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Rome MIA Director Lucia Milazzotto Talks Linear TV and Theatrical Comeback

MIA market director Lucia Milazzotto is the main architect of Rome’s new format post-Mipcom, pre-AFM confab launched five years ago to serve as a driver for the Italian industry in the global arena. The MIA acronym stands for (Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo, or International Audiovisual Market). Milazzotto spoke to Variety about how this unique event featuring a highly select batch of new and upcoming films, TV dramas and docs mostly from Europe has evolved since its 2015 launch. She also zeroed in on current trends that MIA reflects, such as “a burst of vitality” in linear TV and theatrical distribution of films as the disruption of streaming platforms begins to wear off. Excerpts.

At a time when the validity of traditional markets like Cannes and Mip TV are coming into question, what’s the basic concept behind MIA?

MIA was born from an intuition. We thought: the market is very fluid. There will increasingly be a need for an event that meets the demands of companies that make a certain type of high-end product with a global appeal. And they [these companies] are increasingly shifting around between different types of product. Our second realization is that Italy strategically is a player in this type of content. We export quality content, so it’s important for us to position ourselves in this segment…The fact that we are the latest [new market] allowed us to not be locked-in to a certain market format. So each section has evolved according to industry needs. Now going into our 5th year we’re shaping into something coherent and cohesive.

How has MIA changed since it’s inception?

Over time things have clearly been rapidly reshaped….MIA started out with an undoubted predominance of movies due to Italy’s cultural heritage and for other reasons that had to do with the fact that positioning ourselves in the same week as Mipcom was a huge risk, a big challenge. We are also two weeks away from AFM, not far from IDFA. We are competing with everyone, basically. So we had to balance out the three sectors (Film, TV, Documentaries) so that we reach the goal we set for ourselves at the outset which is an osmosis among them. What’s important is that all three sections have steadily grown and that there is now a balance between them, both in terms of numbers and quality.

The product also seems to have improved.

We are born with a very strong European connotation. And we’ve always focused on product in very early stages, running the gamut from development to post-production. There are more than 200 titles at MIA this year, three fourths of which are spanking new. Out of more than 100 films that we are screening roughly half are market premieres. The oldest ones went to Venice!

Though MIA is Eurocentric there is a strong U.S. participation this year. Why?

On the one hand there is a need for a one-stop-shop to buy European content for U.S. companies that they don’t find at Mipcom because there is too much stuff there. And of course they don’t find that at AFM, which is the opposite of us, it’s all about U.S. product. And also there you don’t find projects in early stages. Also, those aren’t markets conceived for longer-term relationships, they are just for short-term deals.

Your position gives you the pulse of the market. What’s changing in the landscape?

The whole streamers craze is a bit over. What I mean by that is that it’s now a fact that they have become very important players and they are also essential to a healthy eco-system. But at the same time there is a revamp underway of everything that was already there. The positive impact is that they [the streamers] raised the bar. But there is a burst of activity in linear TV and even in the theatrical sector. A drive to renew what seemed like dead sectors. The outlook has broadened, the platforms haven’t replaced anything. This is reflected in our panels that are about all the possible new business models. But again the fact that linear TV and theatrical haven’t been replaced by the new players is now a given. We used to think that the old dinosaurs would become extinct, but it’s not like that. I think there is a burst of vitality on linear, on theatrical. And there is a hunt for product for the right type of distribution.

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