MipTV 2021, running April 12-16, with a packed prologue on April 9, including MipDrama, will begin to wind down Wednesday night after its second big keynote, delivered by American star Marc Anthony.
Suffering its second-year running as a virtual event, Reed Midem’s official market remains a diminished affair. This year’s edition also, however, underscored the vibrancy of the international TV industry, galvanized by a huge new demand for higher-end content.
Following are six takeaways from 2021’s event:
No guessing MipTV’s biggest star to date this year: Former Manchester United and England soccer poster boy David Beckham, who delivered a pre-recorded MipTV keynote on Tuesday to talk up his new production company, Studio 99. In a new streaming age, Beckham ticks all the right boxes: He’s a huge global IP and social media phenom with 65.5 million followers on Instagram, soccer being the most popular sport in the world. He also lies at the interface of sport and entertainment as streaming platforms battle to become ever more general entertainment services. Little wonder his big news at MipTV was a new show with Disney Plus, “Save Our Squad,” which returns Beckham to his East London grassroots, and of course a bioseries, now in development. “There is a real momentum in this industry [of sports documentaries], and I felt like now is the right time to tell my story,” said Beckham. You bet.
MipTV’s Hottest Ticket: “Anne Boleyn”
MipTV’s biggest event, last Friday’s MipDrama presentation of 11 series in production, also showcased its biggest draw: “Anne Boleyn.” Sony Pictures Television’s banner U.K. show, the three-part historical drama took the big, bold swing last year of casting Black actor Jodie Turner-Smith as Boleyn, beheaded for high treason in 1536 after failing to provide England’s King Henry VIII with a male heir. 2021 MipTV proved a platform for woke themes and gender issue drama. Beta Film unveiled a trio of Spanish Power Women dramas, sourced from Movistar Plus, led by “Perfect Life Season 2,” an HBO Max co-pro. Emerging as a bastion of progressive values in Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Globo presented a sales slate of women-centric series and telenovelas headed by new series “A Woman’s Fate.”
MipTV May Be Diminished, But Business is Booming
Much has been made in the entertainment business media of MipTV being a diminished affair. Certainly, most big companies now run their own direct to customer events, such as Tuesday’s Beta Brunch showcase, with owner Jan Mojto in fine fettle. But that’s missing the bigger point: The scripted and non-fiction business is booming, galvanized by digital platforms, other new market entrants, and the efforts of traditional players to face off with this competition.
In another seachange, this revolution is also benefitting non-English-language production. “There’s a huge demand for TV shows. Quite a few productions that were scheduled in 2020 and 2021 were postponed because of COVID-19, so many companies have schedule gaps to fill,” says Federation Entertainment’s Monica Levy. “Also as we all know, there are more and more global platforms, and, because of the pandemic, we’re all watching TV substantially more,” she adds.
So the dominant note of this year’s MipTV was further signs of growth in the international industry.
These cut various ways. In one of the biggest plays announced at this year’s MipTV, Fremantle upped its 51% stake in Abot Hameiri, producer of drama hit “Shtisel,” to a full 100%. BBC/ITV VOD service Britbox and its French equivalent, Salto, both unveiled early scripted originals at MipDrama: Mother’s revenge drama “The Beast Must Die,” produced by New Regency Television, and Scott Free; and political thriller “Pandore,” also supported by Belgium pubcaster RBTF. In Europe, Newen Connect, TF1’s newly restructured distrib op, unveiled a powerful new slate; Mediwan, fresh off acquiring Lagardère Studios, announced a new premium doc division; Germany’s Beta Film unveiled hostage thriller “Helsinki Syndrome,” first fruit of its majority stake taken in 2019 in “Bordertown” producer Fisher King.
The Battle for Third-Party Content
It’s a sellers’ market. Although COVID-19 had an impact, and particularly on scripted, the number of commissions went up, not down, in 2020, according to an Ampere study.
But this is a hugely competitive market too. So battle is joined between the market’s biggest independent players to tie up the greatest shows from standout independents. Of Newen Connect’s four major new acquisitions, three were from non-Newen companies. “In addition to working with Newen’s producers, our goal is to collaborate with talented producers who are developing high-profile content with strong production values and talents attached,” said Rodolphe Buet, Newen chief distribution officer. A growth strategy at The Mediapro Studio Distribution, echoed its director, Marta Ezpeleta, is “to amplify our catalog of contents both with in-house shows and third-party content. We’re open to content from companies which trust in The Mediapro Studio Distribution.”
Produced by Leonine’s Odeon Fiction and Miramax, “Spy City” pulled off one of the biggest deals announced at MipTV, being sold to AMC Networks for the U.S., where it launches April 15 and is already attracting strong reviews. ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group sells “Spy City” worldwide.
Of titles at MipDrama, beyond “Anne Boleyn” there’s good word of mouth on Norway’s “Fury,” a extreme right terror-cell thriller with a fearless female undercover lead, backed by Norway’s “Monster Scripted” (“Nobel”) and “Babylon Berlin” producer X Filme in Germany.
BTF Media made a large social splash announcing “El Estallido,” the contextualized docseries story of Gustavo Gatica, blinded by the Chilean police.
Other buzz titles took in cyber-bullying drama “Delete Me,” sold by Federation Ent. and a big SVOD hit in Scandinavia on Viaplay. Of Beta Film titles brought onto the market at MipTV as finished programs, “Wild Republic” and “The Sea Beyond” were attracting a lot of buyer interest, says Beta Film’s Dorothee Stoewahse.
Like “Delete Me,” both are YA titles, which is no coincidence, she adds. “There’s a strong demand for young adult programming from platforms and linear televisions alike. Everybody needs to offer something for young audiences.”
Jamie Lang contributed to this article.