MIPCOM just getting warmed up

Business strong as market kicks off in Cannes

More MIPCOM coverage

CANNES -- Business got off to a heady start on the first day of MIPCOM on Monday as buyers and sellers thronged to the balconies and terraces to take advantage of unseasonably warm weather.

There were, however, noticeably fewer attendees and areas in the far reaches of the Palais des Festivals where booth space remained unsold.

"There are tough markets around the world, but those are the places where we are trying to work things out," said Ben Pyne, president of global distribution at Disney-ABC Worldwide Television. "We're developing relationships that go to a different level, and it's all about problem-solving.

Disney said its sci-fi drama "FlashForward" has sold to more than 100 territories, making it one of the fastest selling U.S. shows on offer abroad. Nine sales deals were announced on Day 1 of the market, including TF1 in France, Prosieben in Germany, AXN in Central and Eastern Europe and Orbit Showtime in the Middle East.

Pyne said Disney's strategy of rolling the show out as close to day-and-date with the U.S. as possible minimized piracy and allowed marketing spend to be pooled.

"The longer a quality show doesn't get to a market, the more likely it is to be pirated, he said, citing Channel 1 in Russia, which aired "FlashForward" eight days after its U.S. debut.

FremantleMedia chief executive Tony Cohen told a packed audience that micropayments would play an important part in the landscape of the future, speaking at a keynote about how to re-engineer production and financing.

Cohen said that FremantleMedia's London and German production companies are to form a joint drama development unit with the aim of developing co-productions for the U.K. and German markets.

Fremantle also announced that former Sony Pictures TV international production president Sander Schwartz would launch a children's division in its enterprise unit, in a bid to develop content for the family entertainment market.

Announcing the Anglo-German drama unit, Talkback Thames and UFA heads Lorraine Heggessey and Jorg Winger said that following successful partnerships involving U.K. show "The Bill" and German ZDF cop drama "SOKO Leipzig" the companies will collaborate further, with a joint project "The Hub."

"It's a great example of how to leverage our worldwide network of companies," Heggessey said.

On a busy Monday night opening gala, The Hollywood Reporter publisher Eric Mika welcomed guests to a VIP cocktail at the Majestic Hotel during Reed Midem's annual opening-night fete, to celebrate THR's inaugural International Next Generation issue.

THR's Next Gen International honorees took the stage to accept their awards ahead of the main event: A multilayer chocolate cake with sparkling candles was distributed around the crowded room.

Across town, comedian Jerry Seinfeld was finding his feet on his first trip to the market.

"Oh my God -- I'm at MIPCOM," he told 600 buyers, kicking off an Endemol event at the Martinez.

"MIPCOM ... what is that? Nobody even knows what the letters mean."

Seinfeld, in town to promote his Endemol-distributed show "The Marriage Ref," Seinfeld reduced a room of usually staid buyers to whimpering hysterics.

The event was part of the official launch of Endemol's global distribution operation Endemol Worldwide.

"Endemol," mused Seinfeld. "At first I thought it was some sort of antacid. But now I've got to know the company, I really love those guys."

Rebecca Leffler contributed to this report.