Broadcasters air content concerns at MIPDOC

Comcast, E1 announce licensing deals at Cannes event

CANNES -- Broadcasters want more content for the same money, leaving producers feeling the squeeze, delegates at the MIPDOC in Cannes heard Sunday.

As the two-day factual market wound to a close, the industry was left mulling a more for less culture that seems to be the de facto new deal.

"Buyers expect producers to fund a Web site and multiplatform content out of the same budget as they would have once offered for a simple linear doc," said Mercury Media chairman and former ITV director of television, Simon Shaps, who chaired a panel on "What Buyers Want" with reps from Channel 4, France Television, ZDF and NHK.

"There's a bit of disconnect where buyers seems to feel that the green shoots are now in evidence, but lots of the producers, big and small, are more nervous. They see smaller budgets, broadcasters taking more rights, for fewer slots."

Deal-making appeared to be brisk on the Croisette, with Comcast announcing licensing deals totaling 270 hours of programming in Asia Pacific, while E1 Entertainment of Canada has announced deals for its new format "Reality Hell" in Italy, France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark.

The tailored local possibilities of local formats are an increasingly popular option, says Nicholas Bonnard, Discovery SVP, Discovery International Enterprises, who is bringing a slew of format opportunities to the market for the first time. Discovery's slate includes such titles as "Man Vs Wild," "Catch it, Keep it" and "Groomer has It" and will give buyers the option to add in their own presenters and local contestants in a bid to deliver an authentically local television experience.

"The cost of these programs is relatively expensive and we're seeing broadcasters with their budgets affected -- this is a way to really offer a more tailored program that feels really seamless so that they don't feel that they are watching an American series," said Bonnard.

Overall, Bonnard said the market was showing signs of improvement and that the contraction of program flow would likely be addressed by the end of the year.

"Slowly but surely things are looking a bit better," said Bonnard. "We'll see a production increase and a lot more production coming back in the second half of the year; we'll see a lot more shows."

Delivering the closing keynote of the MIPDOC market, former BBC2 Controller and Discovery Channel president Jane Root called on the documentary community to deliver greater ambition and bold new ideas, harnessing strong storylines and a whole range of visual technologies from CGI to a new generation of visual effects.

"Take on huge territories. Create new hybrids," she urged delegates. "Whatever it is, don't be afraid to make it big -- the rest of television culture needs you to do it."
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