Kate Bulkley is covering MIPTV at Cannes for Deadline
After several years of doom and gloom, things look brighter at MIPTV this year with ramped-up demand for series and big-event programming, says Jan Mojto, whose EOS companies, including Beta Film, specialize in event productions. “For the first time in two years, we are really hearing nothing about (bad) economics,” he said. “The broadcasters need more and they I think are willing to pay more, at least that is what we hope. Certainly there is a better spirit than last year here.”
Among the highest-profile offerings this year are two costume dramas: Gk-TV’s Camelot and Beta Film’s Borgia. The Borgia lunch in the Majestic Hotel was packed and buyers, including Phyllis Platt, who acquires scripted fare for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), are keen on the €25 million series. “These big international co-productions mean high production values but more affordable prices,” she said. “We’ve shown The Tudors and Pillars of the Earth and they do well, so we will probably buy Borgia. I think we will see more of these (kinds of projects) and they will get bigger and bigger in terms of size, subject matter and pizzazz.”
Several of the major U.S. studios, including Disney and Fox, had a limited presence at MIPTV because of the proximity of the May screenings but others, including NBC and Lionsgate, were doing good business. Potential buyers at MIPTV are also getting a taste of the U.S. networks’ pilots that are competing for series orders, with those who land on the fall schedules headed to the May screenings. Sarah Wright, controller of entertainment acquisitions for BSkyB in the UK, said that her impression is that the studios are loading on comedy, that there seem to be a few supernatural-type shows, or “fairy-tales with a twist,” like NBC’s Grimm, a sort of supernatural police drama set in Portland, Ore. “NBC in particular has a lot in development because they need new shows,” said Wright. “I saw loglines for six comedies, and there were four dramas that looked interesting including Smash with Debra Messing and a House-esque show called Weekends at Bellevue.”
John Schmidt CEO of Content Media Corp, a London-based production and distribution company, said that the fact that all the majors are not at MIPTV allows more room for independents and puts a bigger focus on collaborations and co-productions. “The market is moving north again and people are in a better place to be able to collaborate,” he said.
Rudolpe Belmer, chief operating officer of Canal Plus, also talked about the growing importance of co-production, and he threw down a metaphorical gauntlet to US studios. In a speech at MIPTV, he talked about doing more co-productions like Borgia, which Canal Plus contributed €8 million to. He said that Canal Plus is looking to develop more “structured relations” in order “to generate a more regular flow of funds” into co-productions. His goal is to be less dependent on US series because the programming is often “banal” because it is “highly-franchised” and is a target for pirates. The answer, he says, is to invest in co-production and original series to create a “long-term, sustainable and recurrent supply source for us and for our channels.”
Tom Toumazis, chief commercial officer of Endemol, said that his company is continuing to branch into digital-media offshoots of its games shows and will launch seven social games in the next month including ones based on One V 100, Deal or No Deal and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, in collaboration with ABC. “We think that YB viewers are expecting more than a TV show; they want play-along games like we have with The Money Drop, and also we are investing in social gaming because it is like an added service to get you closer to your audience.” Endemol is also building its scripted business and is showing trailers for Hell on Wheels, a 10-episode series about building the US railroad, produced with E1 for AMC.