DISCOP biz closes with buzz

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BUDAPEST -- The growing maturity, expansion and confidence of Central and Eastern Europe's television industry was evident as the 15th edition of DISCOP drew to a close Friday in the Hungarian capital.

With more than 1,530 media executives in attendance -- up 400 from last year -- business at the Sofitel Atrium Hotel was buzzing over the market's three days, said event founder and co-owner Patrick Jucaud of Paris-based Basic Lead.

"Everyone I have managed to speak to has done deals," Jucaud said. "The consensus is that, in comparison with previous years, the buyers are more disciplined, are keeping meetings and are more focused. Buyers are going straight to the point in meetings. They know what they want and how much they can pay."

Major sales outfits at DISCOP -- which launched in Warsaw, Poland, in 1992 as a market for selling U.S. programming in the region -- all did good business, Jucaud said.

Netherlands-based Endemol International, All3 Media from the U.K., and regular visitor Dori Media Group, which produces telenovelas in Latin America and Israel, all did good business, Jucaud said. China's News Corp.-backed Phoenix Satellite TV also made sales and acquisitions.

"Some of the big clients are coming with more sales staff than ever. Mexico's Televisa has 10 sales people here," Jucaud said.

Endemol sales staff confirmed that buyer interest had been significant and that a number of deals penciled at DISCOP were soon to be signed.

Ingrid Akkerman, Endemol International's licensing manager, commercial and creative affairs, said that such formats as game shows "1 vs. 100" and "1 vs. 100 Kids" have been hot sellers along with popular reality and talent shows.

Endemol sales exec Holly Winder pinpointed human-interest documentaries including "Extraordinary 10 Year Olds" and "The 34 Stone Teenager" as well as youth dating shows "Gay, Straight or Taken?" and "Fool Around With" as top tickets.

"DISCOP is absolutely a good market," Winder said. "It continues to bring in big, big people, and it is also interesting to meet the smaller guys who you don't always see at the MIP markets, which can be very busy. At DISCOP, you have time to be with people."

Reflecting on 15 years of markets, Jucaud said it is noteworthy that this year's 400 participants included 90 companies that had never been to the market before.

Eastern European companies including Russia's Amedia, Central Partnership and Russico and Poland's TVN, which had been buyers in earlier years, were now firmly among the ranks of the sellers as well, Jucaud said.

Another new trend was the growing importance of international co-productions in television, reflected in the launch this year of the DISCOPRO event the day before the market opened.

The event, which drew nearly 100 executives, gave an overview of subsidies, grants, tax benefits, private loans and other TV incentives available in Central and Eastern Europe.

Jucaud said that the recent enlargement of the European Union, the proposed entry of the Balkans to the EU and a booming regional television industry, combined with revisions to Europe's "Television Without Frontiers" directive, will see the number of pan-European co-production deals involving Central and Eastern European partners continue to increase considerably.

Rick Feldman, president of NATPE, which two years ago came in as a co-owner of DISCOP, said the decision to join the market had been a great success, offering U.S. and European companies clear mutual benefits.

"I've spent three days roaming the halls talking to people and see that we have more buyers and deeper buyers than ever," Feldman said.

His only "minor disappointment" was that one major Hollywood company and some other sellers had chosen to hold private meetings at a nearby hotel rather than register and participate in DISCOP.

"It is wrong because they are feeding parasitically off our market. When buyers go over to the other hotel for meetings, they are not meeting with sellers here at DISCOP who have paid for the show. It is just not right and we hope that the sellers that are doing this will think about it and look into their consciences," Feldman said.
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