MipDoc: History, Outer Space Make Buyers’ Must-Have Lists

Two-day sales bazaar in Cannes opens doors to global nonfiction buyers, sellers and producers.

World War I is arguably the hottest subject among the plethora of projects being screened and talked up during the weekend devoted to docs that precedes the unspooling of the four-day MIPTV international market and confab here in Cannes.

During a panel discussion called “What do buyers want?” Saturday morning at the Martinez hotel, four key acquisitions execs put the accent on the need for “provocative” or “immersive” material from producers, with a general preference for longer-running series rather than one-offs. In addition to pieces related to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities across Europe, buyers pointed to the growing popularity of other history-inspired projects, especially those done with dramatic flair and attention to period detail.

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“I think the popularity of fictional shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings has whetted the appetite for such approaches in the doc sphere,” panelist Jane Roscoe told the audience. But whatever the genre, the head of international content for Australia’s SBS added: “We’re looking for shows that take risks or that take us places we’ve not been, and which are immersive."

For his part, Nat Geo’s Ben Noot said that the success of shows like his company’s Cosmos, which is already licensed widely overseas, is part of a growing programming trend, and interest among viewers, in things related to space and to science in general. The global acquisitions manager noted that the channel recently re-branded its Adventure spinoff as Nat Geo People and is now more female-targeted. So far carriage has been secured in Germany and Italy as well as most of Asia and in Australia.

Not that nature docs aren’t still a mainstay of many channels and platforms. A stunning trailer for a Chinese-made show about the so-called golden monkeys of southwestern China, which had been thought to be extinct, wowed the assembled.

Leland Ling, the chairman of LIC China, told The Hollywood Reporter the company has just licensed Hidden Monkeys to National Geographic in the States and to Japan’s NHK and expects to finalize deals with Korea’s KBS and Denmark’s DR before MipDoc wraps. Speaking on the panel, Ling talked about the 800 hours of acquired docs per annum his company buys to help fill the eight slots across some 342 local stations in China his company is responsible for. Among other genres that are popping across his territory, he cited “doc-reality” as the most prominent.

The first day of the doc market will be capped with a co-production case study focused on a joint venture transmedia project between Canada and France called Apocalypse, World War One, the most prominent of an array of nonfiction projects timed to the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 in 1914.