Mip TV embraces new media

Content distributed across multiple platforms

An influx of ad execs, the exploding Russian TV market and escalating openings for international biz all bulwarked attendance at the 45th Mip TV bazaar, which ends today.

After four years of strong growth at the five-day trade fair and confab participant levels were stable — 13,285 vs. 2007’s 13,224.

The number of program buyers was up 10% to 4,414, a sign of the growing hunger for content. Mip exhibition space grew 5.5%, despite stand numbers falling 1%.

The mood at the mart this week underscored two seachanges in the TV biz: an increased interest in international expansion of their TV platforms by U.S. majors and a growing confidence in embracing new media by all comers.

The biggest deal of the market was unveiled at its get go: Warner Bros. and sister company HBO’s inking of a multi-year accord to supply WB movies and HBO series to Orange Cinema Service, a new six-channel bouquet that Orange will deliver by satellite and IPTV to TVs, PCs and mobiles across France.

On the eve of Mip TV, Harvey Weinstein unveiled TWC’s international TV distribution division, with an adaptation of W.E.B. Griffin’s bestselling, post-9/11 espionage thriller “By Order of the President” atop its slate.

Just a couple of years ago, U.S. studio execs at Mip and Mipcom were in a lather about whether digital distribution would mean losing control of the TV biz.

The pattern of play at Mip TV — the U.S. studios, Comcast, Discovery and AETN rolling out branded channels with telcos, or inking traditional program sales with longterm broadcast partners — suggests that, for the short-term at least, that just hasn’t happened.

Do the subscription VOD channels and all the rest really add up?

“The scale initially may be low, but the multiples are going to be high and over time the aggregation of all of this could be very meaningful,” said Warner Bros Intl. TV prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger.

He was talking about studios plowing into local TV production — another trend at Mip. But he could have been referring to emerging technologies.

As Gary Marenzi, MGM co-prexy worldwide TV distribution, put it at Cannes, “It all adds up.”

Deals covering IPTV, VOD and other Internet platforms were common at the mart.

Buzz on specific U.S. shows — rather than the roll-out of U.S.-branded channels or high-profile output deals — was, in contrast, low.

The studios never bring many new series to Mip — those are traditionally presented as pilots at May’s L.A. Screenings.

What little product there was on the Riviera, such as “Knight Rider,” was often locked up in output deals abroad.

The buyers’ take at Cannes, having pow-wowed with network and studio execs, was that the L.A. Screenings will be short on pilots, which might only see the light of day in June or July.

There was some buzz on non-U.S. shows, such as Oz call-girl drama “Satisfaction,” which FremantleMedia pushed hard; “Criminal Justice,” a hard-knuckled Brit crime drama; and BBC Worldwide’s “The Fixer,” from the writers and directors of “Spooks” (aka “MI-5”).

“The question is whether these shows — however good — are just too edgy for primetime for major broadcasters,” said one Euro buyer.

But international fiction is now on buyers’ radar worldwide.

Alchemy’s miniseries “Diamonds” made a splash, with star Louise Rose at Mip. It sold to France’s Canal Plus, which also picked up Mipcom faves “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Pushing Daisies.”

Led by Ogilvy and Havas, ad agency execs suggested hiked revs in Europe from product placement or show sponsorship.

The future role of advertising in TV content, particularly brand integration, was also on the lips of Euro TV execs following the European Union’s Television Without Frontiers directive, which wants to relax limits on the amount of advertising across Europe.

“It’s time for the U.K. to embrace that,” said ShineReveille Group topper Elisabeth Murdoch after delivering a keynote address. “The U.K. is very far behind the times and it has got to change.”

Scandinavia ruled the Interactive Emmy Awards, presented at a Mip gala dinner for the third-year running, with Sweden’s Sveriges TV taking interactive TV service for participation drama “The Truth About Marika” and Finland’s Intervisio scooping interactive program for kids with “Staraoke,” while the U.K.’s WeDigTV won interactive channel.

(Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this report.)

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