A year ago the teetering global economy left the Mip TV market in Cannes reeling.
Twelve months later things are looking up, but alongside relief there is resignation that the international TV biz will never be the same again.
Walking the stands at the Palais, the foot traffic looked thin as the mart began to wrap Thursday.
“There are fewer people here, but all the important buyers are at the market,” said FremantleMedia Enterprises topper David Ellender.
Official attendance — 11,500 delegates including 4,000 buyers — was up 5% vs. 2009 when Mip hit rock bottom, per event organizer Reed Midem, which, like Variety, is owned by Reed Elsevier. “The worst is over and there is a new spring in people’s step,” said British TV topper and market attendee Simon Shaps. “But broadcasters want more for less and that is a real struggle for both producers and distributors.”
The usual early exodus of execs was slowed by a volcanic eruption under Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull Glacier that sent plumes of volcanic ash thousands of feet into the atmosphere, preventing flights in and out of France, the U.K., Denmark, Belgium, Scandinavia and parts of Russia.
Aside from travel constraints, the constant carp on the Croisette from creatives was how less coin leads to ever more risk-averse shows.
Partnerships, including co-productions, and an abundance of tried and tested formats help to keep costs down for cash-pressed webs.
All of these were much in evidence during the market.
“With broadcasters still feeling the effects of the dip in advertising revenues, there is a need to spread financing across several partners,” said Mip TV director Laurine Garaude.
On cue, Sony Pictures Television, Tandem Communications, Peace Out Prods. and Scott Free pacted on four-hour event movie “Pompeii,” inspired by Robert Harris’ bestseller, among a slew of other big historical co-productions.
“It’s no surprise that formats are in greater demand than ever,” said Paul Romer, chief creative officer of Endemol Group. “While there continue to be encouraging signs of recovery in the market, the fact is that times remain tough and formats deliver strong return on investment.”
But the elephant in the room remains the Internet and the ever-present and growing threat from piracy.
As Garaude noted, all TV projects need to factor in a multi-platform dimension from conception.
In a keynote address, Jeremy Darroch, CEO of U.K. pay giant BSkyB, delivered a stark warning: Producers and distributors need to be very smart or their biz risks being eroded by overzealous regulators and the Internet, home to content aggregators and pirates.
In an impressive conference program at Mip, representatives from the cutting edge of digital media seemed to suggest that Darroch might be urging the industry to shut the stable door long after the horse bolted.
In contrast to the lack of crowds in the main hall, delegates were being turned away as they thronged to hear what one of Twitter’s toppers, Chloe Sladden, had to say.
When Sladden stopped talking, she was practically mobbed.
The cynical view is that the Twitter is a passing fad, this year’s Bebo.
However, Sladden, the firm’s director of media partnerships, maintained that the social networking tool that now hosts an estimated 50 million tweets a day can help drive auds to broadcasters’ shows.
But, as yet, no one has discovered a sustainable way of turning this phenomenon into digital dollars for the TV types in Cannes.