MIPCOM: quality, if not quantity

Attendance figures down 8%, but overall feeling is upbeat

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CANNES -- Blue skies, yellow carpets to celebrate 20 years of "The Simpsons" and colorful characters including Joan Rivers, Lisa Kudrow and Jerry Seinfeld made for a multihued MIPCOM market which boasted more than 12,000 attendees, organizers Reed MIDEM said Thursday as the five-day market came to a close.

Industry professionals from 103 countries, including more than 4,000 buyers, invaded the Croisette for the cross-platform, cross-cultural media event.

While attendance was up 4% from MIPTV just six months ago, organizers saw total MIPCOM attendance numbers drop from last year's record-breaking 13,000.

"The numbers are slightly down, but the context is completely different. It's like comparing apples and oranges," Reed MIDEM's acting director of the television division Laurine Gauraud said at a press conference in Cannes Thursday. She added, in an interview: "What's important for our clients is the quality of the people they're meeting, and all of the major players were here."

Reed MIDEM is seeing a shift from a MIPCOM focus on global distribution to a move towards production and creativity and plans to actively recruit more and more producers to the five-day confab in the future.

Reed MIDEM is offering a special rate for first-time producers in addition to networking events and conferences focusing on idea-generating. "We want to see more producers coming not only with finished products to sell, but also to develop concepts," Gauraud said.

This year's market has seen a greater demand for European-funded projects for English-language fare as production funds grow scarcer in the unstable financial climate. Canal Plus announced a $30 million "Borgias" project with former HBO chief exec Chris Albrecht and Germany's EOS earlier in the week in Cannes and international co-productions have been a popular conversation at this year's MIPCOM.

Reed MIDEM will also continue to develop its new online screenings portal, launched this year at MIPJUNIOR. All of the more than 1,050 children's programs screened at the kids' market are available on MIP's online service so buyers can continue to screen shows they didn't have time to see during the busy market. Reed MIDEM will expand the service to MIPDOCS.

Despite the numbers drop, the rise in attendance from MIPTV just six months ago, is promising for the industry.

"During periods of recession, our shows shine even more because people really need to develop their international business. Clients have been telling us that face to face is really key," Gauraud said. She added: "I think that in times of recession, people just really need to focus. Our clients don't want to waste their time -- they want to meet quality people and see a return on their investments."

The week of sun, sea and "Simpsons" approached its end Wednesday night as 20th Century Fox hosted a gala dinner at the Carlton hotel to fete "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening alongside VIP guests including TiVo CEO Tom Rogers, Joan Rivers and Morgan Spurlock. Guests ended the frenzied market madness with a photo op with "Simpsons" cartoon cutouts, a short speech from Groening and a Homer Simpson-inspired dessert.

The smiles around the room mimicked the overall feeling of optimism that swept the Croisette throughout this year's MIPJUNIOR and MIPCOM back-to-back markets. "Clients are much more optimistic. The whole ambiance has been very upbeat, active and very, very busy," Gauraud said. The five-day MIPCOM confab officially wraps on Friday.