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Why So Many at Mipcom are Shifting Focus to Streaming

The rise of the streamers is being felt on the business side of TV, in the markets where buyers and sellers congregate to trade programming. MipTV in April and Mipcom in October have traditionally been about distributing content territory-by-territory, but the world of TV, and its rights, has changed. That is increasingly evident in Cannes, where the theme this year is “the big shift.”

Laurine Garaude, director of Mipcom organizer Reed Midem’s television division acknowledges the impact of OTT and notes the Cannes markets have reflected that. “It’s been many years since Netflix first came to the show,” she says. All the digital platforms will be in town this year. “They are all present, in different ways,” Garaude says.

Speakers at Mipcom include Gong Yu, founder of Chinese streamer iQiyi, and Jennifer Batty, chief content officer at Southeast Asian SVOD service Hooq. Matthew Henick will be talking Facebook Watch.

The Netflix contingent set for the market includes EMEA acquisitions director Lina Brouneus and a handful of buyers and co-prod execs. Amazon has U.S.-based unscripted boss Heather Schuster registered, plus a healthy contingent of buyers from Europe and further afield. Apple children’s programming boss Tara Sorensen, and YouTube’s EMEA originals honcho Luke Hyams are also expected in the South of France.

Garaude pinpoints new streamers attending including Hotstar, a leader in India’s burgeoning OTT sector, and Starz Play Arabia, the Middle East-focused SVOD backed by U.S. premium cabler Starz. Other newbies pounding the Croisette include BildPlus, the German tabloid newspaper that is looking for online content, and GloboPlay, part of Brazilian media giant Globo.

For sellers the on-demand platforms present new opportunities. The rookie buyers, meanwhile, may be looking at a different kind of deal. The ad-supported and transactional on-demand service often want a revenue share, rather than paying a straight license fee.

Distributors rarely sell out to all territories and Germany-based TVOD platform Pantaflix is one that can offer a rev-share where rights are left open. “That’s where we come in and say ‘look, here is an opportunity, every single sale you make is a plus,’ ” says CEO Stefan Langefeld.

New digital platforms for rights trading offer something similar and without a trip to France. TRX is a leading player, with programming from the likes of All3Media, Lionsgate and Sky on its platform.

The mix of acquisitions executives in Cannes has changed with the times. “In terms of our buyers we had 4,700 last year, of which 1,760 are considered ‘digital’ or ‘SVOD,’” Garaude says. Speaking several weeks ahead of the market, she reports the buyer numbers for 2018 are tracking at that 2017 level. With digital buyers often registering late, the total could exceed last year.

Mexico’s Claro Video, Africa’s Showmax and China’s Tencent were 2017 first-timers and they will be back in town in buying mode. Other country and regions-specific streamers including Stan from Australia, Hooq from India and Viaplay from the Nordics will also be there.

The traditional TV players, meanwhile, have broader needs. Broadcasters are adding third-party content to their on-demand platforms, evolving them from catch-up services for their own product, to platforms in their own right. In the U.K., for example, Channel 4 has added Vice programming to its All4 service, and Viacom has folded in programming from PBS and others to My5.

“A lot of the VOD services [at Mipcom] are either the ones we know, the global ones, or they are extension of linear broadcasters,” says Cathy Payne, CEO of Endemol Shine Intl., one of the biggest global distributors. “You are dealing with the same broadcasters but they are looking at what they can do for their VOD offering. Some who would once have only put their own shows on there are now acquiring separately.”

BritBox is the best-of-British streaming service run by the BBC and ITV. It has some of the best-known U.K. programming on its platform, which is available in the U.S. and Canada, but it needs more. “We know that beyond the distribution parts of ITV and the BBC we will be working with other distributors and producers who have great British television,” says CEO Soumya Sriraman.

The BritBox boss adds that the dynamics of Mipcom deal-making have changed. “It’s no longer sitting there going through a catalog,” she says. “It’s everything from exploring a conversation with a commissioner, or a producer’s early development stage idea, to a distributor who is packaging something together.”

Organizers have succeeded in making Mipcom a more production focused event, although whether the next generation of content creators are in town is a moot point. “The challenge is will they get any producers under the age of 40 there,” one indie boss tells Variety. “If you are a producer in your 20s or 30s now, you are looking at different models.”

As distributors tune into digital, the market becomes a place to buy content from producers making shows for digital platforms.

Barcroft Media has repackaged its YouTube series for traditional TV. It will be in Cannes to talk to distributors about doing more of the same, notably with the mid-form (meaning three- to 12-minute) shows it has launched on Facebook Watch.

Barcroft chief executive Sam Barcroft spies an opportunity packaging up popular factual digital series for TV. The U.K. has been a rich source of this content and sales firms did well taking it out internationally, but as broadcasters pivot to drama and big entertainment shows, it is in shorter supply. “If distributors have big demand for popular factual around the world they have to find other ways to fulfill that, so us and a few other indies are working hard on finding clever workarounds,” he says.

What you won’t see at Mipcom are some of the biggest global dramas. A lot of the buzziest scripted fare is not for sale. Netflix and Amazon originals do not need distribution.

The existential question for Mipcom is: if a show can be sold globally with a single Amazon or Netflix deal, what place is there for an event where distributors sell territory by territory? The reality is the global deal is still the exception not the rule. With a focus on original over acquired content at Amazon and Netflix, that will remain the case for the time being. However, as Disney, YouTube, and Apple ramp up their streaming plans there will be more buyers that can cut globe-spanning agreements. Mipcom will need to continue to shift gears to stay relevant.

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