MIPCOM: Drama and Digital Distribution in Focus at International TV Event

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M. Night Shyamalan's 'Wayward Pines' is one of the dark dramas invading MIPCOM this year

Hollywood studios meet online start-ups at global television's biggest industry mash-up

Two trends that have dominated discussion in the global television industry for the past five years — the rise of high-end drama and the digital revolution — will come together this week at MIPCOM, the world's top international TV market, which runs Oct. 13-17 in Cannes.

This year's MIPCOM promises to be a mash-up of the old and new media models with top studio brass — including 21st Century Fox's James Murdoch, Disney/ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney, CBS Television Studios president David Stapf and Sony Pictures Television president Steve Mosko — bumping up against would-be digital game-changers such as Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, Twitter TV creative lead Fred Graver and Ynon Kreiz, CEO of YouTube network Maker Studios.

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What is striking is how similar old and new have become. Online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are paying broadcast-level rates to acquire TV series while the big networks have embraced the web as a distribution platform for their original content and as a training ground for new talent.

Indeed, established broadcasters and start-up services alike are diving into the same pool of talent for their new shows and embracing the same global financing and distribution models to get them out to the audience.

Read More: 10 Shows on this year's MIPCOM A list

Top-drawer fiction series — whether made for SVOD or network primetime — are likely to dominate the conversation at MIPCOM again this year, in sharp contrast to markets past where the biggest hype always followed the next hot reality TV format. This year the buzz is strongest around dark dramas including Fox's Wayward Pines, a Twin Peaks-style mystery series from director M. Night Shyamalan starring Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard and Matt Dillon; NBC's 1960s cop series Aquarius, with David Duchovny as an L.A. cop on the trail of Charles Manson; the German historic crime drama Babylon Berlin from Cloud Atlas director Tom Tykwer, backed by Fox's Sky Deutschland, German public broadcaster ARD and sales group Beta Cinema; and Narcos, the new Netflix show about the life of Columbian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

In the non-scripted arena, the talk will be about the deals. Consolidation is still the order of the day in the reality TV biz, evidenced by last week's merger between 21st Century Fox's Shine Group and Apollo Global Management's Endemol and Core Media. The resulting giant, led by former BSkyB content executive Sophie Turner Laing, will be the world's largest independent TV production company, with such non-scripted hits as Big Brother, American Idol and The Biggest Loser in its catalog.

Other reality TV mega-deals could be on the horizon with both Dutch giant Talpa (The Voice, Utopia) and U.K.-based Tinopolis Group (Top Chef) the objects of heated takeover speculation.

The true 800-pound gorilla in the room, however, will be Netflix. The SVOD giant last month launched in six new European territories, including Germany and France, and is pushing into local television production, starting with the big-budget French-language series Marseilles. Established players are playing down the Netflix effect, but the company's presence at MIPCOM will be both unavoidable and likely irresistible.

TV's global revolution, it seems, has arrived.

Twitter: @sroxborough

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