Countries come with diverse agendas

Judgement daze | Foreign-language TV still foreign to U.S. auds | ‘Dead’ show walking | ITV aims to boost international presence | ‘Camelot’ to define GK-TV’s young brand | Lionsgate looks beyond ‘Men’ | Fuji TV turns gaze globally | Syco ponders what comes after ‘X’

Territory Reports

U.K. | Argentina | Australia | Brazil | Canada | France | Germany | India | Italy | Japan | China | Spain

Diverse agendas, economies and tastes spur a compelling mix of issues heading into Mipcom. Shakeups amongs many broadcasters have brought unpredictability to the marketplace.

U.K.
By STEVE CLARKE

U.K. politicians are haunted by the fear that the British economy is facing another recession, the so-called double dip.

Yet as buyers head for Mipcom, most U.K. broadcasters are more secure than at any time since the financial crisis triggered the worst advertising downturn for a generation.

No one is foolish enough to imagine that acquisitions budgets won’t remain tight for the foreseeable future, but terrestrial webs ITV, Channel 4 and Five, all under new management, are focused on the future and boast reinvigorated top teams.

ITV and Channel 4 have both completed strategic reviews since acquisitions toppers traveled to Mip in April.

At ITV, new CEO Adam Crozier sounds determined to consolidate the broadcaster’s recovery, which saw the web swing to a net profit of £71 million ($113 million) for the six months to June from a loss of more than £100 million ($159 million) in 2009.

Twelve months ago, Channel 4 still dreamed of a public subsidy or at least a partnership with BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster’s commercial arm. Under new CEO David Abraham, who recently announced a leaner senior squad, the web is committed to self-help and continuing the process of “creative renewal.”

Among the U.K. terrestrials, the biggest shakeup has occurred at Five, sold in July by RTL to Northern and Shell, the firm owned by Richard Desmond, who made his fortune from pornography.

It’s once again calling itself Channel Five. New program chief Jeff Ford is a veteran attendee of international sales markets, having worked as a buyer for ITV and Channel 4 before rejoining Five in 2008. He will be much in demand at Mipcom, because Desmond has learned quickly that the right acquisition pays dividends.

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “The X Factor,” ITV1
• “Coronation Street,” ITV1
• “EastEnders,” BBC1

Back to the top

ARGENTINA
By CHARLES NEWBERY

Unscripted entertainment shows are on top in Argentina, as broadcasters and producers cut costs to contend with accelerating inflation.

Marcelo Tinelli, a seasoned host, is reeling in most primetime viewers weeknights with “ShowMatch,” an entertainment program he created in 1990 with bloopers and light jokes that has transformed over the years to meet viewers’ appetites. This year, Tinelli scrapped a varied offering to focus on a dance competition packed with celebs in the 10:30-12:30 p.m. slot, pushing the program and broadcaster Artear-Canal 13 to the top of the ratings in August and September.

The rise has left Telefe in second, with rumors swirling it is headhunting a new programming boss on par with Claudio Villarruel, who quit last year to form a production company. Villarruel kept Telefe on top with remakes of “Big Brother” and “The Nanny” and local dramas like “Montecristo.”

Telefe is fighting back with “Cain and Abel,” a sibling-struggle drama produced by Villarruel’s ON TV. Yet fiction has been marginalized this year with inflation limiting budgets, according to Hugo Di Guglielmo, a media consultant in Buenos Aires.

Inflation is expected to accelerate beyond an annual 30% in 2011 from 25% this year, extending a trend for cheaper content like humor and gossip shows, with the most popular playing off of “ShowMatch.”

“You get ratings at a low cost,” Di Guglielmo says.

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “ShowMatch,” Artear-Canal 13
• “Malparida,” Artear-Canal 13
• “What Time Left Us,” Telefe

Back to the top

AUSTRALIA
By PAUL CHAI

With the second round of new digital channels launching Down Under, many Aussie buyers are heading to Mipcom with more slots to fill.

In August, Seven Network announced that its third free-to-air channel would be male-skewed 7mate, and Ten announced a joint venture with the Eye web, a youth-skewed general entertainment channel called Eleven. Seven already has general entertainment channel 7TWO, Ten has sports channel One, and Nine Network has youth-skewed GO!

“We are continuing to look for formats that we can take and turn into big-event television like ‘MasterChef,'” says Ten’s Beverley McGarvey.

The web’s next attempt at this will be with Blighty’s Channel 4 skein “Undercover Boss,” launching later this year.

McGarvey says that while the deal with CBS means they are not scrambling for content for new channel Eleven, they will be willing to buy “if the right thing comes along.”

Angus Ross from Seven is more bullish: “We are buying for three channels now.”

“We were quietly acquiring male-skewed product in the run up to the launch of 7mate, but at the market we will be looking for male-skewed shows, and product for 7TWO,” Ross says.

But one thing counting against acquisitions is the general strength of local programming Down Under at the moment.

“We are still seeing a clear preference for Australian-produced programming such as ‘Australia’s Got Talent,’ ‘Packed to the Rafters’ and ‘My Kitchen Rules,’ ” Ross adds.

Nine is also seeing huge strength in local drama: Its ongoing “Underbelly” series is scoring well, and cop drama “Cops L.A.C.” is soon to bow. The second-season finale of Ten’s “MasterChef Australia” saw a record aud of 3.9 million, so the heat is on any acquisitions to do as well.

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “MasterChef,” Ten
• “Packed to the Rafters,” Seven
• “Underbelly: The Golden Mile,” Nine

Back to the top

BRAZIL
By MARCELO CAJUEIRO

Local broadcasters are enjoying a strong year, thanks to the country’s overall favorable economic conditions and the FIFA Soccer World Cup, held mid-year in South Africa. The free-to-air TV sector’s total ad spending soared 34.7% to 6.3 billion reais (US$3.6 billion) in the initial five months of this year, in relation to the same period last year.

The mighty Marinho family media group’s TV Globo continues to pocket the bulk of the spending, holding onto their 40-year long aud leadership. But the gap between TV Globo and TV Record, though still large, is slowly narrowing, as a consequence of the challenger’s heavy investments on telenovelas, sports rights and news.

TV Globo’s average rating in July was down to 18.6 from 21.3 in July 2009. TV Record’s average reached 7.5, up from 7.0 in the same period. The gap thus narrowed to 11.1 from 14.3. SBT remains the country’s No. 3 net at 5.9 in July, followed by TV Bandeirantes with 2.6 and Rede TV with 1.2.

Analysts expect the struggle for aud leadership to heat up in 2012, when TV Record will exclusively broadcast to Brazil the London Summer Olympics. It will be the first time in the sector’s history that TV Globo will not air a top sports event.

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “Passione,” TV Globo
• “Big Brother Brasil,” TV Globo
• “Dalva e Herivelto,” TV Globo

Back to the top

CANADA
By BRENDAN KELLY

The Canuck media landscape looks significantly different this fall compared with the beginning of the year.

At the start of 2010, CanWest Global Communications was under bankruptcy protection, a saga that ended when Alberta-based cable operator Shaw Communications acquired the CanWest TV assets for $2 billion, taking control of the Global network and a bunch of cable channels.

Then in September, Canada’s leading telco player BCE — which runs Bell — snapped up the country’s top TV network, CTV, in a transaction worth $3.1 billion. That deal also gives BCE a slew of specialty channels, including sports channel TSN, MuchMusic and Bravo (Canada).

These takeovers are setting the stage for some fierce competition as the major players rush to own content that they can funnel on to different platforms, most notably mobile phones. Quebecor, which owns the Videotron cable system in Quebec, also recently launched its own mobile-phone service. It owns TVA, the country’s leading French-language TV network.

But what’s popular with Canadian TV viewers hasn’t changed much. English-Canadians continue to love Hollywood fare, with series like “Survivor,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Criminal Minds” and “American Idol” topping the ratings. Predictably, the only Canadian show in the top 20 last season — and the only show from pubcaster CBC — was “Hockey Night in Canada,” the Saturday night franchise that has dominated its timeslot for the past five decades.

CTV is still the top-rated network, but Global has made major strides in terms of popularity in the past couple of years thanks to hits like “House,” “NCIS” and “Lie to Me.”

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “Survivor,” Global
• “Grey’s Anatomy,” CTV
• “Criminal Minds,” CTV

Back to the top

FRANCE
By IAN MUNDELL

Uncertainties over advertising at pubcaster France Televisions continue to trouble Gaul.

Primetime ads were pulled at the beginning of 2009, but there are persistent rumors that the government will delay plans to go ad-free in 2012. France Televisions and the private competition alike complain this indecision destabilizes the market and makes planning impossible.

Situation is a trial for the pubcaster’s new topper, Remy Pflimlin, who took up the reins in August. His first move was to restructure, shaking out senior execs. On content, he wants more investment in writing and developing fiction, in particular exploring new formats, and a broader news agenda.

Meanwhile, private webs are still fighting the tax they pay to make up France Televisions’ lost ad revenue. Euro regulators rejected one protest, so TF1, M6 and Canal Plus are taking their case to the European Court. A post-crisis recovery in ad revenue has done little to soften their opposition.

TF1 continues to dominate audience figures, with U.S. imports such as “Criminal Minds,” “The Mentalist” and “CSI” still hitting the magic 30 share in primetime. TF1’s own cop show, “Section des recherches,” is catching up, however, hitting shares of 25-27.

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “Criminal Minds,” TF1
• “The Mentalist,” TF1
• “CSI,” TF1

Back to the top

GERMANY
By ED MEZA

Leading commercial web RTL Television has been enjoying an excellent year with top-rated Autobahn cop actioner “Alarm for Cobra 11″ and hit U.S. procedural “Bones.”

The growing success of “Bones” led RTL programmers to swap the show’s Thursday nighttime slot with that of the original “CSI,” making it the new lead-in.

“Bones” drew 4.16 million viewers and a 14 share on Sept. 9, topped only by “Cobra 11,” which attracted 4.92 million and a 22 share in the key 14-49 demo.

Likewise, ProSiebenSat.1’s flagship channel Sat.1 continues to enjoy huge ratings success with top Hollywood fare and homegrown product.

The channel has seen top ratings with its Sunday-night lineup of “NCIS” and “The Mentalist,” which has become the web’s latest U.S. hit. Both shows have been regularly attracting more than 4 million viewers.

Sat.1 also struck gold with its two inhouse primetime series, legal eagle skein “Danni Lowinski” and cop show “Der letzte Bulle” on Mondays. The series premiered this year and have attracted a huge loyal following. Both have been renewed for second seasons.

One of the biggest surprises of the year was tyke channel Super RTL’s bold move to expand its primetime lineup and reorient toward a wider audience. To that end, Super RTL acquired Fox’s “Glee” as well as BBC hit fantasy series “Merlin.”

Meanwhile, the number of U.S. series on Sat.1’s sister channel Kabel Eins has dropped dramatically with the end of such shows as “Numbers,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Cold Case,” “Lost” and “24.”

Kabel Eins’ new American shows have so far failed to make a splash. The new Jerry Bruckheimer forensic series “The Forgotten” got off to a weak start on Sept. 9 with 1.18 million viewers and a 4 share. Kabel Eins’ Thursday lineup also included the disappointing “Eleventh Hour” and World War II series “The Pacific.”

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “In aller Freundschaft,” ARD
• “Mord mit Aussicht,” ARD
• “Alarm fuer Cobra 11,” RTL

Back to the top

INDIA
By NAMAN RAMACHANDRAN

The biggest news in the Indian television sector in 2010 is the entry of CBS. The Eye has tied up with giant Indian conglom Reliance and will bow three English-language channels in the crowded marketplace in the last quarter of the year.

CBS is a late entrant along with A&E Television Networks, which also launched this year, and Turner, completing its buyout of NDTV Imagine in February. Hollywood players including News Corp., Sony, Viacom, Time Warner and Disney are already entrenched, with Fox launching seven channels this year.

Hong Kong-based Media Partners Asia’s research shows that TV is the fastest-growing component of the Indian entertainment scene. The Indian market of 134 million TV homes, 103 million of which have pay TV, caters to a population of 1.17 billion. A frantic shakeup can be expected in two years, with India announcing December 2013 as its switchover date from analog to digital broadcast signals.

The all-important television rating point system that determines TV content and dictates advertising spend has come under scrutiny, with the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting appointing a committee to overhaul it and make it more transparent. The committee’s report will also examine whether the TV industry needs a government-led accreditation body.

Most viewing tends to be language-specific, depending on the spoken tongue in a particular region. English-language programming has a small following in the urban areas; the most viewed categories are sports (specifically cricket), news and movies.

India has long had a passionate love affair with the game of cricket, and the huge success of the made-for-TV Indian Premier League Cricket tournament, held every summer, is testimony to that. The games’ short duration and the Bollywood glamour associated with the tournament (Bollywood stars own shares in most of the teams) has drawn nontraditional viewers like housewives in to become fans of the sport.

The value of the IPL can be gauged by the fact that Sony paid $1.96 billion to India’s cricket board for the rights to this year’s edition.

Given the popularity of Indian homegrown programming, the Hollywood players are realizing that the best way forward is going local. Movie channels have English subtitles for Hollywood films for people who don’t get American accents, and many channels simply dub them into local languages. CBS will localize “Entertainment Tonight” and “Insider,” while local-lingo versions of “Big Brother,” “Idol” and “Fear Factor,” hosted by local film stars, already thrive.

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “Pratigya,” Star Plus
• “Yeh rishta kya kehlata hai,” Star Plus
• “Uttaran,” Colors

Back to the top

ITALY
By NICK VIVARELLI

Italy’s TV landscape is being shaken up by the intensifying rivalry between Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia, just as the erosion of the country’s terrestrial TV auds in favor of pay becomes a more consolidated trend.

Mediaset, besides being the country’s top commercial broadcaster, is also an increasingly active pay-TV player via its Mediaset Premium channels. Both Mediaset operations are fueled in part by a mega-volume deal in place with Warner Bros and Universal. But that does not mean it won’t be seeking new (mostly Yank) skeins to feed its growing beast.

Pubcaster RAI, meanwhile, continues to compete fiercely with Mediaset terrestrially. And while nonscripted content, such as its in-house current affairs talk shows and also local versions of “Celebrity Survivor” and “X Factor” have been going strong on its three channels, RAI also can certainly use some hot fresh fare, though not necessarily to fill primetime slots.

That said, both Mediaset and RAI will be coming to Cannes with strict orders not to overspend, the idea being to bring back shows that can stand up to local productions, but at a lower cost.

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “I Cesaroni,” Mediaset
• “CSI,” Mediaset
• “Lost,” RAI

Back to the top

JAPAN
By MARK SCHILLING

The Japanese television biz has had a bad case of the recessionary blues — and recovery has been slow.

In 2009, TV ad spend plunged 10.2% to $20.6 billion, as reported by ad shop Dentsu: Revenue from spot ads dropped 8.6% to $11.5 billion and program ads 12.2% to $9.15 billion.

The National Assn. of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan, an org repping stations across the country, expects earnings at terrestrial TV broadcasters to slide another 1.8% in 2010, with program ad sales declining 5.2% year on year. Meanwhile, spot ad sales are forecast to inch up 0.6% — their first rise in six years.

Seeing their traditional revenue sources stagnating, and facing the end of analog broadcasting in July, broadcasters are seeking new directions. In addition to investing in satellite, cable, mobile and Internet services, Japan’s five major networks have been devoting more resources to the production and overseas sales of content, from pics to game formats.

One example of this outward-looking strategy is a deal Fuji signed in June with the Meijin studio in Beijing to remake its 1991 hit drama “101st Proposal” as a feature pic for the Chinese market. The deal was the first of its kind for the net. Fuji also plans to remake its hit 1993 drama “Under One Roof” for Chinese television, with a Chinese cast and staff. Broadcasts are skedded to begin next summer.

Another profit center with potential is 3D television. Japanese electronic giants, including Panasonic and Sony, began launching 3D sets last summer — and Japanese broadcasters are now ramping up their 3D offerings. On July 24, digital satellite platform Sky Perfectv bowed Sky Channel 3D 169, Japan’s first dedicated 3D channel, kicking off with a live broadcast that day of a soccer match between the Urawa Reds and the Sanfrecce Hiroshima of the pro J League. The platform plans to offer a total of 18 J League games live in 3D this season.

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “Gegege no Nyobo” (Gegege Wife), NHK
• “Gyoretsu no Dekiru Horitsu Sodanjo” (Law Office with a Line Outside), NTV
• “Sekai no Hate made ItteQ” (To the Ends of the Earth ItteQ), NTV

Back to the top

CHINA
By CLIFFORD COONAN

Growing foreign interest in China is fuelling sales of Chinese skeins abroad. But with big changes afoot for the domestic biz, local viewers are still focusing on home-produced news and entertainment skeins.

“The main things that CCTV will be looking at in Mipcom will be documentaries and TV series, a few cartoons, although not too much. They have fewer time limitations, so (they) are easier than news programs,” says a spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs office of the state broadcaster CCTV.

“Stories about modern city life are getting more and more attractive to the foreign market, because audiences abroad are getting more curious about contemporary life in China,” she adds.

The Beijing government is currently firming up plans to merge around 1,000 regional radio, TV and Internet broadcasting systems into a single national cable TV network company, and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said the new company will be up and running by the end of the year and will further expand into new businesses like mobile TV and online videos.

News programs remain the core concentration at CCTV, but some regional TV shows are also proving popular, including “China’s Got Talent,” from Jiangsu TV, Hunan TV’s “Happy Camp” and “Happy Boys” and of course, the hardy perennial — the “Chinese New Year Spectacular” on CCTV, which gets in the neighborhood of one billion viewers.

A remake by helmer Li Shaohong of the classical Chinese novel “Dream of the Red Chamber” is also near the top of the ratings.

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “Chinese New Year Spectacular,” CCTV
• “Network News Broadcast,” CCTV
• “Dream of the Red Chamber,” CCTV

Back to the top

SPAIN
By EMILIANO DE PABLOS

Spain’s TV market is undergoing great changes. The sector faces a new General Audiovisual Law, approved in March, and a government-imposed ad nix at pubcaster RTVE began on Jan. 1.

In addition, Mediaset-controlled Telecinco acquired Prisa’s channel Cuatro in December, kicking off a deep consolidation process.

Spain’s digital TV switch-on in April boosted TV fragmentation. Dedicated DTT channels repped 18.7% of total auds at the end of the 2009-2010 season.

“This is just what began to happen in the U.S. 10 years ago,” says Corporacion Multimedia audience analyst Eduardo Garcia Matilla. “A process of fragmentation that can create an atomized TV market.”

RTVE’s web La 1 won the season’s TV audience battle, averaging a 16.5 share, driven by primetime Spanish skeins: swashbuckler “Aguila Roja” (28 share), retro family drama “Cuentame” (21) and melodrama “Gran Reserva” (21).

More than 10 new nationwide DTT services are launching. This includes Antena 3’s male-oriented channel Nitro, which started regular broadcasts Aug. 23.

The launch of Telecinco’s “Boing” shows deregulation, in a first phase, forcing new channels to rely on cost-effective acquisitions such as Hollywood TV programming. For established broadcasters, TV movies/mini-series production has brought many primetime hits. Standouts include Telecinco’s “La Duquesa” and Antena 3’s “Un burka por amor.”

TOP THREE SHOWS
• “Aguila roja,” TVE1
• “Los protegidos”, Antena 3
• “Aida,” Telecinco

Back to the top

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more