CANNES – High-profile dramas Roots,” “Victoria” “The Embassy” and “The Collection” and Warner Bros.-sold talent show “Little Big Shots” look like just some of a plethora of new titles at the 2016 MipTV trade fair, the world’s second biggest TV market, which kicks off Monday in Cannes.
In MipTV’s biggest world premiere, A+E Studios’ “Roots” event series, a reboot of the 1977 ABC miniseries based on Alex Haley’s novel, will screen Monday evening at Cannes.
But sporting a new scripted series competition, the MipDrama Screenings, 2016’s MipTV also looks set to underscore the new ambitions of international TV fiction as U.S. and foreign-based pay TV/SVOD players, incumbents and new, continue to galvanize sales for premium drama in domestic and around the world.
While MipTV proper runs April 4-7, it is now fore-fronted by a prior-weekend MipFormats and MipDoc, plus April 3’s all-day MipDrama Screenings, making the event a five-day stay-over for many execs.
With the studios traditionally unleashing their new season newbies in international at May’s L.A. screenings, then October’s Mipcom convention in Cannes, unscripted formats normally took center stage at MipTV.
Certainly, there will be new shows on offer. In unscripted formats, Freemantle Media is unveiling a “big new and exciting format’ at MIPTV,” it anticipated. Endemol Shine is starting to roll out real-life thriller format “Hunted” internationally, having just closed a deal with China’s Shenzen Television. It will also talk up Endemol Shine formats from all over the world, such as “Spelling Star” (Australia), “The Brain” (Germany), “Big Music Quiz” (France), “Kitchen Impossible” (Germany) and “Big Benefits Handout” (UK).
And Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution has overseas rights to “Little Big Shots,” which has been punching what Variety described as “eye-popping” numbers on NBC.
“Little Big Shots’” “spectacular premier and the continuing success of recent episodes in the U.S.” is sparking “a lot of interest in the show,” said Jeffrey Schlesinger, president, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution.
But as big companies – first Endemol and FreemantleMedia, then Hollywood’s studios and ITV – buying up local production companies around the world, the international formats business has becomes less about selling, more about snagging broadcaster commissions.
Warner Bros. likewise purchased Dutch giant Eyeworks in 2014, now giving it production companies in 15 territories.
“We’re not out selling options of formats to third parties, we are engaged with broadcasters in most of the major territories where we have on the ground production companies seeking commitments and commissions to produce the show. So that’s a big difference from what we used to do in the past,” Schlesinger said.
He added: “’Little Big Shots’ will really exhibit the value of having made the investments in the companies like Shed Media and Eyeworks because we are now able to capture not just the format fee but a production margin and control our own destinies as opposed to licensing the IP to third parties.”
The roll-out of local production company networks – many with the capacity to also make shows for international – continues to drive much international TV business, whether in unscripted or dramas. Big new announcements well be a major narrative at this year’s MipTV, at which dramas – somewhat less prone to local re-versioning – look set to make much of the running in open market trading
As of March 29, delegate number were tracking around 11,000, on a par with 2015 MipTV figures, said Laurine Garaude, market organizer Reed Midem’s director of the TV Division. Among 4,000 buyers, drama acquisition exec numbers are up 10%, she added.
One of the biggest questions is how far established pay TV/SVOD players will step up to the table as their profit margins come under pressure from new Over-the-Top rivals, led by Netflix.
Currently, there is no sign of pullback, which means that premium-product rich Hollywood studios, though with no lock on top drama, are sitting rather pretty.
“When you really cut through it, true premium content is a limited commodity. the combination of having that kind of content and the continued evolution and growth of platforms around the world…it’s an exciting time,” said Armando Nunez, president-CEO, CBS Global Distribution Group.
Proof of that was January’s hallmark deal with Sky for Showtime original drama series in the U.K., Germany and Italy. Shortly after that deal was announced, Showtime entered in an exclusive content/brand deal with SVOD platform STAN in Australia.
May’s L.A. Screenings are the Hollywood studios’ principal first-half TV event. So they come to MipTV with a broad brief. Nuñez will share with clients details of CBS’ development slate, such as “MacGyver” and “Nancy Drew” reboots, in the run-up to the Screenings, and push two Summer event series – thriller “BrainDead,” from Robert and Michelle King (“The Good Wife”), and classic murder mystery tale “American Gothic,” co-produced with Amblin TV – and a “Star Trek” TV series reboot. Latter is “a huge franchise initiative project,” he said, adding: “We will also obviously continue talking a lot about our our original content strategy at Showtime with a lot of different premium services.”
Disney Media Networks will present its ABC soap “The Family,” a reappeared son thriller starring Joan Allen and Andrew McCarthy, and ABC dysfunctional family comedy “The Real O’Neals.”
But with studios holding back on major unveils until May, it is drama produced out of international which will take more of a center-stage at 2016 MipTV, boosted by its inaugural 12-title MipDrama Screenings of new series. One competition entry is “Victoria,” created and written by novelist Daisy Goodwin for ITV Studios Global Entertainment. A coming-of-age romantic drama that turns on a young Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman, “Doctor Who”) from her accession to the throne in 1837, aged 18, to marriage to Prince Albert, it is highly awaited, having been set to air in the U.S. in “Downton Abbey’s”slot on PBS, a co-producer.
“This is the human story about a teenager who becomes the most powerful woman in the world, has to grow up extremely quickly, in a powerful and rich context, is pulled in many directions. Then she meets Albert,” said ITVS GE’s Ruth Clarke, who heads up global content strategy and investments.
Produced for broadcast network Atresmedia by Spain’s Bambu Producciones, one of Southern Europe’s most courted TV production houses, and centering on a woman who begins to suspect her diplomat husband of espionage skullduggery, “The Embassy” receives a prime MipTV real-estate screening on Monday morning. Sold by Beta as MipTV celebrates a Focus on Germany, it is also the latest series from Bambu, which was thrown into the limelight Thursday when Netflix nveiled it would be the producer of Netflix’s first original series in Spain, a 1920s’ set women’s drama.
Amazon Prime’s first U.K./France-created original, starring Tom Riley (“Da Vinci’s Demons,”) and Mamie Gummer (“The Good Wife,”) and the latest series from BBC Worldwide and Lookout Point, “The Collection,” a Paris fashion-house-set relationship drama, teams writer, creator and award-winning show-runner Oliver Goldstick (“Pretty Little Liars,” “Ugly Betty,”) and Emmy Award winning director Dearbhia Walsh (“The Tudors”).
Lookout Point and BBC Worldwide of course made “War and Peace,” one of 2015 Mipcom’s big high-end series unveils. But, also co-produced by Pascal Breton’s Federation Ent., it also marks the first English-language co-production from Gallic pubcaster France Televisions. It also draws down tax breaks from the U.K. and France and Pinewood Wales Investment Budget government investment.
More big cross-border, intricately-financed co-productions will follow, Breton predicted.
“I’m sure it will happen. The only question is how fast. The tendency is obvious. Every single traditional channel is now looking for premium, better-quality, much more expensive shows which, because they’re co-productions, cost them less.”
Breton added: “Plus these shows are not released through the output deals from major U.S. companies and channels are much closer to them, they co-produce, they’re involved in them.”
In international, outside the U.S., the drama surge in not in series volume but scale as high-end series come to be considered not only entertainment but a consumer commodity at pay-TV/OTT players, protecting churn of sub-bases at operators whose revenues run into billions of dollars a year.
International broadcasters may not, collectively, be making more series, noted Bertrand Villegas, TheWit co-founder-CCO. U.S. drama premieres in the U.S. skyrocketed 93%, 2010-15 to 450 last year, said Villegas, whose TheWit will showcase excepts from trend-setting drama at MipTV on April 6.
In contrast, the number of U.K. and French dramas bowed in 2014 and 2015 was almost exactly level: 152 and 154 in the U.K., and 112 both years in France. “The huge increase in dramas is primarily a U.S. phenomenon, Villegas said.
Yes, international dramas are anteing up on scale, international co-production, cinematic values, stars, and writing quality, sometimes moving into English-language production.
The MipDrama Screenings respond to “the surge in high-quality and high-profile drama being produced from all over the world, the new international dimension,” Garaude said.
They are also a sign of just how hard and fast France has recently driven into international drama co-production and sales, as it begins to shape an alternative European TV drama industry to Hollywood, just as, from the turn of the century, movie sales executives exiting Canal Plus in France drove into the sales of art-house and upscale world cinema.
Beyond a trio of U.K. productions, four of the 12 MipDrama Screenings are sold by four of France’s now most significant TV sales outfits. Two launched in the last two years – Federation Ent. and Wild Bunch TV. A third, Studiocanal, only entered TV in early 2012.
European series’ main challenge is that, outside their country of origin, they still play to relatively small target groups and on niche channels.
“The number of people who watch Danish dramas outside Denmark is higher than before but still very low compared to the number of people who watch a fiction from their own country or the U.S.,” said Villegas.
That said, as ever, it only needs one or two shows to click to power up international revenues. Take France. Figures are not yet in for 2015. But in 2014, as Garaude points out, pre-sales on four flagship French fiction series – “Transporter: the Series,” “The Last Panthers,” “Versailles” and ”Taxi Brooklyn” – to the U.S. or beyond helped power up Gallic TV exports to an all-time record last year of €210.3 million ($231.3 million), a muscular 17.1% up on 2013, per CNC/TVFI figures.
“There won’t be more than five [a year] from each big country, but local shows – French, Scandinavian, German, Israeli, probably Spanish, Italian obviously – when they’re good, premium-good, will go global,” said Federation Entertainment’s Breton.
“Ratings-wise, they will not be as huge as big American productions, HBO or network shows. But we’re talking very good premium European shows that are niche and will now travel much more.”
But to sell, shows need brand recognition. More and more dramas are based on brands, like true stories that everybody knows,” said Villegas, citing “The People V. O.J. Simpson,” and AMC-BBC co-produced “The Night Manager,” which melds two brands, star Hugh Laurie (“House”) and John Le Carré, whose novel it adapts.
Equally, Wild Bunch TV heads to Cannes’ MipDrama Screnings with “Medici: Masters of Florence,” show-run by “X Files’” Frank Spotnitz and starring Dustin Hoffman and Richard Madden, aka Rob Stark in Game of Thrones.
Of now Gallic TV sales leaders, Studiocanal will unveil at the MipDrama Screenings a brooding post-Apocalypse noir crime thriller “Section Zero,” which boasts the Luc Besson brand, being produced by EuropaCorp TV.
Buyers at 2016 MipTV will indeed be confronted by a tsunami of new dramas, in all stages of production, whose companies will seek to persuade buyers that they are true-blue premium content.
“There’s a drive towards higher-end drama, which makes for an increasingly competitive international market, though on the upside, there’s an increasing number of new partners in the U.S,” said ITV GE’s Clarke.
Endemol Shine Intl. will shop “Dark Angel,” about Victorian serial poisoner Mary Ann Cotton, and is giving a big push to Turkish social drama “Intersection.” Germany’s ZDF will sell Belfast-set Gillian Anderson investigative series “The Fall”; All3Media Intl. leads its slate with “Close to the Enemy” from U.K. auteur Stephen Poliakoff (“Dancing On the Edge”); a suburban love-triangle, “You Me Here,” tops eOne’s slate; France’s Newen, owned by TF1, introduces fantasy time travel mini-series “Beyond the Walls.”
Above all, the surge of international drama, the explosion of SVOD services, and big companies’ buy-up of local production operations worldwide, means that sector leaders can ring many more changes in a far more intricate but opportunity-spiced new TV landscape.
One example: As the networks in the U.S. and abroad develop SVOD services, productions made for them will appeal all the more, on paper at least, to other SVOD players: After a special premiere on CBS, the new “Star Trek” reboot TV series will be exclusively available on CBS All Access. “What we’re trying to do is what many of our clients around the world are trying to do: Build and keep a subscriber base and everyone is looking for premium content that moves the needle to do that,” said CBS’ Nunez.
“You’re seeing really interesting mixes of broadcast shows going to SVOD, U.S. SVOD shows going to broadcast or other SVOD players internationally,” Schlesinger said.
He added: “We also sometimes see broadcasters buying multiple rights, some have bought the terrestrial rights, the DTT rights, and the SVOD window together. We are now seeing all kinds of licensing combinations for all kinds of product coming from different sources in the U.S.”
OTHER MIP TV HIGHLIGHTS
‘THE POWER OF FANS’
Keynote themes at this year’s Mip TV include The Power of Fans: How broadcasters and platforms need to develop brands and connect with enthusiastic program followers via ‘sticky’ content. Talking about and around the subject are novelist Harlan Coben, screenwriter of Studiocanal/RED Production Company’s “The Five,” his first story written exclusively for TV; Vivendi content head Dominique Delport; Mattel prexy/CEO Richard Dixon as Mattel figures as MipTV Brand of the Year. RTL Group co-CEO Guillaume de Posch looks set to talk about RTL’s push into short-form content, favored by mobile-watching millennials, via investment in North American multi-channel networks BroadbandTV, StyleHaul and SpotX .
INTL. EMMY KIDS AWARDS
For the first time ever, the Intl. Emmy Kids Awards will take place at MipTV, its fourth annual awards unspooling April 5.
MULTI-CHANNEL NETWORK SHOWCASE
A screening showcase for MCNs attended by ProSieban1’s subsid Studio71, New Form Digital, Machinima, Disney’s Maker studios and Vice Studios, backed by Disney and A + E Networks and FremantleMedia’s The Football Republic, the day-long Brands@MipTV will focus April 5 on how brands are building online content strategies.
UBER-TECH; ULTRA HD
Mip TV is showcasing an Ultra HD (UHD) program, with screenings, such as of NHK’ new 4K fantasy series “Moribito, Guardian of the Spirit,” featured at MipTV’s opening night party, and panels on the technology, already used by Sony Pictures Ent., on shows such as “Better Call Saul” and “The Blacklist.”
A Focus On Germany will highlight Teuton production trends in the world’s second biggest TV market by revenue terms: An estimated €14.6 billion ($16.6 billion) for 2016, per PwC. Germany’s Red Arrow now boasts seven companies in the U.S. In a sign of its international spread, it is selling U.S. (“Bosch”) and Icelandic (“Case”) procedurals, and ABC/Sundance TV fantasy drama “Cleverman.”
Five TV figures receive MipTV 2016 Medals of Honor: Studiocanal/Tandem’s Rola Bauer; Ben Pyne, Disney Media Networks’ prexy, global distribution; Marcel Vinay Hill, Comarex founder-prexy; and Punit and Amit Goenka, CEO and head of international respectively at Zee, India’s Ent. Enterprises.