MIPCOM: The Hollywood Reporter, A+E Networks Host Women in Global Entertainment Lunch

A+E Networks Nancy Dubuc, MGM’s Roma Khanna, Abu Dhabi's Noura al Kaabi and actress and "Doll & Em" producer Emily Mortimer talked global television trends.

CANNES – MIPCOM's most powerful ladies who lunch met at the Majestic Hotel for the second annual Women in Global Entertainment networking event, hosted by The Hollywood Reporter in partnership with A+E Networks. An international panel of executives addressed the changing global and digital TV environment, including British actress and first-time producer Emily Mortimer, MGM president of television Roma Khanna, and Abu Dhabi's Noura al Kaabi, who talked about "the new golden age of television."

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Attendees including France's M6 programming director Bibiane Godfroid, named one of THR's 25 Most Powerful Women in Global TV, mingled with international industry insiders from 24 countries over the clinks of champagne coupes in the ballroom at the invitation-only event. Among the other attendees were eOne's senior vp worldwide sales and acquisitions Prentiss Fraser, Universal Studios International managing director Cheryl McDermott and Some Girls actress Dolly Wells. A+E Networks president/CEO Nancy Dubuc introduced the panel.

Conference host Reed Midem television division director Laurine Gaurad noted that the event filled a gap in the global marketplace. "We started this event last year because we realized that although there are many regional or national events, there was no international high-level networking event for women in this industry. And since we're all here at MIPCOM, we figured it was a natural fit," she said.

Although the panelists had diverse backgrounds, they all focused on the topic of what is driving good, quality content and attracting viewers as the industry rides out the seismic shifts of new content distribution strategies.

"We're in this great moment of time where the business models and the distribution models are changing in a way that's challenging, but it offers incredible opportunities," said Khanna, who heads up not only MGM's TV group but is overseeing the company's digital expansion as well. "At the same time you're giving multiple platforms to the consumer."

"We've seen everything from a new use of deep library content to the long tail of content that the SVOD platforms have offered," she added, branding it a "fantastic evolution."

Actress Mortimer -- whose first series as a producer, Doll & Em, was commissioned by Sky in the U.K. and picked up by HBO in the U.S. -- said viewers are being offered "artists' television" right now.

"If you try to follow the zeitgeist, and try to make things that are hip and cool, you're always going to end up failing. If you put your faith in artists and writers, actors and producers, then they will make things that are personal to them and that will then become part of the zeitgeist."

Al Kaabi, who is in charge of developing creative industries in Abu Dhabi and spearheading production growth throughout the UAE, talked about the realities of globalization across media and entertainment consumption. "Our kids are exposed to similar media to youth in the U.S. or in Europe," she said. "I know guys who wear the kandura, the long white robe, and he will be listening to Jay Z."

While the Middle East is still culturally conservative despite being exposed to international influences, the massive youth population in the region is quickly changing consumption habits. "We have to be aware of what is happening around us, especially in our region. We have 60 percent of the population that is under the age of 25. These are the digital natives that are changing TV."

The growth of unscripted programming that was once thought to cannibalize drama departments across networks may even be given credit for the current renaissance in scripted series.

"The numbers don't lie, and there continues to be huge success in the television market around the world for nonscripted, so you have to look at it in a broader sense. Nonscripted content gets into true human storytelling," said Khanna, calling out A&E's Duck Dynasty. "Honestly there's not a TV executive alive that wouldn't kill for those ratings."

"There's something about it being real that's powerful. Storytelling is storytelling and that to me is the true golden age of television, tapping into real stories. One of the things TV allows us to do today is be bold, and to be honest and frank and scary and go to the places that only Walter White can go to and get into those places in the hearts and minds of viewers," she said.

"It's not about pleasing everyone all the time now, it's about finding a group of people who love what you do. Every story has a place."