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The return of MIPCOM, which wrapped up its 2022 edition Thursday, was an unqualified success.
The studios were back in force — the massive beachside stands for Disney, Paramount, Lionsgate and Warner Bros. Discovery were buzzing with business — and international production giants including Fremantle, Banijay, and All3Media were upbeat about their prospects and the continuing growth in demand for content worldwide.
Fox Entertainment Global, which launched its new worldwide content operation at MIPCOM this year, was the most relentlessly positive, with newly anointed Fox Entertainment CEO Rob Wade taking up the potential for the group, which bundles programming from Fox, Bento Box, MarVista and TMZ but is looking to partner with outside networks, producers and distributors world-wide “to get out content out there [and] we have our checkbooks with us,” he noted.
Lisa Kramer, President of international TV licensing at Paramount Global Content Distribution, talked up the sales success of new shows like Poker Face, the high-end mystery of the week crime drama from Knives Out director Rian Johnson featuring Russian Doll star Natasha Lyonne. Paramount flew out both Johnson and Lyonne to meet with buyers at MIPCOM and Kramer said she is already fielding offers for the Peacock series, which will be going out in first-run, first windows on major free-to-air or local platforms in most major international territories.
But Kramer acknowledged the current economic reality meant buyers are being a lot more careful about where they spend their money.
“Things are tough, macro-economic wise and ad market wise,” she noted, “cost-consciousness and the bottom line are becoming more important.”
On the studio side, that bottom-line thinking means balancing a focus on streaming and building up in-house platforms, with a need to continue to service, and grow, the money-spinning international licensing business. For many shows, and territories, Kramer said Paramount was taking a “shared window approach,” letting series move between broadcasters and platforms. She cited the example of Emmy-winning period comedy-drama The Great in the UK, where the show, starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, goes out first on SVOD service Starzplay then on free-to-air network Channel 4.
Cost-consciousness, and the expectation that Europe is lurching towards recession with advertising spend set to plunge in the coming months, is also helping to driver further consolidation in the global TV business. French-based global player Banijay snatched up both non-scripted distributor Beyond International (Mythbusters) and British drama producer Mam Tor (Chloe) and there were wild rumors that ITV’s production and sales arm ITV Studios was on the block, with the likes of Fremantle parent RTL Group floated as a potential buyer.
What is certain is that the big international companies are looking to add scale. RTL has given Fremantle a target of raising full-year revenue to €3 billion ($3 billion) by 2025 from around $1.9 billion last year. Speaking at MIPCOM, Fremantle Group CEO Jennifer Mullin said the company was “on track” to hit that target and would continue to grow both organically and through M&A activity. But, she insisted, Fremantle, which in the past year has acquired production outfits such as Ireland’s Element Pictures (Normal People), Italian scripted producer Lux Vide (Leonardo) and Bosch producer Fabel, was not using acquisitions to just “buy revenue” but was strategically acquiring firms that were best suited to the company’s desire to grow.
Banijay CEO Marco Bassetti seconded that sentiment, saying the group, whose subsidiaries produce such shows as Big Brother, MasterChef and Temptation Island, would continue to take “the opportunities the market can give us,” but that it was important Banijay “not lose our DNA.”
In his MIPCOM keynote, Bassetti took aim at the global streamers for their model of retaining the majority of rights to shows commissioned from independent producers.
“It’s not fair to ask talent for everything and then when they are a huge success, they don’t get anything,” he said. “When you give producers the opportunity to invest and retain part of the rights, they will do a better job. For us it’s simple – in the medium or long term we are happy to give away some margin but want to retain rights.”
While the financial markets have decided the current moment “is a golden age for content,” Bassetti continued, “this is not the golden age of revenue sharing.”
When it comes to drama content, period drama and sci-fi, alongside traditional crime procedurals, continue to dominate sales and market chatter. All3Media made a splash Monday with the world premiere of its Western thriller The English, with star Emily Blunt attending and leaving her handprint in wet concrete on the Cannes walk of fame. The series will premiere in November on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer in the U.K., and on Prime Video in North America. Banijay sold Marie Antoinette, Canal+’s period show about the last queen of France, created and written by The Favourite screenwriter Deborah Davis, to PBS ahead of MIPCOM.
Sci-fi, particularly of the dystopian variety, was everywhere at MIP, with the likes of AMC’s spin-off series Orphan Black Echoes, NBCUniversal’s SYFY drama The Ark and Beta Film’s The Swarm —which imagines a force from the oceans that threatens mankind—and Concordia, about a tech-utopia of the near future, attracting buyer attention.
“In these challenging times, science-fiction does not seem so remote from reality anymore,” said
Gregory Strouk, Deputy Director of Wild Bunch TV, who introduced dystopian sci-fi thriller Arcadia at the MIPCOM market. “The genre resonates across cultures and generations and can be met with success with both our linear and non-linear clients.”
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