Discop grows up

TV mart finishes busy two days in Budapest

BUDAPEST — The NATPE Discop TV market ended Saturday after two days of intense pitching, buying and selling, with participants describing this year’s edition, the market’s largest ever, as the most professional in Discop’s 15-year history.

The new energy reflects the strength of the Central and Eastern European market. In addition, mart repped the introduction of Russian TV product to the international market.

With upwards of 750 companies and 1,500 participants at Budapest’s Sofitel hotel, Discop had grown 50% in buyer participation from a year ago. Attendees remarked that the two-day market was too short to seize opportunities generated.

American companies fueled some of the mart’s growth. They were drawn to central Europe by NATPE, which purchased Discop at the beginning of the year in a bid to expand its reach beyond the U.S. (The 2005 Discop boasted 34 U.S. companies; 47 pre-registered for this year’s event.)

“This year the buyers were way more disciplined,” said market founder and organizer Patrick Jucaud. “The market was a stricter business environment. But this is more of a sign of what this region has become. Central and Eastern Europe is a much more mature market today than it was 15 years ago.”

Participants agreed. “The market was the busiest I had ever seen it,” said Kathy Fairburn, head of programming and acquisitions for the Romantica channel.

Major sellers, such as Fremantle Intl. Distribution, noted a significant increase in sales and interest in the region.

Jucaud attributed the rise in dealmaking to increased competition in the region’s media markets. Territories once serviced by single state broadcasters now have two or more commercial terrestrial networks that must compete with cable and satellite entertainment channels for viewers.

“Because there is more competition they feel the need from their own territories to make deals and buy competitive programming,” Jucaud said.

The special Russian Screenings pavilion underscored how local producers are responding to satisfy the region’s need for good product. Jucaud said buying and selling within the region is stronger than ever and reveals “that there is a real intra-Eastern European market.”

But Bill Peck of Russia’s A Media said the challenge of the mart this year was to introduce Russian programming to the world.

“This is the first time Russian TV is available on the international market,” said Peck, “and the reaction to Russian production values by buyers has been positive and gratifying.”

Reflecting the growing quality and potential of Russian-made programming, the Russian Screenings pavilion represented the product of the country’s two top production companies, A Media and Central Partnership, with 23 titles on the sales block in Budapest.

The success in Budapest was good news to NATPE president Rick Feldman, who spearheaded NATPE’s purchase of Discop in January as part of a strategy to give NATPE a “global footprint.”

Still, Feldman told Daily Variety that he’s not anxious for Discop to change dramatically from its original profile. “We don’t want this market to get too big,” said Feldman. “We will grow each year, but we want it to stay intimate and informal.”

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