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Hat Trick exec urges long-term thinking

Jimmy Mulville also says social networks should be tapped

CANNES -- Cash-strapped producers have to develop long-term funding models and rely on their ingenuity to exploit new revenue streams, Hat Trick Prods. managing director Jimmy Mulville said Tuesday.

Speaking on a panel addressing TV's current financing woes, Mulville -- whose production company is understood to be close to piloting U.K. hit "Have I Got News for You" for NBC -- told execs at the Riviera-side market that despite the climate of anxiety there were new revenue opportunities.

"My job has become part psychotherapist, (now) when I go into a meeting with a broadcaster I listen to a lot of fear about their pensioned jobs and their dental plan," he said.

"If you play in to this fear, you are going to make silly decisions about what you chose and your strategy will be all about firing -- too many people are being fired," Mulville added, citing longer runs and more forward ordering as possible ways to shore up financing.

Hat Trick recently re-signed "Have I Got News For You" and the comedy "Outnumbered" with the BBC for two more years.

Asked if the television industry had failed to manage the transition to digital, Mulville said that the online world had to be seen as an opportunity, and using the power of social networking sites like MySpace was a way to bring on the next generation of comedy talent.

"Digital is not the problem, the problem is our attitude. You can't have new order without chaos. I need to be in this business because that's where the next generation of young comic talent are writing and producing shortform content."

Elsewhere on the panel former ProSieben chief executive Guillaume de Posch said that free to air broadcasters were looking at a 10%-16% fall in revenue over the next few years, and were slashing costs wherever possible to avoid cutting their program budgets. De Posch said broadcast strategies included exiting costly sports rights deals and production contracts and re-engineering schedules to include more repeats, returning shows and a genre mix focusing on cheaper to producer reality programs.

"It's about keeping the must-haves and getting rid of the nice-to-haves," he said.