There was certainly a buzz in the air at this week’s Mipcom. The market felt genuinely busy and a raft of A-list talent such as Ben Stiller, Issa Rae and Jenna Coleman gave it a spark of glamor. Some 13,800 delegates, including 4,800 buyers from 110 countries attended the international television market, which was dominated by chatter about the growth of digital buyers and the “never-ending” drama boom as well as concerns over what media consolidation means for the global market (as well as traditional complaints about the rain and the airport-style security).
Endeavor boss Ari Emanuel talked up his plans to acquire more content companies, Insecure star Rae discussed the importance of diverse storytellers, while joking that even “white people are tired of seeing white-people shows” and Facebook made a splash with the news that it was rebooting The Real World online.
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NBC Universal was conspicuous in Cannes thanks to its recently greenlit music series Songland from Eurythmics star Dave Stewart and The Voice EP Audrey Morrissey. Jeff Wachtel, President, NBCUniversal International Studios told Deadline, “Like everywhere, Mipcom is caught up in the changes brought about by the content revolution. It’s fascinating seeing how the SVOD players and the explosion of local content around the world have altered the distribution conversation.”
NBC owner Comcast’s acquisition of European-pay TV giant Sky had a lot of tongues wagging about potential consolidation between the international arms of both companies. However, it’s clear that any changes are going to take months, if not longer, to emerge. The same can be said for the future of Endemol Shine, which was no clearer after a number of the major consolidators, such as ITV and Fremantle, ruled themselves out of the process. Many senior executives were gossiping as to whether the Apollo and 21st Century Fox-owned superindie would even sell to a third party.
Sony’s recent reorganization of the company’s distribution operations also had many wondering about its international future, particularly given that studio has one of the largest beachside “stands” in Cannes with a coffee area larger than many booths. But Keith Le Goy, President Worldwide Distribution, Sony Pictures Entertainment, told Deadline that it had a strong market, highlighting global sales on The Good Doctor and interest in Blumhouse-produced horror anthology Into The Dark. He added that most conversations he had in Cannes were around “consolidation, globalization, vertical alignment of major players and burgeoning direct-to-consumer”.
The latter was a particularly hot topic with ITV CEO Carolyn McCall talking up the British broadcaster’s plans to move into domestic SVOD and a number of other local broadcasters eyeing ways to combat the increasing aggression of Netflix and Amazon.
David Ellender, President, Global Distribution and Co-Productions at Taboo and The Son distributor Sonar Entertainment, highlighted this direct to consumer push as one of the most noticeable things in Cannes. “European free-to air-platforms [are] starting to build and launch their own VOD offerings as premiere platforms, not just catch up channels to support their linear networks.” Sonar’s big deal of the week was to sell Das Boot into over 100 territories including Hulu in the U.S.
There’s no sign of the global drama business slowing down either. Ben Stiller was in town for the world premiere of Showtime series Escape at Dannemora. He told the audience that the prison heist story was initially “hard to believe”. “I was taken by the combination of elements in it because it wasn’t just a genre piece. It was about human relationships. I thought it could be a little funny but it ended up being a bit more serious. For me, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It harked back to the movies and television shows I grew up watching, the tone of movies from the ’70s like Dog Day Afternoon or The Taking of Pelham 123.”
Red Arrow Studios International was buoyed by the news that Shades of Blue creator Adi Hasak was developing a remake its German drama The Last Cop (Der Letzte Bulle) with Universal Television. Bo Stehmeier, EVP Global Sales, Red Arrow Studios International, told Deadline that there’s been no let-up in interest in drama that is “cinematic” with a “top-class” cast. “Also, as a result of the competition in the market all broadcasters and platforms are interested to hear about projects as early as possible and for the right project will come in as financiers across all genres at the earliest possible stage.”
In spite of the rumors around Endemol Shine, the company said that it was business as usual and that it had a constructive week talking up its latest British dramas Deep Water and Adult Material. The former is a six-part thriller from Kudos and stars Anna Friel, while it had just read the first scripts for the latter, which is produced by Fortitude’s Fifty Fathoms and stars Sheridan Smith.
Matt Creasey, EVP, sales and acquisitions at Endemol Shine International, told Deadline, “The appetite for premium drama and comedy isn’t going away. This is for both English and non-English language programming. Buyers want the very best scripted content for their market and this trend is continuing.”
Former Doctor Who star Jenna Coleman’s presence in Cannes helped distributor DRG, which closed a number of deals for her four-part BBC drama The Cry. DRG CEO Richard Halliwell told Deadline that this year’s market felt more “buoyant”. “We’re undoubtedly going to see a lot more sales for The Cry series after Cannes. Having Jenna at the stand and being involved in key events impressed clients,” he added.
Nick Percy, EVP, Western Europe for BBC Studios agreed that there was a lot of discussions on how to compete locally in drama. The company unveiled its latest high-profile drama, Dracula, for BBC and Netflix. “People are understanding the need to be fast on decision making here and involved earlier in development which could go some way to ameliorating the other complaint heard around the Palais, about the amount of drama and now factual and factual entertainment content going to global SVOD platforms,” he told Deadline.
Mipcom is also full of weird and wonderful non-scripted formats, a chance to see the craziest titles from the whole world. One title that really caused a stir was Travel with a Goat, a Dutch format from Tuvalu Media that follows two celebrities traveling around the world with a goat or another livestock animal but when they arrive at their destination, they have to kill and eat the goat.
Keren Shahar, President of Distribution at Keshet, highlighted it as one of the strangest formats she saw at the market. But she also added that “dancing is the new cooking, apparently” after scoring a German adaptation for its Masters of Dance format.
While Endeavor boss Emanuel was in town to give a broad overview of the company’s plans, its international sales team was also present with new titles including The First and The Little Drummer Girl. Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd also popped over with Stephen Frears and Nick Hornby to discuss See-Saw’s short-form series State of the Union (left).
John Pollack, president of Electus International, said that it feels like the international market is as “robust” as it ever has been. “There are more networks, platforms, partners, brands creating and spending money on content than ever before and all are aggressively seeking partnerships from all corners of the world. The market is undoubtedly more complex than in years past, especially in the days of three to four broadcasters per market, but now with the number of options and opportunities, for a content creator like ourselves, it feels like the options are limitless,” he told Deadline.
He highlighted its Belgian format Matchmakers from Roses Are Blue, a hidden camera dating format that it has optioned into half a dozen European markets and are closing in on a sale to a broadcaster in the U.S. He added that much of the chatter is about what the likes of Netflix will do next to “maintain their global dominance”. “Also, how the world of content will be affected by the merging and acquiring of so many major players in the market,” he said.
Chris Hilton, CEO of Essential Media Group, the Australian producer bought earlier this summer by Kew Media Group, made the long trip from down under to Cannes to introduce his new slate to buyers. He agreed that dance shows were hot this year and that a number of buyers were looking for more non-scripted shows featuring “kids in an adult world”.
I Wanna Marry Harry producer Zig Zag, meanwhile, was focusing on gameshows after partnering with A+E Networks and Wingman on shiny floor quiz show The Tower. CEO Danny Fenton said that the show, which features contestants answering rapid-fire questions with the goal of taking control of a giant glass cylinder pierced by rods holding up 21 colored balls, was one of a number of titles it was working on in the genre as part of a concerted effort to be in the studio game space”. Fenton also wondered “when is the tipping point for streamers to overtake broadcasters as the key market buyers”.
It’s a great time to be in the international TV business, it seems. However, one word of caution from Alan Griffiths, CEO of World Media Rights, which was in town to promote his box-set factual series The Lost Pirate Kingdom, said deals are getting more “complicated”. “Nothing is getting simpler. More lawyers, more slicing of rights, more complexity.”
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