MIPTV: Market Organizers Put Accent on Global Storytellers

Starz new crime drama "Power" premiered at MIPTV.

The international television market also saw healthy dealmaking and the coming-of-age of online content.

Calling this year's MIPTV international television market "very buoyant, very active," Laurine Garaude, head of TV at MIPTV organizer Reed Midem, said some 11,000 TV and digital executives, including 4,000 buyers, descended on Cannes this week for MIPTV's 51st edition.

With a central theme of "the new age of storytelling," the market was awash in high-end drama and nonfiction formats originating from around the world, strong co-production activity, an emerging global market for online content creators -- reflected in the inaugural MIP Digital Fronts -- and a convergence of online and offline players.

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On the Palais exhibition floor, new South African, Israeli and Indian animation pavilions were set up, while the event also saw a bigger Mexican delegation and first-time exhibitors Bloomberg Media and Pan-African news-entertainment channel Arise News.

As the days ticked by, almost every conceivable cross-border deal was announced by one entity or another.

Underlining that formats know no barriers, Israel's Armoza and China's Jiangsu presented what is thought to be the first-ever format to come out of China, Celebrity Battle. "I believe there will be more and more Chinese formats emerging onto the global market," said Zhao Jun, head controller of Jiangsu's programming department.

In other news, Frank Spotnitz, the showrunner behind The X-Files and the BBC's Hunted, is to develop high-end drama for StudioCanal's German-based Tandem as part of a first-look distribution deal.

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Amid a flurry of international sales agreement, ITV Studios closed deals with digital platforms and TV broadcasters in China and Thailand. These included more than 500 hours of programming as part of a multi-year output agreement to supply Chinese Internet service provider Tencent with drama series such as Murdoch Mysteries. Shanghai Media Group committed to 120 hours annually for its International Channel Shanghai, and Thai paybox Next Step has signed up for 300 hours of factual programming.

Given its success abroad with scripted and unscripted formats, Israel was the subject of a special MIPTV Focus, in partnership with the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute.

Admitting that he is more at ease dealing with content than conferences, Keshet Media Group's CEO Avi Nir told his keynote audience that demanding Israeli viewers encourage the company to keep on innovating. "Our success is down to the fact that we keep audiences on their toes. We keep surprising them," he said. On the Croisette, the company did brisk business with its unscripted format Rising Star -- now sold in 25 territories -- and game show format Boom!, which Fox has picked up for the U.S. and which signed deals with France's TF1, Hungarian network TV2 and Begium's VTM at MIPTV.

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Over at Dori Media Group (DMG), another domestic hit in Israel piqued interest. Reality show Power Couple, which launched domestically in February, was acquired by SIC Portugal, with FremantleMedia Portugal making the new version. Further, a Nippon TV format that Dori re-versioned for the Israeli market, called Aha Experience, is now being licensed into China and other territories.

And Endemol, which recently took a minority stake in Israeli production group Reshet, signed a multi-territory format deal with yet another Israeli content and production company, Studio Glam, for the upcoming reality competition show The Extra Mile.

Just how far and fast the lines are blurring between the online and offline companies was brought home when Red Arrow International brought author Michael Connelly to Cannes to promote the series Bosch, based on his Harry Bosch detective novels. Produced by Fabrik Entertainment, the series was commissioned by Amazon Studios after online viewers responded positively to the show's pilot. In his MIPTV keynote on Tuesday, Red Arrow CEO Jan Frouman said Amazon's method of direct feedback was much more useful to the producer than the networks’ more opaque piloting process.

Coinciding with MIPTV, various reports circulated that Yahoo is about to follow Amazon and Netflix into the original programming sector, initially focusing on half-hour comedy series. And Microsoft's Xbox Entertainment Studios has greenlit a first scripted series, Humans, to be co-produced with Britain's Channel 4 and to premiere on the Xbox platform in North America next year.

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The importance of original online video production was apparent during two days of packed conferences and content showcases that were all part of the inaugural MIP Digital Fronts. The new event saw online content presentations from YouTube, Maker Studios, Dailymotion, Vice and Chipotle and showcases from SmokeBomb Entertainment, Vuguru and What’s Trending.

"For 50 years, MIPTV has been the destination to produce, finance, distribute and acquire content from around the world," Garaude said at a wrap-up session with journalists Tuesday. "Now, with MIP Digital Fronts, it naturally becomes the international digital content marketplace, and the new global destination to produce, finance, distribute and buy original online video."

Perhaps the most explicit comment on whether it is still pertinent to discuss online and offline relations came from Shane Smith, founder/CEO of multi-platform digital studio Vice. "I've been coming to MIPTV for a long time, and people keep asking me, 'Are you on TV or digital?' All I can say is that I don't give a shit. All I care about is the content," Smith said.

A cluster of international stars also graced MIPTV to promote new shows to the international market.

TV gabber Jerry Springer opened the proceedings with a MIPDoc keynote address Sunday, in which he discussed his latest project Tabloid, a behind-the-scenes look at the stories making the headlines. Former Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall was in Cannes as co-executive producer and star of Sensitive Skin, and actor/producer Amy Poehler took to the stage to talk about odd-couple comedy Broad City.

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Rapper Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson made his debut appearance at the market as executive producer of the world premiere TV screening of Power from Starz, in which he also features. He was joined on the red carpet by Power lead actor Omari Hardwick, Bosch star Titus Welliver and Maggie Gyllenhaal, star of the BBC drama The Honourable Woman, which also debuted at MIPTV.

While acting talent garnered interest on the Croisette, top executive talent took center stage at the MIPTV Medaille d'Honneur gala dinner to pay tribute to the careers of four television leaders.

The Medaille d'Honneur awards were received by Twentieth Century Fox's president of international television Marion Edwards, Channel One Russia CEO Konstantin Ernst, Tele Munchen owner Herbert Kloiber and Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner.

Edwards said at the gala ceremony Wednesday night that she had never imagined spending more than 30 years in this business. "The international television business has been such an unbelievably exciting place to work. If ever there was a time to be a TV consumer, it is now!"