Steady buying and selling proves critics wrong

BUDAPEST — The 2009 Discop East TV market is the canary in the coal mine of Eastern and Central European international TV distribution — and it remained chirpily healthy despite reports of its imminent demise due to the economic downturn.

Critics who predicted that NATPE’s three-day mart, which wrapped in Budapest on Friday, would be the most vulnerable of the bazaars were proved wrong by the steady buying and selling reported.

“The (overall) market has been slower,” said Annmarie Lesiuk, managing director of distrib Minds Eye Intl. “But (TV stations) still need programming, and business is being done.”

Patrick Jucaud, Discop general manager, admitted that fewer buyers from the central Euro region came to Discop, and they brought less money than last year.

Attendance was slightly down, at a total of 1,500, roughly 50 sellers and 150 buyers less than in 2008.

But those who came did so “wanting to do business,” Jucaud said. “They found solutions and made deals.”

Solutions included cuts in fees, smaller catalogs and shorter deals, Jucaud said. But the upshot was exchanges in cash and content.

Hours before Discop opened, FremantleMedia announced the sale of 90 hours of programming, including “The Adventures of Merlin” to Bulgaria’s BTV, Estonia’s ETV, Hungary’s RTL Klub, Latvia’s Viasat, Lithuania’s BTV, Poland’s Polsat, Romania’s Pro TV, Serbia’s Tramiso, Ukraine’s 1plus1, Russia’s TV3 and Slovenia’s Pro-Plus Pop TV.

Endemol deals included the horror series “Dead Set” and the comedy series “Spoons” to HBO Central Europe, Australia’s “Wipeout” to NTN Ukraine, and “Supersize vs Superskinny” and “The Sex Education Show” to Ukraine’s CITI.

BBC Poland also took “Supersize” and “Dead Set,” and MTV Russia bought VH1′s “America’s Most Smartest Model.”

“I know that the U.S. studios did great business here,” Jucaud said, adding that telenovelas also continued to sell well.

According to Lesiuk, buyers were hungry for “timeless” programming, and reported that Minds Eye’s youth-oriented show “Pirate Camp” proved highly popular with buyers.

Shawn Rosengarten, senior manager for Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival, said interest in comedy, particularly nonverbal slapstick programming, proved strong across markets.

Jucaud reports that after 17 years, Discop — run by the National Assn. of Television Program Executives since 2005 — has now become an established part of the market circuit with its own personality and brand.

“One feedback I got,” said Jucaud, “is that Discop is the sexiest market in the world.”

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