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Mipcom: Hot Titles, Booming Biz Add Sizzle to Market Despite Weather Woes

CANNES – The severe storm that claimed at least 17 lives on Saturday and caused severe flooding in the region is the only thing casting a dark cloud on the Mipcom TV market this year.

Despite radiant sunshine Sunday, floods left Cannes sans Internet in many major hotels for much of the day and this weekend’s Mip Junior kids TV market screenings without a video library. Mip Junior screenings were rapidly transferred online as Mipcom organizer Reed Midem relocated the event from the seafront Martinez Hotel to the Palais des Festivals.

But drama programming takes center stage starting Monday, and international demand for product could hardly be much more robust, as evidenced by the slate of events set for the conference that runs through Thursday. For starters, Fox is staging the world premiere of “The X-Files” on Oct. 6. Showtime is giving a big push to its high-finance drama “Billions.” Studiocanal is showing off “The Last Panther.” Harvey Weinstein is expected for a panel on the “War and Peace” miniseries that Weinstein Co. is producing with the BBC.

It all adds up to heightened buzz, glamour and — distributors hope — big sales announcements. Sales news is certainly expected on key titles.

“We have never seen as healthy and robust a demand for premium content as we are currently seeing. And I don’t expect that that view is going to change at any point in the nearest future,” Armando Nuñez, president-CEO, CBS Global Distribution Group told Variety.

Nuñez wasn’t alone in his enthusiasm. “At Studiocanal, we’re bullish on drama and believe the global appetite continues to increase as the opportunities across new platforms and new media remain in a healthy phase of growth,” echoed Katrina Neylon, Studiocanal exec VP of sales and marketing.

“You were dealing with mostly monopolistic premium cable platforms. The new digital entrants, both from the U.S. and those created locally, have shaken up and woke up the market,” added Nuñez, who will deliver one of Mipcom’s media master-class keynotes with Showtime Networks president David Nevins.

In another sign of the lure of drama, 10 days before Mipcom, Paris and L.A-based sales company Wild Bunch, a five-time Cannes Palme d’Or winner, announced the launch of Wild Bunch TV.

Coming into Mipcom, one seasoned buyer said she’d counted 28 new dramas at April’s Mip TV, not traditionally a new drama platform. Running Oct. 5-8 at Cannes, on the French Riviera, 2015’s Mipcom will surely best that.

Among the hot titles for sale at the market:

  • CBS Studios International’s “Billions,” starring Paul Giamatti as a hard-driving attorney and Damian Lewis as a hedge-fund overlord; and “Twin Peaks” revival with Kyle MacLachlan.
  • The X-Files” and “American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson,” from 20th Century Fox Television Distribution
  • Fox International Channels will talk up “Outcast,” a paranormal drama from “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkland.
  • Mipcom’s opening night world premiere is six-part crime drama “The Last Panthers,”  a Sky Atlantic and Canal Plus drama sold by Studiocanal, which is also talking up Harlan Coben’s “The Five.”
  • Germany’s Constantin will unveil at a drama screening “Shadowhunters,” based on Cassandra Clares’ YA book series, with writer/exec producer Ed Decter (“Unforgettable,” “In Plain Sight”).
  • Touted as the No. 1 premiere in U.S. cable history, AMC Studios “Fear the Walking Dead” is also being sold by eOne at Mipcom.
  • Other titles generating buzz include: NBCUniversal’s ’s “Mr. Robot”, ITV Studios’ “Beowulf,” A+E Studios’ Agatha Christie makeover “And Then There Was None” and Starz’s “The Girlfriend Experience.”

Underscoring a global TV drama boom, according to Swiss TV research firm the Wit, from 2010 to 2015, new drama premieres in the U.S. skyrocketed 91%. The number of new drama series launched in 12 markets increased 53%.

Mipcom’s buoyant attendance figures also reflected the drama boom. At 13,600 delegates, total accreditation is just down on 2014’s 13,700. Accredited by Saturday were 4,700 buyers, of which 1,375 are also buying for digital channels, the latter 11% up on 2014.

Everybody, whether established players that have expanded their digital portfolio, or new entrants, are looking for the same thing, Nuñez said: “High quality, high-end, marketable, promotable content that will drive their subscriber levels.” And that, at the end of the day, is “rather limited.”

At Mipcom, the name of the game will be myriad companies’ jostling to position their product in that privileged premium pantheon, eventizing its marketing.

“The advent of different distribution models allows for more content to get to the right audience and right consumer,” said Gina Brogi, exec VP, worldwide pay TV & SVOD for 20th Century Fox Television Distribution.

The international business outlook for the kidvid on display at Mip Junior, which ran Oct. 3-4, is far tougher than it is for drama series. Highlights of Mip Junior included keynotes from Russell Hicks, Nickeoldeon’s president, content development and production; prolific Nickelodeon producer Dan Schneider; YouTube’s Malick Ducard and Stephen Davis, Hasbro’s chief content officer and exec VP.

“Over 42% of children under the age of three engage with an iPad or mobile phone as their primary source of content,” Davis said, reviewing Hasbro’s latest brand-driven content slate. One major talking point, especially after HBO moved recently to buy the rights to the venerable “Sesame Street,” was the demand among SVOD players for fresh kids’ content, and how much the digital licensing can bring to the table.

Every international territory is its own story. But currently in most, SVOD hardly makes up for the shortfall in traditional financing sources and the international market for children’s TV is ever more challenged.

As in drama, there is a move into high-end kids’ TV content. Massively marketed, and receiving a world premiere screening, “Zorro Chronicles,” from France’s Cyber Studios, made a large splash. Other buzzed-up kids shows included Winduna Enterprises lovable witch comedy “Winnie & Wilbur,” sold by Jetpack Distribution, Texas mutt starring “Hank the Cowdog,” based on the children’s bestseller, and live-action “Jamillah & Aladdin,” a CBeebies/CBBC joint com mission.

By Sunday evening, Cannes was getting back to normal, though an opening night red carpet was cancelled since the venue, the Martinez hotel, was hit by flooding Saturday night. (The party will take place as normal, at the Carlton hotel)
Chit-chat at the J.W. Marriott Hotel on Sunday turned from “When did you get in?” to “How did you get in?” as trains from Paris stopped at Toulon and the nice Airport-Cannes taxi ride, normally a 40-minute hop, took many taxis over two hours due to traffic jams.

(Elsa Keslassy and Leo Barraclough contributed to this report)

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