MIPTV Kicks Off First-Ever Digital Market Amid Coronavirus Shutdown


Global TV executives are exchanging rosé on the Croisette for video conferencing as the event goes virtual for the first time. "The question is if we even need a physical market anymore, crisis or no crisis."

The Croisette is empty, shops are shuttered and the Palais des Festivals, where the MIPTV global television market was set to kick off Monday, has been transformed into a homeless shelter.

MIPTV was one of Europe's first international industry events to be canceled amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Even before France went into full lockdown in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, the annual TV confab — where producers and networks from around the world gather to sell finished shows and pitch new ones — was considered too much of a health risk.

But instead of pushing MIPTV back to later in the year, as has happened with advertising and creativity gathering the Cannes Lions, which shifted to October, MIPTV has gone virtual. From Monday through Thursday, organizer Reed Midem will host online presentations and on-demand screenings of this year's top titles. TV production and sales companies, like Red Arrow or Keshet, are holding virtual pitching sessions and video-conferenced buyer meetings to shop their new programming to broadcasters, cable networks and streaming platforms worldwide.

Program highlights from this year include the Spanish drama La Unidad, which Beta Film is selling, Hat Trick International's Northern Ireland-set crime series Bloodlands and Keshet International and NBCUniversal's The Baker and the Beauty, a U.S. adaptation of the hit Israeli comedy from 2013. 

As the first major industry event to go virtual since the coronavirus crisis MIPTV is a test case. How effective can an online version of a market really be? Can it actually replace the real thing?

"The industry is in such flux and a lot of the business happens online already. This can be a chance to see what TV markets could be," says Bo Stehmeier, president of Red Arrow Studios International, whose slate includes reality formats such as Married at First Sight and dramas like long-running crime series Bosch. "With MIPTV not happening, it gives all of us a moment to think about what we want to do in the future."

Red Arrow is holding its entire MIPTV online. Its sales staff has some 900 virtual meetings booked with potential buyers. It will also be doing live online pitches for some of its new shows. A number of other international producer/sales groups, including Germany's Beta Film and Keshet from Israel, are taking a similar approach. Beta will even be holding its Beta Brunch, a MIPTV tradition, virtually via a live stream at 12 p.m. local time Tuesday.

This year's MIPTV was always going to be a challenge. Attendance to the spring TV market has been declining for years. Even before the physical edition was canceled because of the coronavirus, major industry players, including ITV Studios, Endemol Shine, the BBC and several of the Hollywood major studios, pulled out of MIPTV 2020.

"MIPTV has been a slow market for the last few years and this MIP was going to be even slower, a lot of distributors weren't going and I knew a lot of clients we had already decided not to go [before the cancellation]," says Keren Shahar, COO and president of Distribution at Keshet. "The future of MIP is definitely a question on many people's minds. Will the fact that we don't have a MIP this spring affect all MIPs in the future?"