Distributors set upbeat tone

Distributors at the 25th Mipcom sales market seem buoyed by a mood of optimism — and it’s not just due to the sunny skies and balmy temperatures here in Cannes.

“There’s a real sense that things are starting to get better,” said Chris Grant, topper at L.A.-based Shine Intl., prepping for today’s opening. He said his slate was four or even fives times bigger than the last time he made the trek to the south of France.

Some 12,000 participants, including 4,000 buyers from 100 countries, have registered, slightly down on last fall’s Mipcom, when 12,500 delegates attended, but up on April’s Mip TV mart with 11,500 participants.

“All the key players are here,” said a spokeswoman for organizer Reed Midem. “We’re looking busy and vibrant in light of the economic context.”

She said buyers from Asia and Latin America were out in force, with Thailand, China and Brazil all well represented.

Distribs appeared cautiously upbeat as they set up shop at the Palais des Festivals.

“I’ve got back-to-back meetings, more than I’ve ever had before, from first thing Monday morning until I get back on the plane on Wednesday evening,” added Richard Tulk-Hart, FremantleMedia Enterprises’ VP of home entertainment sales for Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

“It remains to be seen whether people are here because they want to do real business of if they’re here just to show their faces.”

Shine’s Grant predicted that the market will again see strong demand for event programming and big entertainment vehicles.

Shine has signed deals ahead of Mipcom for more than 30 programs, including TruTV’s “Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel,” Speed Channel’s “Setup” and MTV’s “The Buried Life.”

“A year ago people were wondering who would turn up for Mipcom,” Grant said. “Then, everyone was talking about the economy, but now people are much more upbeat.”

A number of conference sessions will tackle the hot potato of monetizing video-on-demand, a goal that remains as elusive as ever.

“We’re all trying to figure out how that model works so that everyone makes money,” Grant said.

With luck, by the time the market ends Thursday there may be more of a clear idea how content owners can generate coin from online activities.

“Advertising on free-to-air networks is never going to return to the glory days,” forecast PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Hong-Kong based Marcel Fenez. “In the future everyone will need to be flexible as distributors, producers and brand owners form new kinds of relationships.”

That may be so, but expect to hear the “content is king” mantra as the market gets under way.

One highlight will be a keynote speech from Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons.” The Croisette will glow yellow as Groening, along with executive producer Al Jean, attend Mipcom on Tuesday to celebrate the toon’s 20th anniversary.

Mipcom organizer Reed Midem is a sister company of Daily Variety.

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