turn newcomer series “Ugly Betty” into another global hit.

Mouse House distribution topper Laurie Younger says new thresholds in pricing had been breached, suggesting that at least two of Disney’s top dramas (probably “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives”) are now raking in more than $1.5 million an episode from foreign TV outlets.

Hitting $750,000 an episode was a benchmark just five years ago.

Other Yank series — CBS-Par’s “Jericho,” NBC U’s “Heroes” and Warners “The Nine” — also seemed to have traction.

And while not yet routine, licensing arrangements for catch-up episodes, previews and Web-first premiers of product with new media platforms abroad are becoming ever more common.

“Everybody is applying themselves to this,” says Sony senior VP Stuart Baxter, in charge of distribution and new media development for the studio in Europe.

“And yes,” he adds, ” it’s starting to generate incremental revenue for us.”

(Liza Foreman and Alison James contributed to this report.)

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