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Mipcom Wrap: Stars Shine, Deals Get Done as Industry Weighs ‘The Big Shift’

The TV sands are shifting and attendance numbers of 13,800 were flat, but the mood was upbeat at Mipcom this week. The stars came out, even if the sun mostly didn’t, and new shows were announced, sold, and financed even as the industry continues to grapple with the impact of digital and a wave of consolidation.

The studios were once the Mipcom power brokers – its October timing works well, with fall-season launches on U.S. broadcast networks – but the market chatter now centers on Netflix and Amazon as much as Warner Bros. or Disney. Reed Midem, which organizes Mipcom, captured the mood with the tagline for this year’s event: “The Big Shift.”

The rise and rise of the streamers, and their demand of global exclusivity, mean that some of the biggest shows in the world never come on the market. Lionsgate proved the exception to the rule with its international launch of Netflix’s animated hit “BoJack Horseman.” Michael Eisner, whose Tornante produces the toon for Netflix, told Variety it could be a sign that the SVODs are opening up to syndication. But it’s early days to make such a call.

Rights issues remain tricky for most distributors, who are showing signs of pushing back against global deals. For a finished show that a sales company knows will perform well, a global sale limits the long-tail possibilities, and the terms set by the streamers often mean you don’t get paid as fast as with a traditional agreement. Second-window sales of streaming originals are also constrained by the hold-back of digital rights, which linear buyers need for their catchup services. “We’re not saying we’re not going to sell to them,” one seasoned distributor said privately. “It’s just not the first door we are going to knock on.”

But the battle for exclusivity also holds some good news for distributors. As major players like Disney look to hold onto rights for their own services, buyers need to look elsewhere to fill the gaps. “There will be no more Fox, no more Disney product [for Netflix], and Warner have announced they are going to do an OTT. We know product is not as easily available from those studios for certain buyers,” said the boss of one large distributor in Cannes.

The traditional players are also looking to populate their digital platforms, meaning a new lease of life for older shows. “Broadcasters are expanding their VOD offerings, and they often now want to re-license domestic product they had commissioned several years before,” said Endemol Shine International boss Cathy Payne. “We have so many deals coming through on secondary use of domestic product. Catalogue rights are very valuable.”

Payne’s point was borne out Friday when the BBC added four seasons of Idris Elba cop series “Luther” to its iPlayer service ahead of the launch of the new season. Opportunities remain for distributors with massive libraries, such as Endemol Shine, BBC Studios and Fremantle.

Mipcom has evolved from a straight-up buying-and-selling market to one where production and co-production deals are also mulled. Sky-high drama budgets mean a large number of international players could be involved on any given show, and getting all partners in one place, in this case Cannes, becomes invaluable. Joseph Fiennes was in town pitching “Cyrano,” a Cyrano de Bergerac series he plans to produce and star in for Atrium TV. Atrium TV is run by distributor DRG, whose new CEO, Richard Halliwell, said he expects the Atrium buyers to provide the first feedback on “Cyrano” within weeks.

The market has also gotten more starryBen Stiller, Issa Rae and Jenna Coleman were in France with new projects and meeting with international partners. Richard Gere was in town with his first-ever series, the BBC’s “MotherFatherSon,” and remarked that “the world has so turned upside down” in terms of movies and TV. Exec talent on display included Endeavor boss Ari Emanuel, who weighed in on the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and ITV boss Carolyn McCall, who opened up about why she’s not making an offer for Endemol Shine. Banijay is the frontrunner to buy Endemol Shine, and although it would not speak directly, did make it clear it has the desire and wherewithal to scale up.

There was a lot of space-themed programming on sale and on shopping lists ahead of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing next year. Nat Geo programming exec Christian Drobnyk was one of those who said he wanted space series ahead of 2019.

China was the country of honor, but not everyone was pleased with the choice, notably the entertainment format owners who remain concerned about protecting their IP in the Middle Kingdom. Cineflix Rights has just sold a clutch of shows to a Chinese streamer. Its boss, Chris Bonney, noted that deals for packages of finished programming are still getting done, but, having honed their own skills, some of the broadcasters are buying less and doing more locally.

In terms of sales of finished shows to Chinese broadcasters and platforms, business was brisk, with CCTV buying a raft of factual. Format deals with China were announced for two big globally successful dramas, “Broadchurch” and “Doctor Foster.”

In kids’ TV, Viacom’s Nickelodeon set up a development project designed to foster Chinese co-productions and boarded iQIYI’s series “Deer Run.” Nickelodeon was part of a busy MipJunior kids’ TV event, which registered 1,600 participants and 616 buyers. Other major deals included a new “Angry Birds” series and sales on the new-look “Thomas & Friends.” Cyber Group’s animated show “Gigantosoarus” was the most-screened project by children’s-content buyers.

“Facing ever more competition from digital platforms and the increasing quality of production worldwide, producers and distributors are making ever more co-productions and early deals,” Jerome Delhaye, Reed Midem’s head of entertainment, said at Mipcom’s closing press conference. Next April’s MipTV will rest on two pillars, he said: “One distribution, the other co-production and financing.”

Delhaye added that to cope with increased competition from OTT platforms, the traditional players are investing in bigger-budget fare, and deals are made far earlier with distributors and financiers.

“The success of a show like ‘Money Heist’ simply didn’t happen 10 years ago,” said Delhaye, referring to the Alex Pina series that initially bowed on Antena 3 in Spain and has now gone global with Netflix. (“La Casa de Papel” is its Spanish title.) France’s TF1 picked up Pina’s new series, “The Pier,” at the market, from Beta Film.

Other major programming deals announced included a raft of top-tier broadcasters for TMG’s “The Name of the Rose” and for ITV’s “War of the Worlds.” The continued increasing popularity of non-English-language drama was underlined by sales for HBO and Rai series “My Brilliant Friend.”

The lines between film and TV continued to blur with the news that “A Prophet,” Jacque Audiard’s acclaimed movie, is being adapted for the small screen, and that Oscar-nominated director Hany Abu-Assad had boarded “Blood,” the first English-language high-end drama out of the Middle East.

If Mipcom remains vital, MipTV is April is considered less so by both buyers and sellers. With a proliferation of localized country-specific events and the emerging London screenings, MipTV faces a challenge to remain relevant. Mipcom in October, meanwhile, remains a must-attend for the international business.

John Hopewell contributed to this report.

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