TV confab boasts biggest event ever

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BUDAPEST, Hungary -- An intense tropical heat wave -- followed by a violent thunderstorm and torrential downpour -- failed to dampen spirits last week at the 15th annual DISCOP, the Central and Eastern European TV content market.

This year's event was the biggest ever for the market, with more than 1,530 attendees swarming this anniversary edition. Not bad for an event that launched in 1992 in the Polish capital of Warsaw with just 38 sales agents and 83 buyers.

Crammed into the market's headquarters -- the Sofitel Atrium Hotel -- sales booths were spilling out of basement halls and balcony suites in the four-square hotel, with overflow space found in corridors and rooms previously given over to roundtable sessions.

Many executives voted with their feet and did deals at the scores of cafes that line the riverbank and dot the elegant Baroque squares within a couple of minutes' walk from market locale Roosevelt Square.

Sandals, flip-flops, shorts and white safari suits were among the de-rigeur fashion codes this year for men; floating fabrics and dazzling frocks for the women. Sunglasses and iced drinks for all.

It wasn't all play for market visitors: CME chief Michael Garin struck a glum note at a keynote address to the market's opening dinner Wednesday warning that the growth of the Internet and other new media platforms threatened to decimate TV's traditional advertising bedrock, warning, "You will all be out of a job within 10 years."

But experts on TV in the region said media executives here could expect another 15 years of strong growth, by which time many of today's most pressing technological challenges will be history.

Barry Cupples, CEO of U.K. media company Omnicom Media Group for Central and Eastern Europe, said: "Digital will not kill advertising stone dead. Everything evolves. Information and content are still king. You can still get your message across. It is just that a 30-second spot does not work anymore."

For the majority of buyers and sellers, a changing world did not change a business-as-usual DISCOP for them.

First-time visitor Gleb Goncharenko, a buyer from Kino and Citi Channels, Ukraine, said he opted for DISCOP because Moscow-based TV markets had become too parochial.

"The last TV market I went to in Moscow was practically dead. On the other hand, DISCOP is a growing market with many exhibitors and loads of buyers and sellers," he said.

Skip Dornseif, managing director of Denver-based Global Cast Media Group, which is formally launching a new free-to-view satellite channel Cool TV on the Hotbird 6 satellite beginning in the fall, said he had been introduced to DISCOP founder Patrick Jucaud at NATPE in Las Vegas in January and decided to come.

"It is on a much smaller scale than big markets back home, and there is time here to meet and communicate with people as well as do business," Dornseif said.
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