Breakneck pace at MIPCOM on Day 3
Determination to move forward readily apparentCANNES -- Two rival German broadcasters on Wednesday were weighing whether to up their bids for Lionsgate's "Mad Men." A parade of program buyers made pit-stops at the Warner Bros. stand, looking to secure a promising newcomer such as "The Mentalist" or "Fringe."
Elsewhere, from Fremantle's on the beach, to Sony's and Universal's at opposite ends of the sprawling Palais, to those of the more oddball, out-of-the-way content suppliers, exhibition stands were chockablock with prospective clients well into the afternoon.
In short, not many of the 13,000-odd attendees at MIPCOM found time to bask in the sunshine.
"Unlike the old days in television, everyone is in everyone else's business nowadays," said Saul Berman, a global strategist for IBM and guest speaker here, who aptly put his finger on one of the reasons why market events like this have become so frenetic and hard to deconstruct.
There are, as former Disney chieftain Michael Eisner described in his own keynote, a vast range of businesses going on simultaneously during the five-day market, with program buyers and sellers, producers, financiers, advertisers, telecoms, talent agents, lawyers and ever-proliferating digerati all bent on getting to their next 15-minute meeting with whomever.
Eisner's message: Creativity is still the most important thing, but without fiscal discipline tailored specifically for the content in question, it probably won't work.
As for the wild gyrations going on in the global stock markets, no one seemed to have time to obsess.
"This is the TV business. There are always 24 hours in the day to fill, and these folks come buttoned-down and BlackBerried with that purpose in mind. In any case, it's way too early to see if there are any long-term repercussions, like budget cuts or staff trims," one veteran MIPCOM-goer said.
"Everyone who has meetings has meetings," is how Rainbow Media senior vp Harold Gronenthal put it, suggesting that folks are down here for one purpose: "to move things forward." In his case, he expects soon to announce Rainbow's first-ever foreign spinoff channel (think IFC or Sundance or a combo thereof) in a major European territory in early 2009.
A few did scan the horizon and spy clouds.
"It's been busy -- not because business is necessarily booming, but because everyone had already planned their trip," Comcast International president Kevin MacLellan observed. "However, if anyone believes ad revenues will be the same in 2009 as they are in 2008, I think they're crazy. I'm already planning how I can cut costs next year."
Added Canal Plus acquisitions head Sandra Ouaiss: "We'll see the effects of the financial crisis more at upcoming markets. U.S. networks will have less ad revenue, so less money for production, and thus less product. It will have a spiral effect."
And it's true the French did not throw their usual lavish parties, but the Germans did. So did newcomers to the hoopla like the Ukrainians and the Koreans.
As for actual business transactions, Hollywood seemed to be making up for its hobbled primetime development season and what's proving a so-so fall season launch.
"The strength of U.S. product continues unabated abroad, and, by the way, if there is a global downturn, American shows may just prove more cost-effective than local shows in a given slot," CBS Paramount International TV president Armando Nunez suggested.
"CSI," he pointed out, continues to be a foreign juggernaut; the largely unsung but reliable "NCIS" just had a great debut on France's M6; and Showtime dramas "Californication" and "Dexter" also have been standouts.
It was a not dissimilar story at the outposts of the other Hollywood majors, with Disney notably continuing to ride the wave of enthusiasm for "High School Musical," "Hanna Montana" and "Camp Rock."
Disney international TV distribution boss Ben Pyne described his foreign operation as "very well positioned in these uncertain times," putting the emphasis on such emerging markets as Russia and localized treatments of primetime series including "Brothers and Sisters" and "Ugly Betty."
He also was beaming over the U.S. boxoffice grosses from "Chihuahua" last weekend and an accolade from MIPCOM Jr. organizers: Disney's "Jimmy Two Shoes" was the most-viewed show during last weekend's two-day children's sales bazaar.
Other countries making a stir: Germany, where production values are very high and producers are plumbing ever more intriguing material. Alongside uber-producers like Jan Mojto, longtime Teutonic program buyer Herbert Kloiber, who runs Tele Munchen, has set up shop as a seller -- one more indication of the growing ease with which one Euro nation's product now travels among several Continental countries.
Bavaria Media's Oliver Kreuter said that the German sales business is showing clear signs of globalization, noting that local companies were handling ever-more product from outside their own borders.
The two "brick" countries, Korea and Brazil, also cut a figure. Their leading distributors have clearly picked up on the promotional and marketing aspects of the biz, taking the most striking, and costly, billboard positions for their lavish novelas and historical dramas.
And what other programming seemed to turn heads?
Shows with blondes, like a Comcast program featuring Swedish TV personality Victoria Silvstedt, and, well, anything with sufficient "uplift."
"Buyers are saying that they want feel-good shows that are about helping people, and we've had a lot of people asking for shows and formats that focus on real people and not just celebrities," All3Media International managing director Louise Pedersen said.
All3 is distributing "Miss Naked Beauty," a show which launches a competition to find a female ambassador which brains and personality -- not just good looks.
ITV Global's L.A.-based head Paul Buccieri had a similar take: "I'm looking for shows that are uplifting and yet still have a competitive element, an element of jeopardy and immediacy but with a core of optimism," he said.
Mimi Turner, Rebecca Leffler, Liza Foreman and Janine Stein contributed to this report.