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Mipcom a triumph for networks

Broadcasters seize spotlight from digital

CANNES — A bullish 23rd Mipcom TV mart, which wrapped Oct. 12, may go down as heralding the return of the networks.

After years of geek-heavy panels peering into TV’s digital future, the nets, once written off as aging warhorses, dominated this mart’s conferences.

Three of five keynote addresses were delivered by netheads: CBS’ prexy-CEO Leslie Moonves, NBC Ent.’s co-chair Ben Silverman; and Emilio Azcarraga Jean, prexy-CEO of Mexican broadcasting giant Televisa.

The nets dominated deals.

Disney-ABC sold Spain’s Antena 3 TV five skeins, led by “Private Practice” and “Dirty Sexy Money”; Fox Channels Italy took “Practice,” “Money” plus returning shows.

Fox inked a large deal on first-run features with Spain’s Forta regional webs.

Sony is rolling out “Power of 10,” with format deals to France TF1 and Australia’s Nine Network.

Warner Bros. Intl. Television sat down at Mipcom to discuss shows for volume deals in every major territory worldwide, save the U.K. where ITV has taken “Pushing Daisies.”

The networks impressed with their digs. Disney ABC abandoned its Palais office and boat for a one-stop shopping beachside marquee.

More than anything else, however, after digging itself out of a hole in the early part of the decade, the international TV biz looks in good health.

“The market’s strong. The (network) product generally being made is big, noisy, high-concept, globally appealing and very expensive,” says Warner Bros. Intl. TV prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger.

Pickups are buoyed by a strong euro.

“European buyers may be a little more willing to buy extra titles and experiment a bit,” says Gary Marenzi, MGM co-prexy, worldwide TV.

Numerous network execs said, yet again, content is king.

“Wireless is useless if hitless,” insists Moonves, Mipcom Personality of the Year.

In a digital age, the networks may not know quite where they’re going. But they do know whom they’re going there with: national networks and major pay TV players worldwide.

“We have very strong business relationships with broadcast networks and satellite platforms. As they figure out how to get to customers, we’ll work with them,” says Ben Pyne, prexy, Global Distribution, Disney-ABC.

“Our traditional television business — terrestrial broadcasters, pay TV — is still the main revenue driver,” agrees John McMahon, Sony Pictures Television Intl. prexy and managing director, Europe.

New U.S. shows at Mipcom were judged sometimes strong, though not spectacular.

Biggest buzz titles were “Private Practice,” its major lure its lineage as a “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff, and NBC U’s “Bionic Woman.”

Buyers warmed to the fantasy-forensic mix and look of WBIT’s “Pushing Daisies,” but wondered if it had U.S. ratings legs.

At Sony, Glenn Close legal saga “Damages” was drawing interest, boosted by a BBC1 primetime buy over the summer.

New digital distribution platforms gave Mipcom biz extra heft. One example: digital terrestrial TV in France. With Gallic DTV booming, operators were reportedly bidding almost up to free-to-air levels on product.

Latin America proved a newly powerful and ambitious Croisette presence with giant Palais billboards for Televisa and TV Globo’s sensual eco-novela “Amazonia” and an ad splurge for Dori Media’s sex- change sudser “Lalola.”

Mexico’s Televisa Group will enter English-language TV production in the U.S., says Azcarraga Jean (see story this page).

Targeting an increasingly key emerging market, Brazil’s TV Globo inked a longterm strategic alliance with Indian holding company Sahara TV, while the BBC announced the opening of its third international office in Mumbai to produce for Indian broadcasters.

Overseas partnership is a Mipcom mantra, says RTL acquisition chief Dirk Schweitzer.

German pay TV operator Premiere is courting Hollywood co-production partners to make English-language series, reports chief program officer Hans Seger.

Only two clouds shadowed an expansive mart: Hollywood stoppages and piracy.

“Buyers are nervous,” said Marion Edwards, international head of Twentieth Century Fox Television. “They want to know if they’ll be having any new series out of the U.S. next year.”

Susan Wright contributed to this report.