For anyone who entered the Palais during the Cannes Film Festival in July, when a smattering of stands filled one corner of the sprawling complex, arriving at international TV confab Mipcom to find a more abundant supply of colorfully decorated sales booths felt like landing on Mars and discovering life.
A willingness to get back to physical meetings and in-person markets, after Zooming around the world during the pandemic, and the efforts of Mipcom topper Lucy Smith and her team to support getting anyone here that wanted to come, seem to have paid off.
The event drew 1,200 buyers, 145 stands, representatives from 38 countries, 14 international pavilions, and 4,500 participants took part, Smith told Variety at a champagne cocktail for the press during the event. There was an air of celebration and a welcome with open arms for those that made the trek.
“It’s weird, brilliant, strange, weird and brilliant,” quipped one seller holding court at the popular Riviera section cafe with its free tea and coffee and view of the yachts.
For many, it was a return to their first physical market in two years.
“There are pros and cons to coming here,” said London-based Govind Shahi, the Indian TV veteran at Indiacast Media/Viacom 18, while his team was busy getting PCR tests to board their flights home to Mumbai. “If it was a normal year, they wouldn’t have time,” he said. “Still, you don’t have to wait to get into restaurants.”
Mipcom was Shahi’s first market in two years. “It’s been a mixed bag,” he said. “People we have met have been extremely good. People have had the time. It’s not rushed anymore. While there are fewer people, it’s more business-like. We would like a few more people, but it’s good to be back rather than meeting on Zoom or Teams.”
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Variation in vaccinations have caused headaches for those traveling to Europe. “It was touch and go depending on which vaccine you have had,” Shahi explained. “It was a bit of a problem. We had thoughts about whether we should do it or not,” Shahi added.
Maria Kivinen, a sales executive with Finnish broadcaster YLE, said: “It has been an amazing experience. It’s very much a people business. It feels like there will be much better results from the physical connections with the buyers here on the ground.”
If you took a snapshot of the market, as seen through the lens of German stalwart Beta Film’s annual Beta Brunch at the Majestic, the packed-as-usual room and topper Jan Mojto’s humorous speech made it feel like a home-coming and confirmation the business is on.
As well as veterans, there was also new blood this year. Iran’s HA International, based in Tehran, was exhibiting for the first time. Said Ziba Shahpouri, head of international affairs at HA: “The previous years we came here just as a visitor and buyer, but this year we are also doing production and have started to distribute our own titles. During the pandemic, virtual markets were easy. You can do everything from morning until night, but at the physical markets, you can touch and see everyone again. I hope this situation will be over soon.”
Shahpouri thinks it’s a first for an independent Iranian company to be selling at Mipcom.
The company is looking for buyers from its regional neighbors, as well as Europe, North America and Latin America. “We are trying to find out how our titles can work for them,” Shahpouri said. “As we have very talented script writers and directors, we believe we can do something in the international market.”
Elsewhere, Asia put in an appearance, but attendance was limited due to COVID travel restrictions.
Kazuyo Kawuzo-Varnier, from the Bureau of Japanese Drama, was on hand to answer questions about Japanese winners at the annual Mipcom Buyers Award for Japanese drama. Japanese delegates were unable to travel to represent their programming, which has been presented here since the initiative launched in 2009. “I hope people will be able to attend physically next year,” she said.
Building upon the success of Netflix’s hit Korean show “Squid Game,” which is currently its most successful series, South Korean content agency KOCCA also backed a large South Korean presence.
This included a special booth with government reps talking up the show “Gangnam Insiders Picks,” which takes people inside the Seoul district of Gangnam. “We are not usually at a market like this, but we are keen to help the Mayor of Gangnam’s idea, and the resulting show to take people inside Gangnam. We are open to all channels to share our show with its hundreds of episodes for free. It’s been an experience.”
Bringing a festive air to the proceedings and a reason to dress up in “creative chic” (the requested dress code to walk the carpet), Mipcom, MipJunior and the Canneseries overlapped this year, with the TV fest’s pink carpet, and nightly premieres for international series adding color.
“We are delighted with the results,” said RX’s Smith. “We spent a lot of time working on how to help all those companies that can come to Cannes. That was the story. Who can come back to an in-person event? We were the most flexible we can be to make it happen so we are thrilled it did.
“Feedback is that people’s agendas have been fuller than they expected, and that they had good meetings and unexpected people walk by that they don’t know. Those are things they could not have done online. We are back in business and thrilled to be here.”