MipTV returned to Cannes after two years with a much-reduced list of exhibitors, a compact agenda and bare Palais exteriors, devoid of its usual quirky advertising. Organizer RX had the “pandemic effect” on its side, with most delegates on the ground — just over 5,000 in all, they say — appreciative of in-person meetings and reconnecting with long-lost contacts. Yet questions remain about the future of MipTV: will RX sustain the momentum going into 2023 when the events calendar is (hopefully) back to its pre-pandemic configuration? Or, amid all the tectonic changes in the industry, will the global TV industry decide that, in fact, an international meeting point is, in fact, necessary? Read on for Variety’s top takeaways.
Anyone who went to Mipcom in October had already glimpsed the sight of a stripped-down Cannes market, but it was jarring to see bare Palais exteriors (normally adorned with the latest Fremantle drama or Turkish format), a wide open beachfront along the Riviera buildings and deckchairs in place of company stands. What was immediately evident from a one-sheet exhibitors list is that most companies had skipped the stands entirely, instead sending key executives to take meetings in cafes and restaurants.
“Cafes are the place to be,” said one producer, who had hired a table at a café opposite the Palais in which to hold court for the day in lieu of a stand. Another production company opted to hire an apartment, which they used as a salon for meetings. The Majestic was also a hive of activity, particularly on Tuesday afternoon when almost every table on the patio outside was hosting meetings. The Palais, by comparison, felt eerily quiet except for the keynote speeches. Organizers have confirmed that MipTV will indeed be back next year in a three-day format, but it’s clear that RX has its work cut out for it in trying to recalibrate the Palais as a creative destination.
London Screenings Impact?
One question for international distributors in the run-up to MipTV was the effect the absence of several large London-based international distribution companies would have on the attendance of buyers in Cannes. Several London-based distributors, such as All3Media International, Fremantle and ITV Studios, did not take stands at MipTV, as they had already brought international buyers to their showcases at London Screenings, which ran from Feb. 28 to March 4. However, some executives for the international distributors that did attend MipTV said all the major buyers they wanted to see at MipTV were in Cannes, and they were booked solid during the event.
Tim Gerhartz, president and managing director at Red Arrow Studios International, told Variety: “It’s been crucial for us to have face to face time with our partners after the pandemic, and MipTV has provided the ideal opportunity to do just that. During the pandemic, many channels and buyers readjusted their strategies so it’s been great to meet with them on the ground and reconnect in person. We’ve had some very productive and worthwhile conversations in Cannes and look forward to returning for Mipcom in October.”
Distributors get creative
MipTV’s growing focus on creative dealmaking is very much in line with the trajectory for international distributors, who continue to ramp up their input in development and production in-house or through subsidiaries. During a panel with top executives on Monday, Federation Entertainment founder Pascal Breton said the company was increasingly “content-driven.” “More and more, we are not just distributors, we’re co-producers and co-developers, we’re helping with pre-sales, we forge relationships with talent,” said Breton. The strategy allows distribution outfits to cover deficit financing, retain IP and have some leverage when negotiating with streamers and other buyers, explained Elisabeth d’Arvieu Bessiere at Mediawan.
Similarly, Sony Pictures Television’s Wayne Garvie talked up the advantages of being independent in a conversation with Jane Tranter, co-founder of “His Dark Materials” producer Bad Wolf. Sony, which also owns “The Crown” producer Left Bank, bought Bad Wolf in December, and Garvie discussed his plans to be the biggest drama operator in Britain. While the studio doesn’t have the built-in platform for content of a Netflix or Prime Video, it can self-finance projects (à la “Alex Rider”) and drum up innovative, bespoke distribution strategies that appeal to producers who are tired of seeing their shows go down the SVOD rabbit hole.
New streamers playing ball with distributors
With every passing year, the streaming landscape in Europe looks a little more different. HBO Max was at MipTV for the first time this year, with its head of international Johannes Larcher discussing the platform’s ambition to be one of the world’s top three streamers. Distributors tell Variety that a new wave of players including HBO Max as well as Paramount Plus and fast-expanding Scandi heavyweight Viaplay are more flexible in their deal-making and willing to play ball with distributors.
“All deals are different and people are really hungry for content so we’re able to resell content to a streamer where they feel that’s really valuable and there’s local resonance, and we get the rights beyond that territory,” said Tim Mutimer, CEO of Cineflix Rights, which was at the market with Jacob Batalon’s “Reginald the Vampire.”
“For acquisitions, sometimes they buy across a number of territories; sometimes we’ll have a relationship and will offer for a territory that they want, but they don’t necessarily say, ‘Well, it’s all or nothing.’ They’re willing to work with us to secure the great content they want in the territories that they can. It’s not just, ‘We want this and only if we can get it everywhere.’ They understand that there’s competition and the markets vary so we can’t make everything available everywhere.”
Ever more, film and TV is a two-way street. Movies are launching at TV events, as evidenced by film premieres from 101 Films International, Abacus Media Rights and Mexico’s Peninsula Films at this week’s MipTV. TV companies are also selling films produced for TV to theatrical, as exemplified with Global Screen’s “The Conference.” Iconic cineastes are still piling into series, Studiocanal teasing a drama series project with Ken Loach scribe Paul Laverty at MipTV. The latter’s a case of merely following top talent, whatever it wants to make, said Studiocanal’s Françoise Guyonnet — a core philosophy endorsed by other industry leaders such as Constantin’s Oliver Berben and Movistar Plus’ Domingo Corral.
AVOD could be hitting a wall in Europe
Are AVOD and FAST (Free Ad-Supported TV services such as Samsung TV Plus) hitting a wall in Europe? U.S. growth has been spectacular, up from 17% of U.S. homes third quarter 2020 to 34% third quarter 2021, Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson announced at MipTV on Wednesday. Outside the U.S., however, AVOD and FAST have yet to find traction, with homes viewing AVOD in Europe rising from 1% third quarter 2020 to just 4% a year later. One reason? “National broadcasters dominate ad-supported streaming video,” said Bisson, who explained that their market share rose from 39% of homes to 43% in the same period.
Along with vertically-integrated players, Europe is breeding several super-indies such as Mediawan, Federation Entertainment and Beta Group, which have been consolidating while remaining independent. Beta has been expanding its footprint in Scandinavia and most recently in France with a stake in the French production banner Anca; Federation also made several key company acquisitions in U.S., U.K. and France with the Paris-based company Bonne Pioche. Following in the footsteps of Banijay, Mediawan has been aggressive on the acquisition front and is aiming to increase its presence in the English-speaking market. “Down the line, there will be 10 big groups and about 500 independent companies,” predicted Federation Entertainment’s Breton.
Mipcom will be the TV confab to beat this fall
Those who were at MipTV didn’t necessarily have any regrets, but most everyone — including RX’s own staff in some cases — was quick to stress that “Mipcom will be huge.” By October, there are hopes that more parts of the world will continue to open up to stress-free travel, and more countries will be represented in Cannes. U.S. studios will also have more of a presence, and international distributors plan to reclaim their beachside stands.