Television trade shows like MIP TV have become valuable springboards for high-profile drama series and the top tier of these product launches are the red-carpet screenings.

Black-tie bows at the Palais have been a feature of Mip TV and sister event Mipcom since 2010, when an episode of “Mad Men” was screened to launch season four on the international market.

This year at Mip TV, Starz will world premiere nightclub drama “Power,” followed by an onstage chat with exec producer and cast member Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, lead actor Omari Hardwick and showrunner Courtney Kemp Agboh.

By launching the series at Mip TV, Starz can grab the attention of the 4,000 or so buyers at the market a month before other new U.S. shows are rolled out at the L.A. Screenings.

“It gives us the opportunity to get broadcasters to focus on our show without the distraction of the other studio product,” says Gene George, exec VP, worldwide sales, Starz Worldwide Distribution.

FX’s “The Americans” was another high-profile series to launch with a red-carpet screening in Cannes. The espionage drama, which premiered at Mipcom 2012, was “incredibly well received,” says Marion Edwards, president, international television at Twentieth Century Fox TV Distribution. “We would love to do it again.”
Edwards views Mip TV and Mipcom as the “perfect market-place to introduce cable premieres.”

“The cable market has really become the home of such wonderful drama and people look for an opportunity to have that drama stand out and get the recognition it deserves,” she says.

Sometimes smaller-scale private screenings are a better option. This year, Fox premiered drama series, “Tyrant,” from “Homeland” creators Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff, and vampire skein “The Strain,” which is exec produced by Carlton Cuse and Guillermo del Toro, at the London Screenings in February. “We used that as an opportunity to stand alone,” she says. Further screenings took place in Hong Kong and Sydney.

“It is not a question of what we think will screen better for a small group or a big group. It is a question of trying to get the buyers to focus solely on your shows,” she says.

Another of the premiere screenings at Mip TV this year will be “The Honorable Woman,” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. The show is being repped by BBC Worldwide, which has an advantage over other distributors in that it has its own buyers’ event, BBC Showcase, six weeks before Mip TV. This allows for a staged approach to the process.

Although distributors like BBC Worldwide don’t have the deep pockets of the Hollywood studios, they have to compete with the majors for the attention of buyers at the trade shows.

“We are really taking on the studios with the style and the way that we market, and that is indicative of the importance of these trade shows,” says Andrew Moultrie, senior VP program marketing and creative, BBC Worldwide.

Events like Mip TV offer distribs a chance to deliver their marketing message to a broad swath of the industry.

“The cool thing with all these trade events is you have a concentration of people there so you have a captive audience,” Moultrie says.
But sometimes a more targeted approach is adopted.

FremantleMedia will be showing episodes of its new drama “Jamaica Inn,” pictured above, to buyers at its Mip TV stand, but much of the marketing effort will have been done before the event, says Bob McCourt, acting CEO of FremantleMedia Intl.

“We have what we call ‘DNA Days’ where all the sales guys meet the producers and writers and really get to understand the show,” he says. “Then they’ll start teasing it out to their key buyers. So by the time these buyers come to the market they’ll know about these dramas and they can talk in a more focused way about acquiring them.”

When drama projects are in development, sometimes it’s better to keep them out of the public eye, and Mip TV provides the opportunity to talk about new projects behind closed doors.

Laurine Garaude, director of the television division at Mip TV organizer Reed Midem, points to the event’s Intl. Drama Co-production Summit as an example. Guest speakers include “Borgia” creator Tom Fontana and “The X-Files” and “Strike Back” writer Frank Spotnitz.

“People come to discuss new projects, to make new connections, and it is a springboard for creating new projects,” she says. “It is important to the industry because of its role in helping develop early-stage transactions for projects.”