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For an industry event well into its third decade, Mipcom is looking pretty spry.
The world’s leading TV trade fair, which wrapped up in Cannes this week, featured a lineup of A-list talent — Ben Stiller, Richard Gere, Issa Rae, Jenna Coleman and Dominic West among them — and was dominated by discussions of the big stories moving the global business, including the rise of digital platforms, the drive for more onscreen diversity and the future of the Chinese market.
Media consolidation was also on everyone’s mind, following Disney’s $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets, Comcast’s $40 billion buyout of European pay-TV group Sky and reports of an impending sale for Endemol Shine, the indie powerhouse behind Big Brother, MasterChef and Black Mirror.
Endeavor boss Ari Emanuel, speaking at Mipcom, talked up plans to further his uber-agency’s content push by acquiring more production companies even as Endeavor’s $400 million deal with the Saudi Arabian government’s sovereign wealth fund appeared to unravel amid the disappearance, and suspected murder, of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. All Emanuel would confirm during his keynote session was that Endeavor was “monitoring” the “upsetting” situation with Khashoggi.
Meanwhile, Endeavor’s international sales team was busy closing deals for the company’s high-end miniseries The Little Drummer Girl, starring Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgard, which Canal+ nabbed for France and Moviestar+ for Spain, among multiple other deals.
The BBC/AMC co-production was just one in a flood of new drama series making a splash at Mip this year. Buyers also jumped on HBO and RAI’s period drama My Brilliant Friend, the German-Italian medieval miniseries The Name of the Rose and ITV’s sci-fi adaptation War of the Worlds, among others. There was no sign, nor mention, of an end to the ongoing “drama boom” in global TV. Netflix, one of the main forces driving that boom, used Mipcom to announce its global pickup of the Hebrew-language drama When Heroes Fly, which won the top prize at inaugural CanneSeries in April, as well as its greenlighting of the second season of the buzzy Spanish teen series Elite.
Rae, star of HBO’s Insecure and the webseries The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl and personality of the year for Mipcom 2018, focused attention on the need for more diversity, both onscreen and in commissioners’ executive suites. Noting that the audience for Insecure is 62 percent white, Rae joked that “even white people are tired of seeing white people shows.”
Mipcom tipped its hat to the best in diverse programming with its annual Diversity TV Excellence Awards, with the BBC drama The Boy With the Topknot receiving this year’s honor for best race and ethnicity scripted series and PBS’ Against All Odds: The Fight for a Black Middle Class taking home the best non-scripted race and diversity show prize. In the LBGTQ categories, the best scripted series honor went to Home and Away for an iconic kiss between two teenage boys on the long-running Australian soap.
Rae was just one of a long list of bold-faced names at this year’s Mipcom. Stiller turned up to discuss directing the Showtime limited series Escape at Dannemora; Gere popped by to talk about making his TV debut with BBC Studios’ MotherFatherSon; West and David Oyelowo discussed their new epic adaptation of Les Miserables; and Coleman wowed the market with the Brit drama The Cry, which drew an impressive 7.3 million viewers in its premiere on the BBC.
Non-scripted entertainment, always a mainstay at Mipcom, was again in the spotlight, thanks to NBC Universal’s splashy launch of its new music series Songland from former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart and Audrey Morrissey, an executive producer on The Voice. Facebook also made waves with its news that it was rebooting MTV’s The Real World. And ITV continued to bask in the glory of the Love Island phenomenon, which has hit new ratings records in its fourth season.
In response to Chinese regulators further tightening foreign TV content quotas, Western producers and broadcasters at Mipcom unveiled pacts that focus less on selling to the Middle Kingdom and more on partnering up. Endemol Shine inked a major co-development deal with China’s No. 2 national network, Hunan TV, and unveiled a collaboration with Chinese shingle Blue&White&Red Pictures to create a Mandarin-language adaptation of its hit U.K. crime drama Broadchurch. And Viacom inked a pair of China deals, including a team-up between MTV and China’s WebTVAsia to co-produce made-in-China shortform content and a five-year animation development deal between Nickelodeon and China’s state broadcasting authority.
It’s unclear just how much Western producers and copyright holders will get out of these new Chinese arrangements, but after a week of deals, the future of Mipcom, at least, looks secure.
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