MIP means more than sales

U.S. studios still value personal contact

Although the L.A. Screenings arrive right on its heels, the upcoming April 12-16 Mip confab on the French Riviera remains relevant for those on both ends of a sales transaction.

Affirmation of the event comes from the Hollywood studios’ global TV toppers, all of whom reiterate that while less money might be exchanged at this Mip compared with the past editions, it’s important to interact with buyers who are looking to plug holes in their programming pipeline for their respective territories.

Although the majors don’t trek across the Atlantic with many new shows, they do bring plenty of enthusiasm for what lies ahead.

“In terms of content, you go to Mip and talk about what’s in the development slate and what’s coming for the Screenings,” says CBS Studios Intl. president Armando Nunez. “It’s not great timing in terms of new content, but it’s part of the business of doing business.”

Says MGM’s Gary Marenzi, co-president of worldwide television: “It’s not the ideal time to break in new product, but we’re always working on and closing deals throughout the year, and we make a concerted effort to see people. It makes sense for us to be there for the week.”

“What we typically see at Mip isn’t an enormous amount of buying,” says Marion Edwards, prexy of international TV for 20th Century Fox. “It’s about finishing deals you already have in the works and previewing the L.A. Screenings.”

That’s not to say there won’t be plenty of small- screen content up for offer. The studios arrive with full catalogs dating back decades and, most importantly, a handful of Stateside midseason releases that could be the next big thing.

Disney, for example, will be shopping drama “Happy Town,” which doesn’t premiere on ABC until April 28. NBC Universal is bringing “Parenthood” — the ensemble drama that has performed well enough after a few airings for NBC to likely give it a second season — and USA Network series “Covert Affairs” that is set to debut in July.

NBC U, like Disney, arrives with the advantage of having programming that’s airing on several of its own cable networks.

“For us,” says NBC U global TV chief Belinda Menendez, “it’s about having such a broad portfolio, and our expectation is that we’ll do a lot of business at Mip. We’ve certainly got high hopes.”

As far as longstanding inventory is concerned, NBC U continues to do very well with “House,” which remains a steady performer in the States on Fox.

Warner Bros. has the latest Jerry Bruckheimer procedural in “Miami Medical” and will be offering local production format rights to “One Mass Dance.”

Edwards says global buyers want to make sure shows will excel in the U.S. before committing serious coin to a series. That’s often impossible, but they know if they purchase a program that tanks in the ratings in America, they have to explain to their viewers the series probably has a limited shelf life.

“People are more cautious with first-year shows and almost want a guarantee they’ll perform,” she says.

As far as who will be attending the market, Europeans should be arriving at a significant clip. Cost-conscious networks from the continent may send fewer personnel to the U.S. for the Screenings but allow themselves to make a big splash at Mip. On the other hand, the burgeoning Latin TV community will be less of a presence on the Mediterranean and will come to L.A. in larger numbers.

When not taking meetings or negotiating prices, Mip-goers may want to attend to a keynote address or two. Among those speaking are Starz CEO and former HBO boss Chris Albrecht, “Heroes” exec producer Tim Kring, News Corp. chief digital officer Jonathan Miller, Elisabeth Murdoch and Joanna Shields of the Shine Group, ex-NBC Entertainment topper Ben Silverman (who now runs new media org Electus) and Sky chief exec Jeremy Darroch.

Other panels scheduled Monday-Thursday include a look at how social media is affecting the mainstream media business, the value of online content and a look 3D on TV.

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