Catherine Morrissey reports how economic uncertainty has forced content professionals to reassess which events they attend.
There are striking changes taking place at the top entertainment “markets” and knowing which events during the year to attend versus which to skip is tough. Belts are tightening notch after notch. Over-spending is no longer an option, even for the imagined “fat cats.”
No matter your budget or how you slice it, when times are tough, you tend to cut back. Think about how often you go to restaurants these days? Instead of eating out twice a week, now it’s only once a week? HALF of what you used to do? Similarly, if you attend every trade show and ratchet up expenses like the good-old-days, you may …. ah-hem… have no job when you get home!
At the recent MIPTV market in Cannes, there was a clear and present warning sign that might send late spring shivers. BOTH Sony and Disney were missing from their usual prime beach front spots in their white mega-tents. WHAT? THE MAJORS ARE PACKING UP THEIR MIP TENTS? Yikes!
If you’re not a regular market attendee, why do you care (and why should you care?) about markets? You do and you should. AND HERE’S WHY: Markets should be where the “action is.” When a mainstay market “feels light,” that’s when you see marketers’ brows crinkling with worry. Yet everyone at this year’s MIP seemed determined to keep the smiles rolling, making deals happen – as best they could in the everlasting recession. The old adage “MIPTV - where deals are done” was a faint echo heard in the corners of the behemoth Palais convention center. Also missing were sardine-packed restaurants where deal chatter used to be so easy to overhear!
Markets, conventions, festivals, they all have their “vibes” and warning signs. Last month before the MIP market began, already the rumors abounded “a lot of people aren’t going this year.” WHY NOT?
WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THE MIP MARKET?
So many, and I really honestly mean way too many, industry friends started MIP conversations by talking about the empty feeling. Market-Light. Not only animation colleagues, but friends across multiple genres, turning heads left and right, then saying, “what’s with MIP? A little weird, right? Some added, “Scary.”
Laurine Garaude, Television Division Director, Reed MIDEM, said, “Numbers are up! The number of buyers is the same, kids [kids’ industry attendees] numbers are stable, and there are 10% more producers attending than last year. With 780 registered for MIPDOC that’s an increase of 15%. MIP FORMATS had 580 participants.”
But TV industry vet and champion of the MIP market, David Ellender (CEO FremantleMedia International and Kids & Family Entertainment) saw the event a little differently. MIPTV was lighter than usual. Why? Several reasons probably. Two big studios didn’t come: there was NO Sony, and NO Disney (well, no-big-tent-on-the-beach-Disney sales presence, but same number of pre-registered Disney Media Distribution executives -18 both last year and this year at MIP). So, David pointed out, at MIP in April - Fremantle had a nice view of the beach with no immediate neighbors.
David continued to explain why attendance was probably lower. “There’re just so many industry events.” For prime time, there are the “up fronts” for new primetime series (New York, February through May), and the May Screenings (May/June, Los Angeles). For the kids business, what are the “must-attend annual events”? Per David: “Kidscreen Summit & Toy Fair” (New York in February), “Licensing Expo” (Las Vegas in June), “and MIP Junior” (October in Cannes, France).
David skipped over the Rio Content Market (RCM) which took place less than two weeks after February’s Kidscreen Summit this year. With 3,000 Rio attendees, compared to MIP’s 11,000, Rio had the relative luxury of being in a small market, which translates into longer meetings with buyers and co-producers (Rio meetings are at least an hour long vs. Cannes meetings of a half-hour). A lot of genres and sessions at the Rio event, including kids, similar to the MIPTV market in April, but about 47 years younger and 8,000 people lighter.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
One major result of the ongoing global economic uncertainty right now, especially in Europe – REALLY drastically reduced travel budgets. MUCH smaller acquisitions budgets [for series, movies, across all genres]. According to David, always the pragmatist, luckily, “We’re all more connected now.” Via web, we can send / provide access to screen programs!
However, all told, David still feels there’s nothing that replaces seeing buyers, in person. Face-to-face meetings are very beneficial, which is one of the reasons that FremantleMedia maintains nine offices around the world. “The frequency of meeting clients cannot be overrated.” So Ellender and his comrades will always be at MIP every year. Good to know.
FUTURE-FORWARD, WHERE (OR WHAT) NEXT?
We’ve heard it said before, location is everything. From my point of view [pun intended] PERSPECTIVE is everything. 2013 marked the 50th year of France’s MIP market this past April. Boasting over 200 speakers at special sessions, there were 78 new exhibitors, including The Weinstein Company. Deciding to open my own vistas beyond the animation and kids business (since they were noticeably light compared to the targeted genre event Kidscreen Summit), I literally was “wowed” with what Reed MIDEM is up to, in 2013 and in looking forward.
Since MIPTV’s launch in 1963, 50 years later, the mission remains the same – the MIP market is all about looking forward. MIP remains a key meeting place for the international TV community, to buy and sell, and for more than three decades of ongoing coproduction meetings, critical for financing television.
Today’s market is still firmly focused on content development and co-production for all genres. Additionally, Garaude pointed out that now the documentary community and the format specialists are integrating in the “ecosystem” with the MIPCUBE community.
MIPCUBERs (a more apt or obvious name would have been MIP DIGIS) are the newest contingent to start attending MIP on a regular basis. MIP organizer Reed MIDEM sees to it that these new tech specialists, internet players, app developers, ad agencies, brand developers and venture capitalists will become regular customers, a natural part of the ever-evolving entertainment industry.
Commenting on MIPCUBE, Roberto Mitrani, Managing Director of Ypsilon Films, Spain offered his experienced seller/producer POV. “[The] challenge is that there’s still not a clear definition of mobile and internet opportunities, it’s not predictable enough of a new venue, for new revenues. So we all essentially still need broadcasters. Unless webisodes take on a greater significance, TV is still the main goal to get to the audience. From Spain this MIP, there’s only four major indies in the animation sector attending MIP. But what’s really the worst of all, with the transition state we are all in, there’re some broadcasters, who are no longer paying license fees. No wonder there’s less people in the markets, there’s less money!”
Staying sensitive to market shifts, Garaude sums up how and why MIPTV will be around for the next 50 years. “Being innovative is in our [Reed MIDEM] DNA. We’ve been doing it for 50 years. What’s really important is to bring in new parts of the eco system. There’s a need to connect, a need [we have] to include the most anticipated upcoming premieres, such as Defiance [a TV series and game] with it April 15 premiere in USA on SyFy. It already has 216,000 Likes on Facebook. An ambitious transmedia project.” She goes on to pronounce how many more stars attend MIP than ever before, even Gene Simmons from KISS participated at MIP 2013!
Staying ahead of the curve must be tough for these events. But they must be money makers too. After all, new ones are popping up all the time. If you’re into animated content, maybe you can be innovative too and check out www.streammarket.tv (L.A. June 3 and 4). Or if you’re more Euro-centric, Reed MIDEM’s launching LE WEB LONDON - www.leweb.co (try out the promo code: MIPTV).
The best indicator just might be these two new markets. The organizers of STREAM? Same as KIDSCREEN SUMMIT. And LE WEB LONDON? Same organizers as MIPTV. So let’s do our homework, the majority of us cash-strapped as we are, and pick and choose our market participations well. We need to be confident, know what “we got” and where to flaunt it! Smell the money. And watch those costs.
Catherine Morrissey writes regularly for AWN about the international animation industry.