Mipcom remains the biggest international TV get-together of the year, and that makes Cannes in October the place where the industry takes stock. How programming is made, bought and sold is changing, as is the array of platforms that carry content. Here are takeaways from Mipcom 2019.
Good Buzz – but No Title Dominates
No show rocked Mipcom the way that “Killing Eve” or “Years and Years” did at past MipTVs. But then, as non-English-language shows (“Money Heist”) and formats (“The Good Doctor”) break out to huge audiences, buyers can be forgiven for having a more diffuse focus. Shows with good word of mouth in the Mipcom market ranged far and wide, from “Normal People,” a love story part-directed by Oscar-nominated Lenny Abrahamson, to “La Jauría” (“The Pack”), a Fabula/Fremantle production and gender crime thriller; from animated pop history anthology “We Are Family,” from France’s TeamTo, to Japan’s “Nagi’s Long Vacation,” about a 30-something woman seeking a second chance in life.
Mipcom Busy – MipTV Plans Cause Concern
Reed Midem said that 13,500 participants were in Cannes for Mipcom, including 4,700 buyers. April’s MipTV, though, has been struggling. Market organizers walked distributors through their plans for a revamped MipTV, but the jury is definitely out. One sales chief told Variety that, with the market now about wider visibility and brand-building in addition to inking deals, the plan to put people in modular stands was a turnoff. Another said that, despite the push to be more cost-effective, they calculate the overall expense of attending will increase.
Hollywood Labor Strife: An Opportunity for International
Concerns about potential labor strife in Hollywood next year are spreading across the pond. Industry sources said British and European producers were eagerly asking U.S. contacts about the state of labor relations as the writers, performers and directors unions prepare to negotiate a new master film and TV contract. At the same time, U.K. drama players voiced concerns about an exodus of writing talent. If a strike results in a lengthy disruption to the production pipeline, producers outside the U.S. could swoop in. One Mipcom veteran noted that American audiences have become more accustomed to watching TV with subtitles through such series as HBO’s “My Brilliant Friend” and “Our Boys” and Netflix’s polyglot offerings.
AVOD, not SVOD, moves center stage
After several years in which the U.S. SVOD players have dominated the conversation, it was the turn of the ad-supported outfits to take center stage. With Viacom’s Pluto TV making AVOD moves of late, Rakuten TV announced an AVOD offer spanning 42 countries. Tubi said it will expand. ProSiebenSat.1 and Discovery’s Joyn will also grow beyond Germany. For content owners, the AVOD deal can be more complicated: Some platforms want revenue shares over license fees. But the net result is more buyers. Particularly for distributors with strong libraries, the AVOD boom is a boon.
Battle for Talent
The battle for success in the new TV landscape is a battle for talent, and players are intensifying their efforts to win it. At late September’s Zurich Film Festival, CAA Media Finance helped put together the Zurich Summit – and expressed interest in taking a stake in several international independent production outfits. At Mipcom, Amazon Studios’ James Farrell and Georgia Brown transformed their keynote address into a “help wanted” ad for scripted creative executives in Italy and Spain. “We’re hiring if anyone is interested,” Brown said. “It’s a fantastic job. Feel free to email me.”
Industry Skewing Broader
Channels and platforms are going broader in shows and lineups as competition bites harder. But it’s a complex challenge: Premium drama for a broader audience has to stay premium. “We have to find a type of narrative that’s original in concept and visuals, but has broader appeal,” said Nicola Maccanico of Sky Italia, which is behind Mipcom World Premiere “Devils.” Added Fremantle’s Andrea Scrosati: “You used to have journalistic drama for journalistic broadcasters, edgy drama for pay-TVs, and more niche [product] for streamers. That’s finished. Now the streamers, the pay-TVs, the broadcasters are all looking for everything.”
A Netflix Deal Is No Longer the Holy Grail
For producers and distributors alike, a Netflix deal is no longer the ultimate achievement. One European indie distributor said that with Netflix keeping a tighter eye on budgets and giving producers notes, its two USPs – more money and creative freedom – are being chipped away. Another chief exec noted that the major distribution players are set up to sell territory by territory and can sell the right show everywhere, without need of a global Netflix deal. Netflix is clearly mindful of this: Several sellers said the streaming giant is increasingly flexible on carving out territories from its deals.
Old distribution practices are fading, said former Netflix exec Erik Barmack, who is now at Wild Sheep Content. “People used to come to these markets to hear your slate: ‘This is what we’re presenting in fall, this is coming in the spring.’ Now people don’t do formal slates. TV seasons no longer work like that. There’s more continuous selling that defuses the need for markets.” Sales companies now need to keep up market impact the whole year round.
It’s a seller’s market – but sales folk are fretting
With so many buyers for content, it’s a seller’s market. But the sales troops are worried. The consolidation that swept the TV market has hit distribution in a major way. The lack of an HBO stand at Mipcom – it was part of WarnerMedia’s set-up – was one visible sign. The lack of a Sky Vision stand was another. Its sales operation has been absorbed by NBCUniversal, with almost all of the well-regarded Sky Vision sales team pink-slipped. Fox Networks Group’s London-based sales staff mostly stayed away from the market and are still waiting to hear on their futures post-Disney. Over at CBS, Viacom and Paramount, staffers at the distribution division are mindful that Bob Bakish is under pressure to deliver savings.
Streamers Target Unscripted
The biggest streaming platforms are charging as aggressively into unscripted series as they have on the scripted side. Sources said there is a noticeable shift in the appetite at Netflix and elsewhere for unscripted series that follow the cable model of becoming comfort food for viewers looking for familiar genres. Producers say there’s a bigger appetite for lifestyle-oriented shows and narrowly tailored documentary series. That’s in contrast to the flashy global competition shows and star-driven vehicles that had been the focus for the streamers. Sources said there’s also a push under way at Netflix and Amazon for local-language editions of unscripted shows with formats that can travel well.
Troubled Teens Make the Grade
Presenting The Wit’s Fresh Fiction showcase, Virginia Mouseler said she’s spent her summer watching “Euphoria,” HBO’s first foray into teen drama. From missing children, scripted is now moving on to “lost teens and young adults that have a hard time coming of age,” Mouseler said, citing “Nudes” from Norway’s “Skam” originator NRK, Australia’s “The Hunting” (SBS), the Netherlands’ “High School Slut” (NPO), France’s “Stalk” (Slash) and, skewing older in characters, Finland’s “Bathroom Stories” (YLE). Many titles profiled at this year’s Mipcom by The Wit were from Scandinavia. “Post Nordic Noir, the Nordic curries are coming back with other forms of drama,” said Mouseler.
Nick Vivarelli, Elsa Keslassy and Leo Barraclough contributed to this article.