MIPTV: Formats Rise Again as Content Continues to Go Global

AP Images/Invision

People put faith back in formats this market, as digital dominated the conversation.

It was a “busy and active week” at this MIPTV, said conference organizer Reed Midem’s head of television Laurine Garaude as the week-long international television market wrapped Thursday.

In one of the most buzzed about deals of the week, NBCUniversal announced a new partnership with German network RTL and France’s TF1 to develop, finance and produce U.S. procedurals directly for the international market. The trifecta will each contribute a third of the financing for the new series and share revenues, while broadcasting the shows in their home territories. They currently plan to produce three series over the next two years.

While the deal is the first of its kind, it is the result of the continuing trend of international co-production and co-development with both traditional and digital that is changing the TV production model.

As international cooperation continues to grow, so does the 52-year-old MIPTV. This year the confab hosted upwards of 11,000 participants, and 1000 digital buyers alone, and added 70 new exhibitors this year. The Nordic countries, Poland and Turkey had pavilions for the first time, as did U.S. producer Legendary Pictures TV arm.

The formats business is bouncing back from the disappointment of Rising Star, the Israeli music talent show format that led to a feeding frenzy at last year’s MIPTV but failed to launch in most territories, with an emphasis on physical game shows.

The failure of Rising Star was its dependence on technology instead of a compelling story, NBCUniversal director international format production Barrie Kelly told The Hollywood Reporter, and it’s left big broadcasters feeling cautious.

“I think this MIP has been a kind of cathartic process of people kind of falling back in love with formats again and pure entertainment formats, so it kind of feels quite positive in that aspect. It feels like the since last market there has been backlash to Rising Star and now it feels like there are some great new formats coming through,” Kelly said. 

“It’s been a cycle to recover from Rising Star. Yeah I’ve got one or two things where as some years you hear ‘there’s nothing’ I feel quite positive at the moment,” he added.

Cooking shows are still hot, while physical game shows are seeing some action, Kelly said. “In physical game shows there is a hole, there is not one show that is dominating. I think the next big show will be a blend of physical game show and a talent,” he said, citing American Ninja as a show style that is gaining steam.

Warner Bros. Television launched 12 new formats at the market, and previewed event game show 500 Questions to good reception.

This MIPTV also hosted the second Digital Fronts program, which dominated the third day of the conference with a full slate of presentations from online companies including YouTube, AwesomenessTV, DailyMotion and Vice and packed the Palais’ Grand Auditorium.

Vice announced a new short form daily news show for mobile under its news division, as well as premiered content from its new Broadly channel for women and its music partnership with Live Nation. The multi-media company also launched sports channels in the U.K., Germany and Spain during the week, and will launch the Sports Shorts documentary series later this year.

Online distributors from China were also big deal makers this market.

French YouTube competitor Dailymotion announced a multi-year partnership deal with WebTVAsia, the continent’s largest multi-channel network nand digital studio, to collaborate on 100 channels, as well as exclusive co-productions for the Asian market. WebTVAsia CEO Fred Chong said it is just the first of many European partners to come.

BBC Worldwide entered into a strategic partnership with Chinese media company Shanghai Media Group (SMG) to include program and format production, distribution and co-production in documentary, factual entertainment and drama spaces. The BBC will be working with several SMG subsidiaries, including BesTV, DocuChina and the Dragon TV satellite service that reaches 1 billion people globally. BBC will handle international sales for the properties.

SMG was busy this market, also setting up a joint venture with FremantleMedia and China Media Capital to develop entertainment forms for the Chinese market. This deal also involves BestTV and Dragon TV, with the developed shows to first air on those channels. FremantleMedia will handle international sales for those programs.

CMC founding chairman Li Ruigang underscored the importance of the emerging market. “China’s TV sector is undergoing the most exciting transformation, and the value of premium content is being created and manifested with unprecedented enthusiasm,” he said.

FremantleMedia’s CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz agreed that China is becoming a huge player internationally.

“The Chinese television market is rapidly becoming one of the most important in the world,” she said.

"One of the accelerating trends we’ve been seeing in the past years that really came through very strongly at this MIPTV is the idea of borderless. Now the potential to create content and see it travel is so strong from all regions of the world and across all the platforms,” said Giraude.

Hyper local goes universal and some local programming is often very very successful if it has universal themes it can really travel, she said.

Comedy is finally becoming more exportable as well, as viewers across the globe are exposed to different styles online, which is resulting in production boom for traditional television like Comedy Central and Amazon online.

In the drama department, French film company Gaumont’s European TV arm announced 1001, its second international co-production with from Real Humans creator Lars Lundstrom. It will co-produce the series with Sweden’s Matador Film and Eyworks Scandi Fiction. 

German producer Tandem, a StudioCanal company, announced Lionhearts: The Crusade a co-production with the BBC and 24 producer Robert Cochran.

Endemol Shine launched two new scripted formats, The Orpheus Project based on an Israeli drama and the gritty lawyer thriller No Identity from Spain.

FremantleMedia is also making a big push into drama, announcing The Fight just before the market.