Petersen accompanying 'CSI' to MIPTV

Will present award at International Digital Emmys

PARIS -- "CSI" exec producer William Petersen retired his Gil Grissom character this year after nine seasons, but he'll still be the face of the series when MIPTV kicks off March 30.

Petersen will be joined by execs from franchise distributor CBS Paramount International Television in celebrating the long-running series at a news conference, then stick around to present an award at the International Digital Emmy Awards.

Keeping up the five-day content market's celebrity quotient is just one way organizers are hoping to lure attendees in the face of tough economic times. Also on tap are new events including an industry speed-dating event and what organizers are dubbing a "creative party."

And despite rumors that the global financial crisis will equal a significant dip in attendance, MIPTV's powers that be insist this year's market is looking healthy.

"Companies are clearly being careful, they may be sending fewer people, but we have all the key players there ... including some 4,000 buyers, so things are looking very good," Reed MIDEM TV boss Laurine Garaude said in an interview.

Not to say that organizers are ignoring the current financial climate.

"We're working very closely with our partners in Cannes and with Skyteam and trying to see how we can deal with the overall costs of attending. It's something that we're working very hard on," Garaude said. "Certainly, the financial situation affects the whole world and our industry, but we're there to help people take advantage of international business opportunities, and people need that more than ever this year."

Organizers hope to spark networking opportunities through targeted matchmaking events known as "MIP accelerators." These speed dating-style events will tackle different themes such as broadband video as well as bring TV producers together with regional film commissioners. Also on tap is a digital "creative party" to help industry members meet up in a targeted way. "Our goal is to bring people together who wouldn't automatically connect. It's a major focus for us this year," Garaude said.

The cross-platform media festival Content 360 also returns this year, with a 15% increase in submissions per category. Garaude said that attendance numbers for the event remain stable, with increases in certain regions thanks to the entry of new Gulf countries and the introduction of a Thailand pavilion. China and the Middle East also will be increasing their respective delegations thanks to a focus on 2009's "METRIC" countries (the Middle East, Turkey, Russia, India and China).

On the big name executive front, Endemol CEO Ynon Kreiz will give a speech on 3-D, what he terms the company's "best kept secret."

The keynote lineup also features Nokia executive vp Savander, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell and Christophe Lambert, co-founder of advertainment company Blue.

"In many times of downturn, there are new ideas, new business models that turn up. We'd like to think that, by focusing on creativity and innovation, we can help spark that," Garaude said. "In the 1980s, it was the video rental market. In 2001, it was DVDs, then digital video recorders. Now, there's room for new things to happen, many of which we will hear about at MIPTV."