Nonfiction flying for MIPDOC sellers

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The global economic downturn might have an upside, at least for sellers hawking wares at this year's MIPDOC, the two-day market for factual programming that wrapped Sunday in Cannes ahead of MIPTV.

As channels worldwide tighten their budget belts, nonfiction continues to move.

"We haven't seen any downturn, at least not yet," said Silke Spahr, managing director of German United Distributors, whose MIPDOC lineup included the doc "Where Is the Wall," about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. "Some documentary slots have disappeared or been taken over by nonfiction formats, but the prices are stable."

Discovery Enterprises International senior vp Caleb Weinstein sees an opportunity during the economic crisis as broadcasters seek alternatives to costly in-house production.

"We are looking to push Discovery programs into entertainment slots or drama slots, places they might not have been before," he said. "That's our biggest challenge at the moment, and broadcasters are open to that now."

Weinstein cites such Discovery titles as the horse-racing series "Jockeys" and long-running reality hit "American Chopper" as examples of crossover factual fare that can replace pricey homemade productions on international schedules.

Adapting established formats can be another cost-effective way to deliver quality on a budget, and Scandinavian sales group Nordisk signed a series of deals with U.S. production companies — including Renegade and Reveille — for remake rights to such successful formats as the home-improvement revenge show "Construction Nightmares" and singles show "Don't Date Him Girl."

"Broadcasters worldwide are cutting back on their production budgets and acquiring more finished programming, so that will have an impact on the format business," Nordisk Film TV international director Karoline Spodsberg said. "It is very hard to sell a format these days based on an idea and a trailer, but established formats that can show real ratings success in one or several territories are very appealing to channels in these risk-averse times." (partialdiff)
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