International Newswire: Mipcom Sees First Signs of Peak TV Animation

Thomas and Friends- Big World! Big Adventures
Courtesy of Mattel

In today’s International Newswire, MipJunior sees a growing flow of kids’ content coming onto the market, Chiwetel Ejiofor starts to shoot his directorial debut in Malawi, five feature debuts compete at the European Film Awards, a report finds scripted TV production in the U.S. declined last year, and Showmax is to make a Polish version of ‘Saturday Night Live.’

Cannes’ Mipcom trade-fair, which closed on Thursday, was the first in several years when unscripted was as much part of the conversation as scripted. In fact, it was a tale of three markets. If Mipcom was “bright, brisk and bustley,” as ReedMidem’s TV division director Laurine Garaude described it at her customary last day of the market wrap, MipJunior was one of the busiest events in recent years, judged by news flow, and big company presence – Mattel tub-thumping its overhaul of the “Thomas the Tank Engine” IP, for instance.

Buyers, whose numbers came in at a record 660, Garaude said, could also dip into a massive 1,400 shows, up on 2016, in MipJunior’s digital library. “When people talk about ‘peak TV,’ they’re referring to drama, but a case could now be made for animation,” said David Michel, president of Cottonwood Media and co-founder of Federation Kids & Family.

Three factors are at work, Michel suggested. “First, digital platforms are ordering more and the historical big cable networks are not ordering less,” he said. In the biggest announcement of the market, Netflix said it was ramping up its kids’ content. Second, recently hiked government incentives in some countries, such as France, make it profitable to do a show with just one channel. Third, China is now producing its own original content. So the big question begged by MipJunior is if more companies will pour into premium high-end kids and family content to compete in an ever more competitive market.

The untitled directorial debut of Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA Award-winning actor Chiwetel Ejiofor has begun in Malawi. Ejiofor will star in the project he also adapted from the book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.

The film follows 13-year-old William Kamkwamba (played by newcomer Maxwell Simba) who is thrown out of the school he loves when his family can no longer afford the fees. Sneaking back into the school library, he finds a way, using the bones of the bicycle belonging to his father Trywell (Ejiofor), to build a windmill which then saves his village from famine.

Potboiler Productions’ Andrea Calderwood (“The Last King of Scotland”) and Gail Egan (“A Most Wanted Man”) are producing the film. Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King will executive produce with BBC Films’ Joe Oppenheimer, the BFI’s Natascha Wharton, and authors Kamkwamba and Mealer.

Five feature films by debut directors have been nominated for the Discovery prize at the 30th European Film Awards, William Oldroyd for “Lady Macbeth” from the U.K. The nominees are Hubert Charuel for Bloody Milk from France, Ralitza Petrova for “Godless” from Bulgaria, Carla Simon for “Summer 1993” from Spain, and Ronny Trocker for “The Eremites” from Germany. More than 3,000 members of the European Film Academy will select the winners of the awards, with the ceremony taking place on Dec. 9 in Berlin.

Has peak TV peaked? In some sectors, maybe yes. An IHS Markit white paper, Boom or Bubble? The Rise of Scripted Programming, confirmed that scripted TV production in the U.S. declined in 2016, with U.S. broadcast and cable networks airing 2,323 hours of original drama and comedy last year, down from 2,511 hours in 2014. The drop is largely driven by lower origination by the cable networks, the report said. Those figures, however, exclude online content, which, led by Netflix and Amazon — almost tripled their output of original scripted programming, with 515 new first-run hours in 2016, making for a total increase in U.S. company scripted content last year.

NBCUniversal Intl. Formats has formed a partnership with subscription VOD service Showmax to produce a Polish version of NBC’s flagship comedy show “Saturday Night Live.” Maciej Sojka, head of Showmax Central and Eastern Europe, said: “Never shying away from controversy or tackling difficult subjects, ‘Saturday Night Live’ is more relevant than ever in the current political environment.” Over the past few years, 11 international versions of “Saturday Night Live” have been licensed across the world, more recently including France, Middle East and China.