Americans take an increasingly global view of TV business

CANNES – With fragile economies affecting the global TV biz, a posse of North Americans are in Cannes at the Mipcom TV sales market, which bows today, to tap into international opportunities.

Among execs and talent from the U.S. and Canada expected on the Croisette are Harvey Weinstein, Gillian Anderson, Nancy Dubuc and Kevin Spacey. “A lot of heavy hitters will be in town this week,” said Reed Midem director of television Laurine Garaude.

“TV types need to collaborate and the international TV business has never been healthier,” she added.

This view of the increased importance of TV as a global biz was reinforced by Kevin Spacey, at Mipcom to hype Netflix’s 26-part reworking of Brit political thriller “House of Cards.”

Spacey, also creative director of Blighty’s Old Vic theater, said that 21st century TV is artistically as strong as the feature biz in the 1990s.

“Making ‘House of Cards’ has been like filming a 13-part movie,” said Spacey, who plays Francis Underwood, based on the Francis Urqhart character from the original British show. “House of Cards” is financed by Media Rights Capital, which is also a producer on the skein.

“This is only the second time I’ve ever made a TV series, but being involved with this brings home the opportunities that now exist to create characters and plot lines of genuine complexity and fully imagined that no longer exist in movies.

“David Lean predicted that film would lose out to TV, and that’s what has happened.”

Referring to Hollywood pics, Spacey’s co-star Robin Wright said, “There’s a running tide of escapism in films like ‘Iron Man’ and a vacuous hole that needs filling.”

Netflix is one of some 500 digital buyers present from around the globe at Mipcom. A total of 4,400 buyers are expected at the four-day sales market, which wraps Oct. 11.

The mart is preparing for around 12,800 delegates, up 300 from a year ago.

In terms of the number of companies attending Mipcom, the Canadian contingent is the fourth biggest after the U.S., the U.K. and France, Reed Midem said.

The organizers are also expecting heavy foot traffic from the Far East.

The number of companies from China is up 30%, while the Korean contingent is up by 17%, according to Reed Midem. However, there are fewer delegations from Greece, Italy and Spain, all still groaning under the weight of the Eurozone crisis.

One noted no-show is Al Jazeera, the Middle Eastern web.

So what will all these international buyers likely be buying?

High-end period drama featuring high-profile casts and modestly budgeted reality shows are in demand.

“Internationally, historical drama works because of its universality. They’re subjects of broad interest that can cross borders and can easily be associated with two or three countries,” explained Erik Pack, head of international distribution at Gaumont Intl. Television, the Gallic producer-distrib’s U.S. arm. “But in the U.S. on the network level, it’s different.”

GIT topper Katie O’Connell added, “Showtime used to be the place for historical drama, but ‘Homeland’ was a game changer: Its success has dictated a different trend.”

There’s a growing appetite for contemporary edgy drama or genre titles, according to O’Connell, who cited GIT’s “Barbarella,” “Hannibal” and “Hemlock Grove.”

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