Lucy Smith, the director of MIPTV and MIPCOM, talks to World Screen about how the organizers are planning for a physical event in October.
Citing clients’ fervent desire to gather in-person, Smith is quick to acknowledge the many factors prospective participants must weigh, given the coronavirus pandemic, while considering travel plans. In an effort to help that decision-making process, she lists the safety protocols Reed MIDEM is working on with government agencies, the number of exhibiting companies that have already registered, the events planned for MIPCOM, and its digital offerings.
WS: In this past challenging year, what have you been hearing from clients?
SMITH: We’ve been hearing that there is a strong desire and appetite to reconnect. Getting back to the in-person market is absolutely essential. Most clients are pleased that they managed to keep doing business, but now they need to see people.
Overall, there is an overwhelming desire to come back to Cannes and get back to the Croisette, to do business face-to-face, but also to socialize, get together and have a glass of rosé on the beach!
We, as the organizers, are optimistic but also realistic, and we do expect we will be back in Cannes in October. The vaccine rollout in France is on target. Travel restrictions are gradually being eased. We are working with our clients as closely as possible to give them everything they need to help them make the right decisions for their business. The decisions are more complex this year, but we understand.
WS: What can you tell us about the companies that have registered so far?
SMITH: There are more than 150 stands signed up; 156 as of today. There are pavilions, delegations and many big global companies. There are 34 countries represented in terms of exhibitors. There is participation from around the world, with the strongest presence so far from Europe. We’re seeing more and more positive signs from the U.S. We know that a lot of our major U.S. partners and clients want to be there, but some need a little more time. We’re being flexible and trying to make it as easy for clients as it can be.
Buyers traditionally sign up later, so right now, we are doing a lot of outreach. We’re having calls with the major partners, our top buyers and our advisory boards, and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback.
There is a lot of good news coming as well. We saw from our friends at the Cannes Film Festival that vaccinated U.K. and U.S. visitors no longer have to quarantine. That is key, because people can now start more concrete travel planning.
More and more international events are taking place in the coming weeks, and we are staying in close contact with them and sharing best practices. There is a big Paris-based event called VivaTech, which was launched with Maurice Lévy and Publicis [Groupe] that brings together tech and media. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, will be there. There is the Cannes Film Festival in July and the Annecy International Animation Film Festival next week. All of that is very positive, and that is what everybody needs to see: we need to get back to in-person events, and we can get back.
WS: What are some of the safety protocols you will have in place for MIPCOM?
SMITH: Within our spaces at MIPCOM, there will be physical distancing measures. We will set up some of the common areas a little differently with adjustments regarding the maximum number of people allowed and adapting some of the furniture. We will be managing the traffic flow and having directional traffic. We’re asking the delegates to print their badges at home to avoid queuing for registration.
We will confirm more details once everything is in place, but the French government has announced a type of Passe Sanitaire, or a health passport, that will be put in place for major events. We expect that to mean that people will need to show that they have either been vaccinated or have a negative PCR test. We see this as a real positive, because it will give reassurance to those attending. International travelers will already be required to follow a high level of health and safety protocols, of course, before arriving in Cannes.
Between now and October, we’re going to continue working with the government, the trade bodies, and, of course, we’ll be working closely with the local authorities in the city of Cannes. They are also implementing a whole series of safety measures that will cover the entire delegate experience. We’re working with hotels and restaurants, and there will be a whole set of safety and hygiene protocols in place to ensure that our clients will be able to enjoy MIPCOM and have their restaurants, social lives and do what they need to do in a safe environment.
WS: For keynotes and panels, you will be abiding by authorities’ guidelines as to how many people will be allowed into the auditoriums?
SMITH: Absolutely. Up till now, it has been 50 percent capacity. For cinemas and theaters that are open now in Paris, there is a capacity limit, but we know that the capacity will be increased by the time we get to October. We will have some keynotes for sure, and we will use the bigger auditoriums.
We are planning other events that make MIPCOM and MIPJunior what they are: the opening party, the Women in Global Entertainment Power Lunch, the Diversify TV Excellence Awards. The International Emmy Kids Awards will be at MIPJunior. Canneseries is taking place alongside MIPCOM.
We are also looking at introducing some new initiatives because the industry has changed a lot in past years and over the past year, specifically. There has been an explosion of viewing on streaming platforms, and the studios are accelerating all of their plans. With that much change going on, we believe it’s another reason for everyone to reconnect and take stock of where the industry is. We want to offer context for bringing together broadcasters, producers, distributors and streamers. We are working on bringing some of these curated content communities back together.
We’re introducing an International Drama Breakfast in partnership with The Entertainment Masterclass that will be a reunion of key drama decision-makers (by invitation).
And a series of interactive formats around current hot topics with the Entertainment Master Class (Drama) and FRAPA (Formats). The drama masterclasses will look at topics like the changing distribution landscape, the impact of streamers, the surge of demand for programming and writers and showrunners, and the impact on co-production.
And we’re pleased to be working with Phil Gurin and Jan Salling from FRAPA on bringing the formats community together to talk about content creation across global markets, IP protection, collaboration for format sales, format trends and how to pitch the global entertainment giants.
We will have a new space—a beautiful outdoor area at the Marriott Hotel. We’re going to take over a tent on the beach so that we can do some of these networking and socializing events. We think it’s very important to give people a comfortable space for this.
WS: What were some of the lessons learned from the virtual editions of MIPTV and MIPCOM? Will there be a virtual element to MIPCOM for those people who cannot yet travel?
SMITH: The biggest learning is that there is no substitute for in-person events—that serendipity of meeting someone new, networking, sealing the deal, the handshakes, all of those wonderful fringe benefits of being in Cannes. We’ve also learned the importance of how digital can help to enhance a physical event because you can go to a broader audience. You can reach more people over a longer time period, so with a longer engagement. Yes, there will be a digital MIPCOM this year, positioned as an online extension of the physical market offers. It will offer a platform for participants to prepare for the market because they will be able to network in advance and promote their content. It will also provide an opportunity for those who cannot travel and attend. They will be able to network and promote their content to the MIPCOM community, and, of course, they will have catch-up available as well after the event.
Digital is a complement to the physical market; it’s not a replication online of the market as it had to be last year. This is where you can see some of the great things that digital has brought to us all. The experiences we’ve had online over the past 18 months confirmed the need for an online platform to complement all of the MIP physical markets throughout the year. That will allow the MIP community to stay connected year-round. That’s part of our core strategy; it has been for some time, and now it’s become more important.