MipTV Sets Revamp in Motion Amid Falling Attendance, Distributor Dissatisfaction

MipTV Sets Revamp Plan in Motion
President and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks,

The chatter at MipTV in Cannes isn’t about the latest hot show this year. It’s about whether the global TV confab has lost its mojo, and whether a plan to revamp the market will inject new life into the event.

Organizer Reed Midem took the unusual step of trotting out attendee numbers as the market got underway Monday as part of a charm offensive with buyers and sellers. The top brass went on to talk about revamping MipTV, starting with next year’s edition.

They were light on detail, but options include moving distributors into the Palais des Festivals and into cheaper modular units that would come with a lower price tag. It would also provide some buzz and bustle inside the Palais, where companies have vacated booths and left ample empty space. There is also, once again, talk of relocating the whole event, with Barcelona often mentioned as a likely destination, but that is unlikely in the short term, as Reed Midem has a deep relationship with Cannes, where the company runs several other events.

Laurine Garaude, head of Reed Midem’s television department, told Variety that MipTV will definitely be in the coastal French city next year but would not offer any guarantees beyond that. She said the wider changes being implemented are a work in progress.

The market got off to a respectable start in the French sunshine Monday, but was quiet Tuesday. The number of attendees is down: Reed Midem said there were 9,500 people registered, compared to 10,000 last time. There are delegates from 100 countries and 3,300 buyers.

The news, first reported by Variety, that BBC Studios, Endemol Shine, and Fox Networks Group were vacating their usual spaces raised questions about MipTV before the event began. France’s Mediawan took the BBC’s usual spot, but it remains to be seen whether it will re-up for next year. The absence of Talpa’s stand also stood out.

Reed Midem has been reaching out to the sales firms that have long griped about a perceived lack of flexibility, and issues such as having to take space at MipTV in order to secure it for the larger and busier Mipcom event in October, and having to use an official system to book hotel rooms for their talent and senior staff.

Garaude said MipTV has changed with the times and pointed to an expanded push on the TV development side of MipTV this time, which has extended to kids’ and factual content alongside drama. Speaking about plans for next year, she said Reed wanted to offer more flexible options and is continuing to consult with clients.

She said the feedback was clear. “The two main takeaways were the affirmation that content development is key to buyers and distributors, and linked to that is discovery [of new content] with showcases and screening. And part two is the need for us to develop new, flexible solutions for both exhibitors and visitors to accompany their evolving needs.”

But even as distributors, producers, broadcasters and financiers work together earlier in the development process, the core activity at MipTV remains distribution – the nuts and bolts of buying and selling content. Making development, production and co-production a focus is challenging as the international industry now flocks to Series Mania in Lille, France, for such activities in late March.

Also, British-based international distributors hold strong cards as they invest more in the burgeoning London Screenings, which are set to become larger and more organized. Coming after the sizable BBC Studios Showcase in February, the London events mean that a raft of shows that would once have gotten a big MipTV launch are put in front of buyers before the market in Cannes starts.

To get MipTV’s mojo back, Lucy Smith, the Reed Midem exec who has overseen MipTV and Mipcom’s impressive conference and event lineup in recent times, is stepping up to deputy director. Reporting to Garaude, she is tasked with making the new-look MipTV a reality.

Veteran Mip attendees remember, back in the day, the plumes of cigarette smoke billowing from the “bunker,” the downstairs section of the Palais that houses the greatest number of booths. In 2019, it’s a more sedate affair, and there are noticeable gaps between stands on the floor. The numerous distributors Variety spoke to that are situated outside the Palais reacted coolly to the idea of moving inside, although offering modular units would mean big savings on bespoke and pricey stand builds.

Amid the speculation over what form the next-generation MipTV will take, it remains the second-biggest event on the international TV calendar, after big sister Mipcom. It is instrumental to deals that see programming get funded, produced and distributed the world over. The global content business is changing fast, however, and many of its main players are waiting to see how MipTV will evolve to adapt to the new landscape.

Will the changes to MipTV be the biggest in Garaude’s time running the show? “I hope so,” she said.