Reviews the key trends to emerge from the recent event in Cannes.
MIPCOM attendees could not stop talking about the weather; but rather than moaning about downpours (or ash clouds), delegates largely couldn’t believe how perfect it was. The blue skies matched the upbeat, optimistic sense at the market that while change has been drastic—and never-ending—good content and smart business models will keep producers, distributors and platforms in good stead.
Attendance was reported at 13,900 from 110-plus markets, among them 4,800 buyers (1,700 of them buying for on-demand services). Laurine Garaude, director of Reed MIDEM’s television division, said at a wrap press conference on Thursday that the key trend of the market was the “global race for stand-out content, leading companies to truly transcend barriers, borders and even their own roles. It’s an exciting time in the content business. People are looking to engage audiences around the world.”
Delegates packed the Grand Auditorium on Wednesday to hear from four leading programmers about what’s engaging their audiences. RTÉ’s Dermot Horan, SBS Broadcasting’s Rozan Hamaker, Global Series Network’s Jason Thorp and AMC Networks Global’s Aurelie de Troyer discussed acquisition and programming trends at a MIPCOM panel before each receiving a World Screen Trendsetter Award. The Acquisition Superpanel—What Do Programmers Want? session, moderated by World Screen’s Anna Carugati, covered a broad range of topics, including wish lists and the rising importance of prebuys and co-productions. The four executives represent a cross-section of the media landscape, with Horan serving the needs of a public broadcaster in Ireland, Hamaker delivering content for a commercial broadcasting group in the Netherlands, Thorp overseeing the highly curated Walter Presents platform and de Troyer buying for AMC Networks’ streaming services Sundance Now and Shudder.
Horan, director of acquisitions and co-productions at RTÉ, noted that the Irish pubcaster is at the forefront of digital technology as it evolves with media consumption habits. On the arrival of OTT players in his market, Horan said, “We’re cohabiting with Netflix and somewhat the sleeping giant Amazon. That’s why creative partnerships are so important.” He also expressed some frustration that at the L.A. Screenings this year, a few shows weren’t even screened by the studios because they had already been presold to Netflix.
“Netflix is huge in the Netherlands, and comparatively we have a tiny budget and we cannot compete with them, so we need to be creative,” said Hamaker, SBS’s head of acquisitions. “We try to close deals in different ways—shorter periods of time, one run. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
“Shows have gone before we can even look at them,” Thorp, CEO of Global Series Network, said. “That is frustrating. Shows do tend to disappear into the ether with Netflix. We often describe ourselves as a cute little deli sat next to the market that is Netflix. Those two models can coexist.”
“We have been winning bids successfully,” de Troyer, AMC Networks Global’s VP of global acquisitions and co-productions, said on the competition with Netflix, “based on marketing planning, how much we’re trying to showcase the shows, etc.”
Netflix also came up often during the Power Shifts panel on Monday, featuring Endemol Shine’s Cathy Payne, ITV Studios’ Maria Kyriacou, Beta Film’s Moritz von Kruedener and A+E Networks’ Patrick Vien. OTT platforms like Netflix have been transformative for the global drama business, creating new opportunities in particular for foreign-language series.
Mexican broadcaster TV Azteca is looking to tap into those new opportunities with its recently launched independent production company Dopamine. “We’re a local player,” said CEO Benjamin Salinas Sada in his keynote session, where he was interviewed by World Screen’s Carugati in the Grand Auditorium. “We cannot compete with content worldwide that’s being done with much larger budgets than ours. With Dopamine we’ll be able to do that.” The venture will begin in Spanish-language content but could expand to English. It will have its own sales arm to distribute shows around the world. “We need to be producing for different platforms,” Salinas said.
Dopamine is part of a broader transformation at the Mexican media giant. Salinas has been the CEO of TV Azteca, which is marking its 25th anniversary, for the last two years. He inherited an organization that needed a transformation from within. “The culture was a mess. There was no teamwork, no creative ideas. We had to start to change from the inside by producing better and start reconnecting with audiences.”
Salinas put in place a strategy to change the culture at TV Azteca, fostering a spirit of collaboration. “The culture is completely different now. It’s still a work in progress. I’m really happy with the results. When I arrived we had 28 percent share in prime time. Now we have well over 35.”
He noted that when he took over at the company, “We had no owned telenovelas. We bought internationally and aired them. So we had a big lag in the pipeline.” Now it’s making nine to ten, including, with Sony Pictures Television, Rosario Tijeras. “It’s the first time we beat Televisa in the ratings.”
Salinas is excited about the prospect of international collaborations to deliver shows with bigger budgets and greater scale and ambition. “The audience is very demanding. That’s why we’re making big changes for the future.”
Salinas was one of a number of high-level Media Mastermind keynotes at MIPCOM, along with HBO’s Richard Plepler, Discovery’s David Zaslav, National Geographic’s Courteney Monroe, Gordon Ramsay, Sir Lenny Henry, Snap’s Sean Mills and Facebook’s Ricky van Veen and Daniel Danker. The market also featured a record number of screenings, among them Sony’s Counterpart and Sky Vision’s Britannia, and Russia was in the spotlight as part of the “Russian Content Revolution” strand marking the 100th anniversary of the 1917 revolutions.