Brands are TV's key to success in new media

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CANNES -- How to lure the advertisers into the new media mix: That's the task facing the international TV business as content providers cautiously cozy up to the newfangled digital carriers that now dot the media landscape.

Getting brand names to underpin this new world order is, at any rate, how the organizers of the MIPCOM TV market in Cannes described what has to happen in order for the global program biz to prosper.

"We'll be trying to facilitate the dialog between creatives, the ad agencies and the new digital players at upcoming markets like MIP next April," said Paul Johnson, the head of Reed Midem's TV division, which organizes those two markets. The five-day MIPCOM market ends Friday.

Branded entertainment has been a buzzword on the Cannes Croisette this week, and much of the discussion at panels and at late-night bars has centered on how to get advertisers involved on these new platforms.

In remarks to reporters Thursday, Johnson pointed out that the content market was worth some $90 billion worldwide, but that the total advertising market dwarfs that at $380 billion. And even though the bulk of ad dollars is still earmarked for traditional media, a revolutionary shift toward new platforms and new models is underway.

If, for example, a YouTube phenomenon like "Lonely Girl" can attract 70 million viewers, that's an advertising proposition that has to be enticing. Because there are fewer regulations in the Internet and mobile spheres, the growth of new ad models on those platforms should become more dynamic, Johnson believes.

As for the more traditional business of buying and selling broadcast rights to shows during the market, Johnson described the level of activity at the Cannes market as "buoyant," with the success of U.S. dramas in particular having stoked the engine.

"A lot of folks are focused on narrative content at this market because of the success internationally of shows like 'CSI'," he said.

The market organizers claim that some $10 billion in transactions have been negotiated or actually closed in and around last April's MIP and this MIPCOM trade show. A more precise accounting is soon to be undertaken by Reed Midem through a survey of the world's top 500 program buyers. (Sellers, starting with the Hollywood conglomerates, have always been loath to talk about the revenues from their programming deals abroad.)

Still, the key sellers don't mind talking about trends in the business.

Warner Bros. Intl TV president Jeffrey Schlesinger pointed out that U.S. shows are doing well in Europe, not just because their quality is so high right now but also because local production attempts in several key territories to replicate these series (think France and Germany) have fallen on their face.

"It's all cyclical, but right now a number of local series are not doing well," he said. What are working are shows like Warners "Cold Case" -- which Schlesinger described as "a bona fide hit" for France 2 -- as well as "Without a Trace" and "Closer," two more Warners shows. What the foreign market is looking for right now, he opined, is dramas about "unusual or quirky characters in extraordinary situations."

Warners is selling one such show, "Pushing Daisies," which the ITV network in the U.K. has already plucked. Other deals in Europe for this new primetime series are pending.

In any case, there was visible hustle-and-bustle in and around the Palais de Festival this week, with an increase in attendance to 13,300, up 7% over last year's edition. The total number of exhibitors rose to 1,800, up 10%, while the total number of program buyers hit 4,240, up 10% over the previous frame.

"Our biggest practical challenge is how to find space for companies that want to expand their presence," Johnson said. Disney and Warners both took larger spaces this go-round outside the main Palais and overlooking the harbor.

Glorious weather and less obtrusive security measures also bettered the mood of participants, most of whom were still traipsing to meetings or attending panel sessions as Thursday afternoon passed.

"The first three days were incredibly intense," said Fox International president Marion Edwards, who was wrapping up some final meetings on Thursday afternoon. She confirmed that most of her ongoing business nowadays involved VOD and other new media components. "We'll soon have some things to talk about regarding deals we're doing on new platforms," she added.
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