Monte Carlo TV Festival Embraces the Streamers

Tom Clancys Jack Ryan
Jan Thijs/Amason Studios

Netflix might not have been welcome at the Cannes Film Festival this year, but it and other streaming platforms will take center stage further along the Mediterranean coast at this month’s Monte Carlo Television Festival.

Known for its glamorous location, red carpets and press junkets, the festival opens June 15 with the world premiere of Amazon Prime Original series “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” from Paramount Television and Skydance Television.

The presence of the streaming services can be felt throughout the program of the festival, which sees itself as a key European launch pad for U.S. and international dramas.

The president of the fiction jury is Netflix board director (and former Disney exec) Anne Sweeney. Nominated shows include Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Comrade Detective,” and Netflix co-production “The End of the F***ing World.”

Set up in 1961 by Monaco’s Prince Rainier, whose marriage to actress Grace Kelly lent an aura of showbiz glamour to the tiny but wealthy principality, Monte Carlo bills itself as the longest- running TV festival in the world. Prince Rainier’s son Albert II is the festival’s honorary president.

In a sign that the veteran festival is adapting to a fast-changing TV landscape, chief executive Laurent Puons says he is happy to embrace the new digital players. “If I can open the festival with content from a digital platform like Amazon, it’s a plus.” The future, he says, is “more oriented” to digital platforms than channels.

A former professional boxer, Puons took over running the Monte Carlo Television Festival in 2012, and also heads up a range of other events in Monaco, such as sports media conference Sportel. Since arriving, Puons has re-orientated the festival. Its proximity to MipTV and the Cannes Film Festival meant it was hard to attract the program financiers, buyers and sellers that are the lifeblood of such events, says Puons.

So the Monte Carlo Television Festival is now aimed firmly at the viewing public. It’s now a B2C rather than a B2B event, says Puons: “I was sure the public could help the festival grow up.”

Puons pitches the festival as a European platform for American studios to promote shows and talent, noting that series such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Game of Thrones” have all launched at Monte Carlo.

“Now the format of the festival is very simple. It is the ideal place for studios from all over the world to promote and communicate about their shows and talent to the public and to the media,” he says. More than 200 international journalists are expected to attend this year’s edition.

To underline its public-facing credentials, the festival launched an interactive strand last year called Behind the Scenes, which sees the cast and creators of a show explain to the public how it is produced and directed. This year producer Dick Wolf will host a Behind the Scenes with stars from his shows, including “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Chicago Fire.”

Unlike many events that try their hardest to keep fans at arm’s length, the Monte Carlo Television Festival is very much open to the public. Puons says that up to 8,000 people tread the red carpet, attending screenings, autograph signings and meet-the-fans events. For example, the public will be able to meet with the talent of Freeform’s “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger” and “The Bold Type.” Other TV stars attending include Pedro Alonso (“La Casa de Papel”) and Neal McDonough (“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”). Justin Prentice (“13 Reasons Why”), Ioan Gruffudd (“Harrow”), Colman Domingo (“Fear the Walking Dead”) and Darren Criss (“American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace”) will also represent their series.

The heart of the festival, however, remains the competition, which is split into two sections: fiction and news. While Sweeney heads the fiction category, the news category jury is led by Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford.

There are 38 programs nominated from 18 countries vying for the festival’s Golden Nymph Awards. “For me, the competition is a good way to get an overview of international production, not only from the USA, but all over the world,” says Puons.

For example, the drama series category contains shows from seven countries: “The Good Fight” (U.S.), “Hotel Beau Sejour” (Belgium), “Cardinal” (Canada), “Below the Surface” (Denmark), “The Money Heist” (Spain), “The Frozen Dead” (France) and “Liar” (U.K.).

The comedy category, meanwhile, has Amazon Studios’ “Comrade Detective” (Romania, U.S.) up against “The Case” (Sweden), “Freefall” (Canada), “The End of the F***ing World” (U.K.), “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (U.S.) and “This Country” (U.K.).

Other prizes will be awarded in categories including long fiction, documentary, live breaking news, TV news and the Prince Rainier III special prize.

In recent years, Monte Carlo has tried to reduce the number of nominees in a bid to focus on quality over quantity. Where there once might have been 18 nominees in each category, now there is a maximum of seven.

Casting his eye across the contenders, Puons notes that the standard of European production is getting better and better. But he thinks the U.S. productions come with a higher level of onscreen talent, particularly now that so many film actors and actresses are crossing over into television. “For me, the plus for American production is the talent,” he says.

What: Monte Carlo Television Festival
When: June 15-19
Where: Grimaldi Forum, Monaco
Web: tvfestival.com