TV industry readies for busy Mipcom

Distribution boon feeds hunger for programming

As the global TV business arrives on the French Riviera for the 23rd edition of Mipcom, the Hollywood contingency comes full of promise, hope and swagger.

And maybe a few hits.

While the broadcast networks simultaneously launch their new shows in the States, buyers from around the world are arriving at the Croisette on Oct. 8 to assess how well those series may perform in their respective territories.

As usual for this time of year, there’s a lot to choose from in all genres — dramas, comedies, even new reality formats. Broadcasters who offer plenty of American fare — France’s TF1, Germany’s RTL and Channel Five in the U.K., among others — are always looking to add to their plates.

“I guess I don’t see anything radically different for this Mipcom,” says Marion Edwards, international head of Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution. “It’s always a very busy market and a rich market in terms of product.”

Among the more than 12,500 participants at Mipcom, there will also be discussions and deals made on the ever-increasing digital distribution of programming, but the emphasis of the five-day event will be what the bread-and-butter of Mipcom has always been — discovering new shows.

Buyers won’t come to Mipcom cold, having watched most of these new series at the L.A. Screenings in May. So now it’s more about making deals and hoping their favorite shows do well and thrive in the States in order to have a long overseas shelf life.

No matter how much a Russian or French audience might like a new series, if it doesn’t play in Peoria, it doesn’t play in Paris either.

Fox is high on “Journeyman,” with Brit Kevin McKidd as a San Francisco time traveler. Edwards believes the show may connect because McKidd, who has already appealed to men in “Rome,” will show a softer side for the female demo.

On the sitcom front, “Back to You” reunites two of comedy’s most successful actors — Kelsey Grammer, who played Frasier Crane on “Cheers” and “Frasier” for nearly 20 years, and Patricia Heaton, a regular on “Everybody Loves Raymond” for 209 episodes.

Comedy, however, can have a difficult time traveling overseas. While skeins such as “Friends” and “Sex and the City” have achieved international success, others that have been ratings hits in the States haven’t fared as well. Dubbing from English to a foreign language can throw off the timing of an otherwise well-written conversation between characters.

Warner Bros. brings a full slate to Cannes, including geek-friendly “Chuck” and “Pushing Daisies,” which is receiving as much positive buzz as any drama this fall. Reviews have been stellar, and the concept — about a man who can bring a person or animal back to life with a single touch (and then kill again with another touch) — is unique among the large amount of cop and doc skeins that line the TV landscape.

“Daisies,” says Warner Bros. Intl. TV Distribution prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger, is “our most distinctive, innovative and talked-about show,” adding that the skein is a “real wild card” regarding how it will be received overseas.

As for “Chuck,” NBC showed great faith in it by moving the show to 8 p.m. on Mondays (from its original 9 p.m. Tuesdays slot), right before last year’s hit “Heroes.” Schlesinger sees the shift as “great for us and a ringing endorsement” for the show.

Sci-fi friendly “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” a continuation of hugely popular “Terminator” franchise, is a show Schlesinger feels is coming “right down the alley of the international clientele.”

Over at CBS Paramount, international topper Armando Nunez Jr. says “Cane” star Jimmy Smits made a concerted effort to greet buyers at the L.A. Screenings in order to get the word out. Nunez emphasizes that the series, about a Cuban family in Florida, will play to all cultures, not just Latins.

“What we had to do, and what was important for our buyers, with ‘Cane’ is remind them that it’s not just a Hispanic drama, but a family affair where the family just happens to be Hispanic,” Nunez says. “It’s like the family in ‘Dallas,’ which happened to be from Texas.”

Michael Grindon, head of Sony Intl. TV, says “Damages” was the company’s top seller at the Screenings, and he expects plenty of business to come from the Glenn Close drama that will have its first global showing on BBC1 in January.

In what he calls “the strongest lineup of shows we’ve ever had,” Grindon says Sony is also high on Showtime’s “The Tudors,” starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and reality gameshow “The Power of 10,” which is a big hit in the States on CBS.

“It’s great to have a European drama,” Grindon says of “The Tudors.” “European broadcasters like those historical dramas. It’s a great show for us.”

In a season where studios and networks are courting the geek viewer, NBCU offers up “Bionic Woman,” based on the popular 1970s series.

“Sci-fi is becoming a much broader genre,” says international prexy Belinda Menendez. “It’s shows like ‘Heroes,’ and those broad story arcs, that embrace a bigger audience.”

“Dirty Sexy Money,” with “Six Feet Under” star Peter Krause, is a new shooter from Disney, as well as “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice.”

MGM will arrive in Cannes with its longtime “Stargate” franchise as well as the bigscreen pic “Lions for Lambs,” starring Tom Cruise and directed by Robert Redford.

In between the buying and selling, Mipcom attendees will be able to partake in plenty of conferences and listen to well-known speakers. CBS president-CEO Leslie Moonves, who is the Mipcom personality of the year, will offer a keynote address on Oct. 8 in the Grand Auditorium.

The following day, NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman and Paula Wagner, CEO of United Artists, will discuss the state of the biz in the same venue.

Though the Hollywood majors dominate the proceedings, smaller companies such as Starz Media and Rainbow Media will have plenty to offer.

Starz will be selling the original documentary “Fog City Mavericks,” about the filmmaking community in the San Francisco Bay area — George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Pixar topper John Lasseter — plus a doc on Hunter S. Thompson, titled “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride,” featuring interviews with Johnny Depp, Sean Penn and others.

Rainbow will spice up the Croisette with three-part doc “Indie Sex,” about the role of sex in cinema. ID Distribution is handling sales.

According to RDF chief operating officer Jane Millichip, the media conglom is coming to Mipcom with more drama and kids shows than in years past.

“This is a major strategic move for us, launching into children’s programming,” Millichip says. “It’s not something we’ve done much in the past.”

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