You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Peak Global TV Events: How the Expanding Biz Is Rewriting the TV Calendar

TV is a busy, global business and an explosion of festivals, markets and events means that producers, buyers and sellers now have a more dizzying array of potential calendar dates than ever before.

Historically, international industry folk convened upon Cannes twice a year, headed to L.A. for the May Screenings if they wanted shiny U.S. shows, and maybe took in NATPE and a specialist event along the way. All of these are still in place, but the established order is being challenged. The legacy events have been joined by distributor showcases, film festival-style shindigs featuring high-end TV dramas and regional and genre-specific get-togethers.

An acquisition exec’s yearly travel schedule could now include NATPE in Miami in January; Series Mania in Lille in March; MipTV in Cannes in April; the L.A. Screenings in May; Serie Series in Fontainebleau, France, in June; Discop in Africa in July; the Edinburgh TV Festival in August; Le Rendez-vous in Biarritz in September; Mipcom in October; AFM in Santa Monica in November; and the Asia TV Forum in December.

That doesn’t even factor in genre-specific events such as Annecy, RealScreen, Kidscreen and Sportel. Nor does it include the film festivals, including Berlin, Venice and Toronto, that have embraced TV. Tech-focused events such as IBC in Amsterdam, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and CES have also deepened the range of content-themed events.

Underlying the shift is the change in distribution in an era of big-budget drama and complex funding and sales partnerships. “Selling is less about simply presenting content,” says Stuart Baxter, president of television at Entertainment One.

EOne send execs to most of the major markets — it will launch Stephen Dorff Western procedural “Deputy” at Mipcom — and has its own London event. But as the international scene evolves, with programming launched year-round and distributors having more boots on the ground, sellers talk to customers more regularly than in the past.

“We don’t wait for an event to speak to them,” says Baxter. “No market is indispensable anymore.”

On the buyer side, increased competition means a need to dig deeply into what’s coming, and to be in the room when the industry is talking.

“We want to hear from industry leaders on what they think, how they see the future and what the new platforms are doing creatively,” says Emma Sparks, head of acquisitions at channels group UKTV.

The international boom is also driven by a move away from using acquired U.S. content to fill schedules. The L.A. Screenings were considered the highlight of a buyer’s year as the studios treated them to top-tier Hollywood hospitality, but a move away from programming international channels with American series means local events assume greater importance. The fact that several studios are likely to withhold some programming for their own streaming services, or limit exclusivity, also makes Los Angeles in May less vital.

The release pattern for shows has also become more year-round, meaning that meeting twice-yearly in Cannes is no longer enough. “Conversations need to happen 52 weeks of the year between producers, creatives and platforms and broadcasters,” says Adam Bishop, senior vice president, content sales, BBC Studios. “It shows the changing way of how we work and interact.”

BBC Studios Showcase has been a catalyst for change. Once a relatively sedate affair in the seaside town of Brighton, it is now a talent-driven spectacular in Liverpool, with 700 acquisitions execs attending from around the world. The likes of All3Media, eOne and ITV Studios have now piggybacked on that with glitzy show-and-tells of their own in London soon after Showcase.

“There’s more out there — more conversations to have with customers, more studios wanting to get their content out there,” says Adrian Last, ITV Studios global marketing director.

For its drama festival, ITV Studios took over the Roundhouse arena in North London, which usually holds thousands of concertgoers, in February.

Entertaining a couple of hundred acquisition folks might not come cheap, but the return on that investment is their undivided attention instead of hurried half-hour meetings at the major markets.

One result of the increased activity in the U.K. is that MipTV in April has been challenged. Galvanized by competition, falling attendance and the likes of BBC Studios and Endemol Shine staying away, organizer Reed Midem has begun a revamp of the event. Following an industry survey, MipTV is now moving inside the Palais des Festivals, and there will be a new buyer program.

“The goal is for there to be a true transformation, to take a different approach and offer a different experience,” says Lucy Smith, who has the considerable task of keeping Mip at the top of TV confabs after its more than 50 years.

The sheer scale of MipTV and Mipcom, Smith argues, provides a good return on the outlay required to be there. “It offers an opportunity to meet so many people in one place,” she says. “You need to look at the efficiencies of having 4,500 buyers at Mipcom and 3,500 at MipTV.”

Meanwhile, NATPE kicks off the international calendar in January. The Miami setting makes it a natural home for the Latin American business to gather — and does no harm in terms of attracting Europeans.

NATPE boss J.P. Bommel says the secret sauce for events has three ingredients: facilitating meetings between the right people, providing a place where deals can get done and offering business intelligence. “If you have those, people will come,” he says.

NATPE attracts 400 exhibiting companies, and there’s no room for big additional markets, according to Bommel. Growth will come from targeting specific communities or locales, he says. The fest launched a streaming event this year, too.

The underlying change that has ripped up the traditional TV industry calendar will continue: TV is becoming simultaneously more local and more international. Buyers, sellers and creators will continue to rack up air miles for the foreseeable future. But where their flights will land is less becoming clear as a new pecking order is established.

More TV

  • Karen Cogan’s 'Fled' Tops The Brit

    Karen Cogan’s 'Fled' Tops The Brit List, a League Table of Unproduced British TV Scripts

    Karen Cogan’s “Fled” has come top of The Brit List, a league table of unproduced scripts from British writing talent, this year devoted to television projects. The list, similar to The Black List in the U.S., was compiled from recommendations by British production companies, talent agencies, financiers and broadcasters. Cogan, represented by Independent Talent Group, [...]

  • Viacom HQ LA

    ViacomCBS Sets HR and Inclusion Chiefs

    ViacomCBS has named corporate heads of HR and inclusion as the companies prepare for the merger that is set to close early next month. The soon-to-combine Viacom and CBS have tapped Nielsen alum Nancy Phillips to serve as exec VP and chief people officer. Viacom alum Marva Smalls will serve as global head of inclusion, [...]

  • Cedric the Entertainer

    Cedric the Entertainer to Produce Multi-Cam Comedy in Development at CBS

    “The Neighborhood” star Cedric the Entertainer is set to executive produce an untitled multi-camera project in the works at CBS, Variety has learned. The series follows two young women who, after repeatedly being turned down by investors, hatch an outrageous plan to raise capital for their new sports app. According to sources, the project had been [...]

  • HBO Max logo

    HBO Max Developing CIA Interns Comedy 'Classified' (EXCLUSIVE)

    There are plenty of tough places to be an intern, but the CIA must be near the top of the list. HBO Max is developing a comedy series which tackles just how hard that might be, Variety has learned exclusively. The forthcoming WarnerMedia streamer, which is set to launch May 2020, has set a script development [...]

  • Sony Pictures Studio Culver City

    Sony Pictures Entertainment Buys AT&T's Stake in Game Show Network

    Sony Pictures Entertainment has bought out AT&T’s minority interest in Game Show Network for about $500 million. The deal makes Sony the sole owner of GSN. AT&T had owned 42% of the company, which the telco giant inherited with its purchase of DirecTV in 2015. AT&T has been on a mission this year to pay [...]


    The First BravoCon Provides an Outlet for Obsession (Column)

    Were you one of the thousands flipping tables for not managing to snatch up tickets to the first ever BravoCon? Did you find yourself refreshing your Twitter and Instagram feeds incessantly for updates on who said what to whom and where over the weekend? Are you wondering if you should try harder to get in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content