CANNES One of the most talked-about program buyers at Mipcom this year didn’t have a big installation at the Palais des Festivals. Facebook’s growing appetite for original programming was a hot topic among top unscripted producers, and scripted folk, as it ordered an English-language version of teen drama “Skam.”
The ambitious plans for content at Apple, YouTube Red, Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix were a constant source of speculation among participants who schmoozed and sold their way through the first two days of the conference that runs through Thursday. There was also much discussion about CBS’ surprising move to acquire Australia’s Network Ten out of bankruptcy, and what that will mean for Australia’s traditionally insular TV business.
The consensus was CBS swooped in on a massive bargain in securing valuable broadcast spectrum and a digital presence in the country that should make it easier for CBS to introduce its All Access subscription service in Oz.
“We think the connection between CBS and Ten will be great,” said CBS Studios International president Armando Nunez. “We look forward to connecting those dots.”
The news of the moment out of the U.S. was also front and center on the Croisette. The crisis at the Weinstein Co. and the end of Harvey Weinstein’s reign due to sexual assault allegations was seemingly a part of every conversation. So was the shakeup at Amazon, with longtime Amazon Studios chief Roy Price departing following an allegation of sexual harassment.
On the business front, producers are holding fast to a fervent hope that a strong streaming challenger emerges to “make it a horse race” with Netflix. Amazon’s short-term prospects are clouded by the management shakeup. Facebook has the most formidable platform but there’s still a lack of clarity on the strategy for programs to be showcased under the social media giant’s new “Watch” tab.
Sources said Facebook content executives, some of whom made the rounds at Mipcom, are pressing the industry for camera-ready projects that can be greenlit quickly without lengthy development process. Producers are intrigued by the fact that Facebook is paying license fees competitive with cable for unscripted shows and in at least some cases, offering a cut of advertising revenue.
Facebook is also asking producers to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to keep a tight lid on deal structures and strategy. It’s understood that Facebook is putting a premium on shows that can incorporate the features and technology of the platform to engage viewers. It has been flexible about program formats and running times of each episode.
“It’s a massive platform,” said producer David Tochterman, CEO of Canvas Media Studios, in which Entertainment One is an investor. “There’s an arm’s race right now” among the digital giants in the content arena. Tochterman spoke for many of his fellow producers in observing: “The more buyers the better.”
With the torrent of new scripted projects not letting up there was a glut of new drama launching at Mipcom, including Sky’s latest original “Britannia,” Fox’s first European original “Deep State.”
China, long known as an importer (and copier) of international formats is also seeking to stake a claim as an exporter. 3C Media launched a new China-U.K. physical gameshow format at the market, and IM Global was in town with a package of drama from Tencent, which was also announced as a co-pro partner on the BBC’s blue-chip natural history epic “Blue Planet II.”
Russia was also seeking to join the drama party with d premiere screenings of Channel One’s “Trotsky” and Konstantin Khabensky, who plays Trotsky in the series on town. Broadcaster NTV was also in Cannes with Tolstoy adaptation “The Road to Calvary,” and TV3 presented its mystery thriller “Gogol.”
The Russian and Chinese drama launches underlined a wider acceptance of international drama, and non-English-language fare, a trend highlighted when Netflix announced a pair of locally-sourced kids originals. Richard Plepler also said HBO’s international drama would have a U.S. home. He fought shy of giving up too much information on the “Game of Thrones” spin-off projects, except for to say he has seen the first outlines from the writing teams.
“The Game of Thones” connection was evident in two new scripted projects unveiled at Mipcom. Charles Dance and Peter Dinklage will exec-produce an adaptation of Quasimodo for Atrium TV, and Dinklage also has an IM Global project in the making about the rivalry between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari.
This Mipcom, was arguably the first in several years, when unscripted was as much part of the conversation as scripted. ITV announced new deals for “Love Island,” and “Big Brother” creator John de Mol launched a version of “The Voice” for seniors, and “Lost in Translation,” a survival show in which the contestants speak different languages. Talpa Global boss Maarten Meijs told Variety that the central theme – people coming together to overcome communication barriers – is timely in a troubled world. Talpa wants the first version in production in the first half of 2018. Banijay Rights, meanwhile, re-launched “Survivor” internationally.
Gordon Ramsay did nothing to shrug off his reputation as the world’s sweariest presenter in a live “Culinary Genius” presentation. The chef and personality is also broadening his range, with more documentaries and even a move into drama.
Amidst the content feeding frenzy BBC Worldwide’s drama chief Liam Keelan said the drama market will keep heating up as new players enter the fray. In a Variety-moderated conference session, he also showed the first clip of “McMafia” to a great reception, even from the Mipcom-hardened crowd.