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Mip TV: Drama Dynamizes 2015 Market

Mip TV expands digital content mart; non-scripted format sector awaits The Next Big Thing

CANNES – Two big “Ds” – Dramas, Digital – look set to galvanize much Croisette business, as well as multiple conference panels, at next week’s Cannes Mip TV, which catches part of the international TV business in the full flush of evolution, convulsed by ramping consolidation – Mip TV will be the first market for new joint venture Endemol Shine Group, for instance – and the ever-clearer emergence of international drama as a serious alternative to US fare.

As the number of high-end drama escalates, competition for top-notch show-runners – mostly based out of the U.S. will become all the more bitter.

Last Wednesday, Amazon Studios aconfirmed Diego Luna to play the lead in its untitled Casanova period drama, exec produced by Electus Ent.’s Ben Silverman and Stu Zicherman. Expect further high-end drama announcements – of epics and event dramas – or first-look talent deals at 2015’s Mip TV.

Traditionally, May’ L.A. Screenings, and October’s Mipcom TV mart, have proved the biggest launchpads for new high-profile dramas. No more. Now Mip-TV looks to have joined the club, as the market launches a Drama at Mip TV forum and a veritable mini tsunami of high-end fiction is set to sweep the Croisette. Just some examples:

*One of the most active of Hollywood studios at Cannes, Twentieth Century Fox TV Distribution’s will continue to roll out sales on “Empire,” boosted by phenom first season ratings, the best for any regular broadcast drama since 2008, as well as the rave-reviewed “The Last Man on Earth.”

*Warner Bros. Worldwide TV Distribution, will be pushing super-hero drama” The Flash,” and DC Comics super-villains and vigilantes origin story “Gotham,” picked up for SVOD by Netflix.

* With free-to-air broadcasters still seeking semi autonomous episode drama, CBS Studios Intl. will be shopping Patricia Arquette starrer “CSI: Cyber” and sci-fi thriller “Zoo,” based on James Patterson’s bestseller.

*In Europe, film-TV powerhouse Studiocanal bows its first-ever TV sales operation at Mip TV, led by two Canal Plus Original Series, the Tandem-produced “Spotless,” now a Canal Plus hit, and futuristic “Section Zero,” from Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, plus Tandem’s “Crossing Lines 3,” and Harlan Coben’s “The Five” from Red Production Company.

*Flagship dramas at Endemol Shine Group include ITV series “The Frankenstein Chronicles,” with Sean Bean, and AMC/Channel 4’s “Humans” (pictured), an around mid-year bow which is “a relationship story with strong thriller elements” set in a world where robots, called synthetics, have developed human emotions, said Endemol Shine Intl. CEO Cathy Payne.

* At Mip TV, ITV Studios Global Ent. will hold a World Premiere Screening of “Texas Rising,” co-produced with A + E, and talk up a rebooted “Poldark,” and David Duchovny U.S. crime drama “Aquarius,” set for NBC.

*From Germany, ZDF will be pushing pan-European crime thriller “The Team,” starring Lars Mikkelsen (“The Killing”), Beta “Line of Separation,” set in a Cold War-wracked Germany, and Tele München Group Dominic Graf’s “Blender,” based on a narcotics cop scandal.

The highest profile Mip TV 2015 keynote speakers look like “Modern Family” co-creator Steven Levitan and Sky group chief exec Jeremy Darroch, who will set out his vision for the push by a pan-European Sky, with now integrated pay TV operations in the U.S., Italy and Germany, into high-end drama.

And one of this year’s large highlights will be Mip TV’s Intl. Drama Screenings, which range from Starz Worldwide Distribution’s ballet drama “Flesh & Bone” to “Follow the Money,” from Danish pubcaster DR Fiction, “Deadline: Gallipoli,” airing in Australia’s Foxtel, and “Versailles,” a flagship English-language series at France’s Canal Plus.

“Great stories have no homeland,” says a The Wit Mip TV study, “5 Drama Trends For 2015,” citing the fact that the most-adapted scripted formats in 2014 came from Spain.

Of top fiction formats, CW’s hour-long comedy “Jane the Virgin,” its first Golden Globe nomination, is now in negotiations with a big German broadcaster. Exec producer Ben Silverman originally sourced it from Venezuela.

Reflecting the spread of series in partners, languages, shoots, setting, beyond its first five English-language skeins Federation Ent. is producing  the “Boss”-style “Marseilles” for Netflix and espionage thriller “The Bureau” for Canal Plus, both in French, and co-producing hospital-set “The Replacements” in Finnish and season 2 of “Hostages,” a Hebrew-language series, with Israel, Federation Ent.’s Breton said.

For Garaude: “We’re continuing to notice a growing notion of market opportunities coming from all around the world. Drama production is thoroughly international and becoming more and more so every year.”

For the world’s biggest content suppliers, Mip TV remains a multi-purpose mart. “The L.A. Screenings very much focus on new TV series, “At Mip TV, we typically talk to everyone about everything, and what we discuss just depends on the relationship we happen to have with each client that we’re meeting with. Conversations may turn on film, series or library content, depending on clients,” said Gina Brogi, EVP, Worldwide Pay Television & SVOD, Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution.

But such, indeed, is the current dynamism of the drama sector, that one large question is where it leaves much else of the TV business.

In the non-fiction format sector, everybody’s waiting for The Next Big Thing. “One big hit changes the way the whole market works. When I began my career, I was told that music was dead in primetime, yet you’d be hard pressed to say that now, with ‘Idol,’ ‘The Voice,’ and ‘Popstars’ in major roles in many territories,” said Rob Clark, director of global entertainment, FremantleMedia. At Mip TV, FremantleMedia presents new BBC quiz show “Beat the Brain,” “10 Questions You Wouldn’t Ask On a First Date,” and RTL 1 hit “The Most Beautiful Woman,” a beauty contest for women of different ages and backgrounds which is “very engaging, about inspirational stories, female empowerment, with potential to be a long-running franchise for a broadcaster,” Clark commented.

Endemol Shine Group will be selling talent show format “The Brain,” from Endemol Shine Germany, a breakout hit in China, Spain, Italy, Brazil and France, plus human darts challenge “Bullseye,” from Endemol Shine North America, which went straight to series at Fox. It will also be talking up “Junior Masterchef,” which is now in over 20 territories as well, said Lisa Perrin, MD, Creative Networks, Endemol Shine Group.

Several “important new formats” will be announced during Mip TV, anticipated Garaude. New formats’ challenge, said The Wit’s Bertrand Villegas, is that the super-formats are not fading fast enough to allow new formats through.

Quite the contrary at times, as Endemol Shine’s Perrin points out: Series 11 of “Masterchef” in the U.K. has launched to best-ever ratings; “Masterchef” has hit a 43% peak share in Argentina. In the last five years, there have only been four days in the world where “Big Brother,” which is nearly 17 years old, has not been playing, by one estimate at least.

Some producers criticize TV channels’ risk aversion. But, said Villegas, “broadcasters are not in the business of innovation but rather airing successful shows.”

The problem is many producers wanting to sell their product but broadcasters not having so many slots. There are also semi-Big Things, such as kids’ talent shows like Televisa’s “Little Giants,” re-versioned in Spain, he added.

For Endemol Shine Group’s Perrin, “Regarding the Next Big Thing, I feel it’s just around the corner, and I’m hoping it’s going to come, but it’s not there yet.”

Digital is there, in contrast, and now shaping the TV landscape, as Mip TV reflects. The MIP Digital Fronts co presence is powering up, with a blockbuster line-up of 15 Digital Fronts partners and showcases, a large rise on 2014, said Garaude. One example: as Chinese appetite for entertainment formats ramps up, one top Mip Formats keynote speaker on Saturday was Yang Weidong, SVP Youku Todou, China’s leading online TV co, which has bought “Big Brother” and “The Voice.”

Fresh off a $50 million investment from venture capital company Andreessen Horowitz and the creation last August of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, which he heads up as president, BuzzFeed’s Ze Frank will deliver the Digital Fronts keynote along with producer Michael Shamberg (“Django Unchained,” “Erin Brokovich”).

Other Digital Fronts speakers include Chad Gudstein, CEO of Machinima, the vidgame/fandom-themed digital co, teen YouTube destination channel Awesomeness TV’s founder/CEO Brian Robbins, and Andrew Creighton, prexy of print/online publisher Vice Media.

A pumped-up Mip Digital Fronts kick off Tuesday afternoon. For most of Mip TV, however, it is drama that will be making the running. The high-end drama boom is, moreover, no passing fad.

Explaining the ramp-up of serialized drama, “The main key element is the media-technology landscape: Companies –Netflix, Amazon – leveraging premium content to differentiate their offer,” said Electus Ent. founder-CEO Ben Silverman, who receives a Mip TV Medaille d’Honneur next Wednesday.

More European telecom giants will enter the TV fiction space, as serialized drama works especially well in an age of view anytime, anywhere, predicted Martin Moszkowicz at Germany’s Constantin Film, which rolls this May on English-language “Shadowhunters,” based on Cassandra Clares’ YA book series, with writer/exec producer Ed Decter (“Unforgettable,” “In Plain Sight”).

The ramp-up has two large consequences. “The benchmark for drama has gone up. Competition is fierce and you need an attractive package. There’s a cost to that. So broadcasters are looking to co-produce, so as to get a bigger budget,” said Endemol Shine’s Payne.

“Co-production is progressing enormously, becoming more and more important and successful,” Garaude added. One 2015 Mip TV centerpiece is Tuesday’s Intl. Drama Co-Production Summit; this weekend’s Mip Doc featured, for the first time, a European Broadcasters Union Co-production breakfast.

And, currently, high-end drama is one place to be. For Twentieth Century Fox’s Brogi: “One of the great things about competition for dramas in the market place right now is that there’s something that works for everyone: It’s just a matter of finding the right outlet for each piece of content that we make. There is increased demand and it’s a great business to be in.”

Elsa Keslassy and Leo Barraclough contributed to this report

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