Strike nips Mip signal

Gallic strikers disrupt day one

CANNES — A brave new world was hawked to international TV folk on the opening day of the 43rd Mip TV mart Monday, while French strikers kept the proceedings grounded in the present.

A wildcat strike against Gallic employment reforms interrupted flights to Nice, leaving some execs unable to get to the sun-soaked French Riviera. Further trouble was in the cards for today, when a nationwide day of protest was expected to bring air and rail traffic to a standstill.

Today’s keynote speakers, reality guru Mark Burnett and AOL chairman-CEO Jonathan Miller, were making arrangements to come by road from other airports.

Speakers weren’t the only ones with arrival problems. Customs seized hats and TV shirts promoting Lionsgate’s hit series “Weeds” for displaying a drawing of a marijuana leaf.

“We sold our series but lost our shirts,” said Lionsgate Television prexy Kevin Beggs, referring to Canal Plus’ acquisition of “Weeds” for France.

Despite the strike it was business as usual for most of the 12,000 attendees at the mart, which is increasingly an event of two halves — buying and selling programming, on the one hand, and crystal-ball gazing into the future of the TV biz on the other.

“International is a happening place,” Frederick Huntsberry, prexy of TV distribution and Universal Pictures Group international operations, told Daily Variety. “Last year we were talking about possible business models and consumer offerings. This year they are being put into place.”

Huntsberry cited the company’s success with “The Office” on iTunes.

But there are many wrinkles in a world with ever more distribution possibilities, Erik Huggers, general manager of Microsoft Windows Media, pointed out in a keynote speech.

“Distribution windows used to be sacred, but there is increasing pressure for them to collapse,” Huggers said, evoking the decision to release “Brokeback Mountain” simultaneously on DVD and via Movielink, a movie-downloading Internet service.

The emergence of telcos as broadcasters is another phenom stirring passions.

As well as carrying existing French TV channels, Gallic telco SFR announced Friday that it will launch four of its own mobile TV webs and has commissioned a talkshow hosted by popular Gallic TV presenter Christophe Dechavanne.

In the U.K., BT is expected to announce an array of content deals for its BT Vision, which it is launching in the fall.

“There is going to be a showdown between the traditional broadcasters and the telcos,” predicted Jean-Yves Robin, the Gallic producer behind hit short format “Camera Cafe,” sold to or adapted in 20-odd countries as well as on Orange’s French mobile service.

The future may be unclear, but Mip TV speakers delivered some common sense.

“The audience will decide what kind of content it wants and how the content will be exploited,” said Monday’s second keynote speaker, Gary Carter, FremantleMedia’s chief creative officer of new platforms, in talking about VOD and mobile TV. “But they haven’t decided yet because they haven’t had very many interesting offers. We must get stuff out there,” he added.

No confab would be complete without a few famous faces, and “CSI: Miami’s” David Caruso and Brit chef Jamie Oliver provided the celebrity quotient.

Speaking at a hush-hush presentation at a villa, Oliver outlined his latest show to buyers. Skein, to come from FremantleMedia, will reportedly turn on the use of garden-grown ingredients.

In keeping with Mip TV tradition, Teutonic distrib Beta unveiled its latest Euro miniseries, “The Crown Prince,” featuring Omar Sharif.

And as ever, an array of companies unveiled deals:

  • Disney unveiled a local version of “Extreme Makeover” on ICTV plus other multigenre deals in Ukraine, a multigenre deal with TV Nova in the Czech Republic and a multiyear volume deal with Thailand’s BBTC Channel 7.

  • New Irish cable service Channel 6, a youth ad-supported feed, has bought “CSI” and “CSI: Miami” from Alliance Atlantis and four firstrun free TV shows from Warner Bros Intl. TV: “The Closer,” “Related,” “Four Kings” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Channel 6 has also acquired “The Sopranos,” “Without a Trace,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Wire.”

  • Continuing the flurry of consolidation among British indie TV companies, reality TV production house RDF, producer of ABC’s “Wife Swap” and VH1’s “Rock School,” has bought Welsh indie Presentable, makers of Channel 4 hit “Late Night Poker.” Channel 4 has just commissioned RDF to produce animal reality TV skein “Wild Thing — I Love You.”

  • Leading a swath of deals that it announced at Mip, Endemol Intl. has licensed the format of “Take It or Leave It” to Spain’s Telecinco and reupped for a second season on the gameshow with Italy’s RAI. Reality show “Fool Around With” has been taken by France’s Europa 5.