Drama, Local Business, Digital, Women’s Empowerment Energize Mipcom 2016

Disney-ABC’s Ben Sherwood, Participant Media’s David Linde among industry leaders making strategic announcements

Drama, Local Business, Digital, Women’s Power Energizes Mipcom 2016

CANNES, France — Invigorated by record attendance, multiple series screening, powerful keynote speakers and a slew of stars, the Cannes’ 2016 Mipcom content trade fair also saw major announcements which underscored TV market trends at large.

If Mipcom 2016 is anything to go on, more film companies, including iconic outfits, are piling into TV; the world’s TV drama boom looks ever-more driven by pay TV and high-end drama; digital platforms are going ever more international; in production, Hollywood’s studios are increasingly going local. On a burgeoning international drama production scene, Nordic Noir powers on.

Such is the complexity of signing off on TV business these days that few large deals are now mooted and closed at TV markets, which function rather to power deals forward as well as marketing platforms for the confirmation of past-month dealings. But Mipcom 2016 strategic moves reveals were legion.

Returning to Mipcom, where he started his career in 1988, David Linde, CEO of Participant Media, announced in his Mipcom keynote that Jeff Skoll’s company, producer of “Lincoln” and “Spotlight,” would “double down” on TV production and move “aggressively” into digital content creation. First up on the TV slate is “America To Me,” a non-scripted skein from “Hoop Dreams” Steve James; great journalism themed series from the “Spotlight” production team; and a fiction TV series spinoff of Alex Gibney’s documentary “Zero Days.”

Ben Sherwood, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, confirmed that Disney would up its number of local and international co-production originals.

Though it has re-versioned its own series across the world, Disney-ABC come relatively late to the local original production party. Sony Pictures Television is a more established player. At Mipcom, it world premiered “The Halcyon,” which twins local production – but with high international ambitions – with high-end values. Produced by London’s SPT-owned Left Bank Pictures, also behind Netflix’s first U.K. original  “The Crown,” “The Halcyon” is set in a World War II London hotel during the Blitz. It has name actors, lead by Olivia Williams. There’s a  cinematographic sweep to its period detail, long dolly shots down corridors and quick-fire edited dance scenes.

In industry terms, “The Halcyon” is also “in many ways emblematic of a new [TV] world, said Keith Le Goy, president, distribution, Sony Pictures Television.

He went on: “Historically for a U.S. studio, we would make shows for U.S. consumers, and treat the rest of the world as an export market. In this case, we are making a show with ITV, where the U.S. is an export market.”

Disney will fire up ABC Studios International, NBCUniversal’s Telemundo launched at Mipcom the Miami-based Telemundo International Studios. TIS aims to make “high-high quality” series” of 10-15 episodes starring award-winning crossover Hispanic talent which works or has worked in Hollywood, said Telemundo International’s Marcos Santana, who will head up the unit.

Reed Midem plans to expand on its successful 2016 MipTV Drama Screenings, featuring at next April’s MipTV event longer excerpts from dramas and three series in their entirety, said Reed Midem’s Laurine Garaude.

According to World TV Production Report 2016, an IHS Technology study launched at Mipcom, there are signs that U.S. linear TV and basic cable drama production is dropping, with only 78 new U.S. network TV scripted shows to date this year vs. 115 in 2015.

Accepting the inaugural Variety Vanguard Award, Marion Edwards observe that “‘old’ media is still king. It is still the brass ring for many producers. The fact is that with a network hit literally millions of people can watch it.”

But dramas coming on to the market at Mipcom look increasingly pay-TV skewed. “There was very little new drama for free TV” at this year’s Mipcom, said one European network buyer. “Series are all with stars and cinema-style cinematography,” he added. While drama production is increasing driven by premium TV, whether classic pay TV or digital platforms, content deals at Mipcom played out across a huge spectrum of platforms, including free-to-air linear TV:

*Germany’s RTL extended its multi-year film and series pact with NBCUniversal Intl. Distribution;

*ITV Studios Global Entertainment sold its rebooted CGI-animated “Thunderbirds Are Go” to China’s CCTV;

*Studiocanal has licensed “Midnight Sun,” the Nordic Noir series created by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein (“The Bridge”), to Germany’s ZDF, Denmark’s DR and Australia’s SBS, among others.

*“The Walking Dead” will return to Fox in 125 countries for Season 8, following AMC’ renewal;

*BBC Worldwide signed a co-production deal with China’s video platform Tencent Holdings Limited for the documentary film “Planet Earth II”;

*Zodiak Rights inked a flurry of pre-sales across Europe on Canal Plus’s period drama “Versailles” Season 2, which was created by Simon Mirren and David Wolstencroft and stars George Blagden (“Vikings”) as the Sun King, Louis XIV.

*ITV Studios Global Entertainment has sold glossy historical drama “Victoria,” about Britain’s second-longest-serving monarch, to more than 150 countries, the company said Monday at Mipcom.

Final Mipcom 2016 attendance numbers are currently tracking at just under 14,000 delegates, the highest-ever number, with 4,900 buyers registered including 1,500 acquisition executives working for digital platforms and SVOD,  Garuade commented at a Mipcom 2016 wrap-up presentation on Thursday.

As ever larger series hit Mipcom, so do ever larger stars: Kiefer Sutherland presented “Designated Survivor,” detailing its multilevel narratives; talking up “Twin Peaks’” Kyle MacLachlan “was like a rockstar here,” said Armando Nuñez, president and CEO, CBS Studios International. Dennis Quaid rolled in to talk up Sky’s “Fortitude” Season 2. All in all, some 150 stars and actors supported program launches at Mipcom, another all-time record, Garaude estimated.

Of drama trends, Nordic Noir has in part gone Froid. “We are in the middle of a golden age of drama, but it is also an ice age, with Nordic Noir and thrillers taking over the planet,” proclaimed Virginia Mouseler at The Wit, a TV-digital content research company, presenting Fresh TV Fiction at Mipcom on Wednesday. She went on to screen excerpts from a brace of dark thrillers set in or around the Arctic Circle, led by Canal Plus-SVT’s “Midnight Sun” and Zodiak Rights-sold “Black Lake” – imagine “I Know What You Did Last Summer” at a ski resort.

22% of fall dramas are police, suspense and action series, Mouseler added.  Also, “in Latin markets, black is becoming the new pink: There are more thrillers and less episodes,” she went on.

Telenovelas, which can traditionally run to 150 episodes, are shortening: Mouseler screened excerpts from Globo’s “Supermax,” show-run by Daniel Burman and made in Spanish, “Justicia,” also from Globo, about innocent cons seeking justice; and Telefe’s “Love After Love,” about a couple’s second chance love after their unfaithful spouses die together in a car accident.

TV drama “is where character development is really happening,” Shonda Rhimes, Mipcom Personality of the Year, said of TV drama, delivering a Mipcom mastermind keynote. But as the industry continues to celebrate a golden age of drama, voices mount that, however attractive the high-end TV business model, it is not a license to mint money.

“At the end of the day, while there are a lot of dramas, not that many fall into that high-end category,” said CBS Studios International’s Nuñez.

He added: “You need the platforms  – a Showtime, HBO or Netflix – to be able to monetize, justify and rationalize the cost associated with high-end content. It’s a lot trickier than it looks.”

“The perspective of my 32 years in this business tells me that there is no limit to what is possible if you stay tuned to the sensibilities and the interests of the consumers,” Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Corporation, said in another 2016 Mipcom keynote.

Small companies can break out to huge success. But Hollywood’s studios and companies that can bring real distribution and co-production muscle to the table are at a huge systematic advantage. Strait is the gate to higher-end glory.

Meanwhile, non-scripted formats dealing with relationships, from family bonds to marriage and friendship, are currently in vogue, according to a report compiled by research organization The Wit and unveiled at Mipcom. Dating and adventure shows were up 13% and 23%, respectively, in 2016, while talent and quiz shows were down 14% and 21%. Game and cooking shows were also down, according to The Wit research. Israeli formats were well-repped during Mapco’s format sessions with a flurry of shows, such as “Boxed” and “Man Birth,” which are sold by Keshet International, and “Pregnant & Platonic” from Gil Formats.

Underscored by the strong presence of American powerhouse  Rhimes, this year’s Mipcom edition turned a bigger-than-ever spotlight on women and diversity. Mipcom hosted its inaugural Diversity Summit with three big backers: A+E Networks, French web platform Afrostream and Sonar Entertainment.

“People of color have a long way to go in the global media industry.  This is far more than the U.S. where it gets lot of attention,” said Sean Cohan, A+E Networks’ president of international and digital, who is one of the driving force behind the initiative.

“There is a startling lack of people of color in positions of authority in U.S., U.K., and elsewhere in the industry,” he added.

Rhymes – who has created and produced cult shows such as “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy” that feature minorities and strong women in leading roles – said the heroines of her shows talk like the women she knows: “I don’t know any weak and dumb women,” she argued.

The Mipcom 2016 trade fair ran Oct. 17-20.

Leo Barraclough contributed to this report