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MipTV Quiet, Canneseries Divides Opinions

Strike-hit event catches MipTV in transition

CANNES —  MipTV closed Thursday its quietest edition in years, wracked by French air and rail strikes, dreary weather and most important market change and larger competition from February’s BBC Showcase and May’s L.A. Screenings.

2018 MipTV attendance came in around 10,000, said Laurine Garaude, director of Reed Midem’s Television Division, which organizes the content trade fair. That compares to official estimates of 11,000 for 2016 and 10,500 for 2017. Some “hundreds” of participants were no-shows because of the strikes, addedJerome Delhaye, Reed Midem director of the entertainment division.

In a bigger picture, however, as broadcast networks restructure as content creator-owners, not passive broadcasters of acquired product, MipTV is having to reinvent itself, launching “major strategic developments,” said Garaude, Its traditional role as a sales market less required, it is becoming ever more a production forum.

The biggest structural development affecting MipTV has come from Cannes mayor David Lisnard, however: Drama series festival Canneseries, which ran parallel to MipTV.

Won by Israel’s “When Heroes Fly,” Canneseries also wrapped Wednesday night after a first edition which sparked a hugely divisive range of reactions.

The TV drama series industry, especially companies with titles in competition, warmed to the event.

“Canneseries proved to be a great launchpad for “When Heroes Fly,” because people from around the world discovered the series for the first time on a big screen with top conditions and gave it a large ovation,” said Alon Shtruzman, CEO of Keshet Intl, which is selling the series. He added that “buyers were motivated by positive word of mouth, Keshet recently selling the series in several markets.

In large contrast, however, an excoriating article in influential French newspaper Liberation slammed the new festival.

“Canneseries: the first edition of a festival where one’s n0t waiting for the second,” the headline ran of an article which slammed Cannes titles as “mothballed.”

Variety’s reviews of the two highest-profile titles at Canneseries, Sandra Oh’s “Killing Eve,” and Harlen Coban’s out of competition “Safe” starring “Dexter’s Michael C. Hall, were both thumbs up. Canneseries did well to score for competition the biggest new title coming out of Latin America: Gael Garcia Bernal’s Fox-backed “Here on Earth,” and “Where Heroes Fly,” a novel Israel/Colombia anti-war action thriller from one of Israeli on-the-rise showrunners Omri Given (“Hostages“).

What Canneseries lacked was a huge coup of the stature of Series Mania’s last year when it world premiered the opening episodes of the third and final season of HBO’s “The Leftovers,” with Damon Lindelof in attendance as Series Mania’s jury president.

Absent too at Cannes Series was the mass glamor night after night of Hollywood stars and “A”-list creators that flock to the Mays’ Cannes Festival, or the ultimate affidavit of a big new drama series festival: Huge billboards dominating the Croisette of series from the two companies which started or now drive the global drama series revolution: HBO and Netflix.

HBO has chosen to support Canneseries French government backed rival, Lille’s Series Mania, where it will world premiere “Succession” in two weeks time: Netflix did indeed two series at Canneseries: “Safe” and “Undercover,” which it announced as its first Dutch-language series. Lacking French first-window rights to either, it did not advertise its involvement in either, nor have execs at In Development, where top execs at largely European companies such as Studiocanal and Federation Ent. fired off questions at producers/creators pitching projects or pr peopled (often excellent) panels.

Featuring projects from often new talent rather than big TV players, Canneseries’ main industry event, In Development, drew mixed reactions. One U.S executive called it “a valiant effort and “useful” for newer producers getting into development and/or co-productions. They added, however, that they had hoped for “more buyers/decisions makers” attendance being “mainly producers and more local (i.e., EU and lots of France). “It’s definitely not Content London or Series Mania,” the executive added.

It has taken Series Mania eight years of huge effort to build to  position where it enjoys the confidence if at least some elite U.S. companies. Backed by France’s Canal Plus, Cannes Series set out at least in its first edition to highlight drama series from largely outside the U.S.

Launched by Cannes mayor David Lisnard, the future of Canneseries which was enthusiastically embraced by Cannes’ townsfolk, will most probably be determined by macro political decision.

The future of MipTV revolves, ever more around premium drama and MipFormats mini-market and high-end drama events. Notably on Wednesday, when MipTV was winding down, In Development, which was housed at Cannes’ Gare Maritime, remained packed.

Marking the biggest production news of the market, “The Wire’s” David Simon and Spain’s Mediapro announced they are in co-development on a new Simon series project, “A Dry Run,” about Abraham Lincoln Battalion members fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

In the highest-profile sales deal, France’s Canal Plus announced it had acquired Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Canneseries’ competition favorite “Killing Eve.”

MipFormats was abuzz with talk of how the SVOD players are starting to reinvent unscripted in the way they have already done in scripted. “The Biggest Loser” creator David Broome said he designed his Netflix series, “Ultimate Beastmaster,” with binge-viewing in mind.  “As a format creator you think about ‘how am I going to get these people to move down to the next episode?’ because it’s all about bingeing.”

Several big talent shows were in evidence at MipFormats – “The Four,” “All Together Now” – as the search for the next big format continues. NBCU Alternative Studios was also shopping formats out as the U.S. becomes an exporter.

But content creation in general faces challenges, Facebook and STX’s virtual reality arms both told MipTV goers.

In the case of Facebook, it is that with major consolidation underway “there is more money for content than ever before but the problem is the biggest checkbook wins,” said Matthew Henick, the company’s head of content strategy and planning. at  a MipTV keynote.

“It is very hard for new entrants and distribution to come up and compete.” One way through the clutter is what Henick dubbed “social entertainment” – programming that engages with consumers in real-time and is distributed globally.

“You will have two types of scripts when creating: One we all know about is what the actors are doing; the next one is what your audience is doing with your content.”

STXsurreal said the following day the virtual reality market has not yet had its breakthrough moment.

“The big question to be answered is despite the billions of dollars invested in the technology behind VR, and despite massive enthusiasm from early adopters, why hasn’t the medium broken through?” noted Rick Rey, co-president, VR & immersive entertainment, at STXsurreal, the VR arm of film-TV studio STX.

STXsurreal’s answer is to try and bring film talent to the party. It showed Robert and Racer Rodriguez’s “The Limit,” a high-octane action project with Michelle Rodriguez, to MipTV delegates. Rodriguez told Variety that he is already lining up his next VR projects with STX. “It will be either a sequel to this or a thriller we are working on. We could be shooting it as early as the summer.”

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