MipTV 2016 Wrap: Big Euro Pay TVs, High-End Drama and Millennials Dominate Trade Fair

‘Victoria,’ ‘Little Big Shots,’ ‘The Collection’ among hot-selling shows

Roots Anika Noni Rose Jonathan Rhys
AP/Lionel Cironneau

CANNES – Europe’s two biggest pay TVs – Vivendi’s Canal Plus and Sky — international’s high-end drama push and trad TV’s millennial outreach made much of running – in news and trends – at a 2016 MipTV market, which offered genuine insight on how some of the biggest TV companies in the world outside the U.S. are meeting the digital challenge.

Vivendi, Sky and RTL held center stage – literally when honchos Dominique Delport, Guillaume de Posch and Jeremy Darroch made keynotes or fielded Q&As at the Palais des Festivals Grand Auditorium, later to receive Variety’s Achievement in Intl. Television Award.

But the event’s more conventional real stars were perhaps its YouTubers, led by Michelle Phan, supernovas for their fans and now more comfortably on the radar of an established TV industry that is discovering ways of handling digital natives.

Meanwhile, at a 2016 Mip TV market energized by a one-day MipDrama Screenings, won by Belgium’s “Public Enemy,” of new shows, ITV’s “Victoria,” BBC’s The Collection” and Keshet Intl.’s “The A Word” all made good on their promise by unleashing early licensing announcements. There was good buzz too on Lagardere’s “Cannabis,” Endemol Shine Group’s “Intersection,” ZDF Enterprises’ “Ku’damm 56” and Federation Ent.’s “Bordertown.”

Of formats at MipTV, Warner Bros. International Television Production’s“Little Big Shots” rolled off its ratings as the most-watched alternative show launch on American television in more than six years, licensing local production deals with U.K.’s ITV and Spain’s Mediaset España.

It was Vivendi, however, that made one of MipTV’s biggest news splashes and underscored its content ambitions under new chairman Vincent Bolloré, unveiling Studio Plus, an innovative production label and service making short-format premium international series for mobiles. Packing 10 10-minute segs, Studio Plus’ first 25 series will begin to bow September/October, first in Europe and Latin America.

“Obviously, mobile is the first screen, especially for a whole new generation, with 3.7 billion mobile users. 60% of smartphone users watch short video daily. But there is still no premium content for them,” said Dominique Delport, Vivendi Content president, presenting Studio Plus Tuesday. Enhancing telcos’ content offerings and service offers obvious monetization: Vivendi is in talks with major telcos for Studio Plus distribution, Delport confirmed.

On April 4, Studiocanal, owned by Vivendi’s Canal Plus, unveiled its acquisition of minority stakes in Sunny March, Benedict Cumberbatch’s film-TV production company; Bambu Producciones, producers of Netflix’s first original series in Spain; and “Atlantis” producers Urban Myth. Already owning or investing in five companies – including Germany’s Tandem (“Spotless”); U.K.’s RED Production Co., which produced Harlan Coben’s “Five” for Studiocanal; plus SAM, whose partners include the creators of “Borgen” and “The Killing,” Studiocanal has 100 original series in development or production, chairman-CEO Didier Lupfer said at an April 4 press conference at Cannes.

Sky has a similar number, Jeremy Darroch confirmed at an onstage Variety Q&A.

As Netflix doubles its original content to 600 hours in 2016 and HBO, now increasing its standalone services in Europe, aims to increase its global output of 600 hours by 50%, “It appears unavoidable that Sky originals will have to stay on a steep growth curve, if only to meet subscribers’ expectations stirred up by the booming offering elsewhere,” said Francois Godard, at Enders Analysis.

Original series production strengthens the Sky brand in a more competitive market, goosing subs and stemming churn, they added. That is equally true for other pay TV operators, telcos or many other U.S. studio/network clients.

“Series like ‘Billions’ and ‘Ray Donovan’ have become like long-form movies. They’ve replaced that water-cooler discussions about movies, they’re binged like a movie,” said Armando Nunez, president-CEO, CBS Global Distribution Group

He added: “That genre of content isn’t intended to have mass appeal, but people are willing to pay to watch it, subscribe or keep their subscription. In the new digital premium environment, you need that original content.”

“Global licensing is a major and important trend, not just for Netflix, but for a number of players from the traditional space. I can see Sky heading this way, for example, using OTT as a platform for global expansion,” said Guy Bisson, at Ampere Analysis, at MipTV to analyze its trending topics in a MipTV panel session.

And Sky and Canal Plus, as big U.S. network’s pay TV operators, have a lot to lose. In his MipTV keynote, “The Future Is in Your Palm,” Delport noted that pay-TV cable in the U.S. is still a $100 billion business, while SVOD is a $5 billion business, a “dwarf” in comparison.

It’s not just pay TV operators that are ramping up their output. In order to counter global streaming giants like Netflix, media companies across Europe have been focusing on owning IP, increasing their equity and expanding their portfolio of original drama.

That trend has lead to an internationalization of big media groups and a market concentration. Newen, the French media company behind “Versailles” and “Braquo” which was recently bought by commercial network group TF1, is also seeking to take a stake in foreign companies.

Lagardere, France’s second biggest production group behind Banijay/Zodiak, last year bought Boomerang, one of Spain’s biggest companies, and is about to launch a Boomerang office in another major European territory. In addition, Atlantique Productions, the drama production company owned by Largardere, has just partnered with Germany’s Beta Film to launch Dramacorp, a Swedish-based drama production company. Another top Euro powerhouse, Endemol Shine Group, also announced at MipTV the creation of a studio in Israel dedicated to international drama productions.

Meanwhile, as Netflix announced its first order from Spain, an untitled 1920s-set female-centered drama from Bambu Producciones, plus acquisition of world rights to ITV drama “Marcella,” a femme cop thriller from Sweden’s Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of “The Bridge,” big or high-profile dramas began to push out early sales.

In key deal unveils, Sweden’s SVT and Denmark’s DR bought “The Collection,” Amazon’s first U.K. order, and France Television’s first English-language series, set in 1947 at a French haute couture fashion house, also produced by Lookout Point, BBC and Federation Ent.

SVT also acquired “The A Word,” a U.K. Israeli drama remake, about a family’s reaction to their 5-year-old son’s being diagnosed with autism. ITV Studios Global Ent. announced that “Victoria,” slated for “Downton Abbey’s” slot on U.S. PBS, has closed with Sweden’s TV4, Norway’s NRK, DR in Denmark and Finland’s YLE, NPO in the Netherlands, Yes in Israel, ITV Choice across Africa and Zoomer Media’s Vision TV in Canada.

Zelda Stewart, head of acquisitions at Italy’s Mediaset, cited “Bordertown,” the Nordic Noir cop series-come-family drama, as a series she’s interested in buying for Mediaset’s Infinity service. Fred Burcksen, executive VP and COO of ZDF Enterprises, said ZDF was fielding multiple offers on “Ku’damm 56 – Rebel With a Cause,” a Berlin-set feminist tale unspooling against the background of the city’s 1956 rock ‘n’ roll scene and another MipDrama Screenings title. It looked set to sell as well as “Deutschland 83,” which closed many territories around the world, Burcksen added. Even five years ago, “Deutschland 83’s” sales would have been “unthinkable,” he reflected.

The impact of Netflix, Amazon et al., the Internet and globalization in general continues to play out over the international TV industry. “Netflix and Amazon have woken up the marketplace whether through their entry into markets or the fear of their entry into various markets,” said Nunez.

“The main change is in what viewers watch,” Laurine Garaude, Reed Midem television division director, said Thursday at her traditional MipTV round-up.

“The most important change has been in consumer habits,” agreed Marcos Santana. Telemundo Internacional president, talking of Latin American TV markets. “Young viewers who traditionally watched Latin American series five years ago, have changed, their minds have opened up, thanks to Internet. They’re more open to seeing any kind of fiction in prime time, Korean, Turkish, American, whatever. That’s forced us as producers to raise the bar on quality notably over the last five years.”

One major trend in drama production, The Wit’s Virginia Mouseler commented at a MipTV Fresh TV Fiction showcase, was brand bulking: Dramas that adapted comic books, or enrolled famous names and brands, or reflected real life events or addressed a collective memory, she argued.

Six of the 12 drama series unveiled at the MipDrama Screenings were inspired by real events. CBS’ Nuñez spent MipTV talking up event Summer series but also Showtime and “MacGyver” and “Nancy Drew” and “Star Trek” reboots, the last one of the world’s biggest TV franchises.

Maybe the most awaited of all series event screenings at MipTV, however, was the world premiere of “Roots” (pictured) a reimagining of the cult 1977 ABC miniseries of the same name. Marking the first drama developed by A+E Studios, it made a big bow on the opening day of MipTV. The screening followed a panel moderated by A+E Studio’s exec VP Barry Jossen, a driving force behind “Roots,” with producer Mark Wolper (son of David L. Wolper, the producer of the original miniseries), LeVar Burton, who was the star of the original show and returned as co-exec producer, as well as cast members Anika Noni Rose, Anna Paquin and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

The third episode of the historical miniseries screened in the Palais’ massive, jam-packed auditorium and garnered rowdy ovations. The miniseries is based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel and charts the journey of a family fighting slavery while witnessing and contributing to notable moments in U.S. history.

Bob DeBitetto, who runs A&E’s new studio, which is dedicated to in-house production, said there’s a real desire for great dramatic content such as “Roots.” The exec pointed out the show represented a significant investment for the company and illustrated the early efforts of A&E Studios to work with the best creatives. “I spent more money than the company wanted me to, but no pain, no gain. We had an enormous responsibility to do it right.”

Meanwhile at MipTV, top TV execs squared off with the biggest challenge now facing the TV industry industry worldwide: the diaspora of youth auds.

“Over all the world, television is now for older people, whether cable or free-to-air. It’s just for adults, 30-40 and upwards,” said Telemundo’s Marcos Santana. “The challenge is how to reach younger viewers, via any platform. They’re not coming back to traditional TV.”

If you can’t beat them, buy them. At a MipTV keynote, RTL co-CEO Guillaume de Posch explained why, driving hard into short-form content favored by mobile-watching millennials, RTL had invested in North American multi-channel networks (MCNs) BroadbandTV, a YouTube aggregator, ranked No. 1 in terms of short-form vid distribution; StyleHaul, a “highly specialized” YouTube women’s fashion-themed video content network; and SpotX, a video inventory management platform, fielding online ad enquiries.

As MipTV wound down, U.S. telco giant Verizon announced it had taken a 24.5% stake in Awesomeness TV (ATV), with partners prepping a new mobile streaming service on Verizon’s Go90 platform. Deal values ATV at $650 million; DreamWorks Animation acquired ATV for just $33 million back in 2013.

ATV started out as YouTube Multi-Channel-Network. Beyond rising valuations for online companies, Millennials are increasingly shaping the TV industry, in deal-making, online-TV interface, and MipTV events, such as its Digital Fronts.

In two millennial-targeting deals, Vice Media inked to launch Viceland in France, partnering with giant paybox Canal Plus. Sky added shows from NBCUniversal’s International Networks’ Syfy, E! Ent. TV and Universal Channel to mobile catch-up service Sky Go.

Meanwhile, Morgan Spurlock used a MipDoc keynote to present three new femme-centric Web series –“What We Teach Girls,” “Sexish” and “Present Tense” — made for Smartish, a premium content web channel at Disney’s maker Studios.

Online is a test-bed, and has knock-ons, he said. How do you make money from digital production? he asked.  You don’t. Or not immediately: “As long as you don’t lose money making digital content, you’re winning.” But digital content can spark TV deals, a film spin-off, or other commissions from companies, Spurlock argued.

“YouTube stands out in the online video landscape in terms of its sheer volume of consumption, with 90 million videos and 2.05 trillion views on the platform in 2015. While broadcasters who are acquiring YouTube multichannel networks are attracted to these numbers, they do not seek to convert this consumption into advertising dollars alone,” said Daniel Knapp, at IHS. He added: “Increasingly, they see YouTube as a pool for young, on-screen talent with a proven track record of attracting audiences. Innovative broadcasters groom this talent and move YouTube stars up the funnel to host dedicated shows on linear TV, particularly in comedy and lifestyle, in a bid to rejuvenate its appeal.”

“The two-way-street that is YouTube came across very clearly [at MipTV] as both a source to be mined for talent that can then cross over to traditional and as an outlet for the traditional players,” said Bisson.

“Also there’s the magnitude of star quality on the YouTube platform, putting them on a par with major rock stars among their specific demographic.” At MipTV, Michelle Phan literally received the red-carpet treatment.

Said Reed Midem’s Garaude: “The entertainment ecosystem is much larger today: Traditional TV players are coming together with digital studios, consumer brands, YouTubers and virtual reality experts; and we’re here to connect the dots.”

Beyond rising valuations for online companies, millennials are increasingly shaping the TV industries’ agenda.

“On the content front, what came across to me very clearly [at MipTV this year] was that the type of formats being developed are very indicative of Generation Y,” said Bisson. “Broadly: gender and jungle — for example, ‘Survival of the Sexes’ and ‘Wimps in Wilderness’ as one major category and dating shows — ‘Date My Avatar’ for instance — based on not seeing the partner at all, as a reflection of society in television.”

Japan will be the Mipcom’s 2016 Country of Honor.