Animation sales veteran Catherine Branscome gives an insider's tour of MIPCOM and beyond.
It could be that in the next 25 years or so, we'll finally be able to beam ourselves around the world, to the next market or festival we think we should be attending. But while I wait for Second Life markets to begin, I and my fellow traditional media-market shleppers are like concentric groups following a traveling circus. Making deals is an ongoing process and, each year, we keep hopping and whirling around different venues in faraway lands. Buyers, producers and sellers, we're all jazzed and dazed at the same time, seeing the same faces two, three or even more times a year.
I've decided to survive by picking a genre that clearly defines and narrows down what is a Must-Attend for me, and what's OK to skip. After nearly 15 (gulp!) years in the film side of the Business as a live-action (real movies) sales agent/distributor, I finally chose animation (finally found my One True Love in the media biz) about seven years ago. Big-name movie stars never wowed me, yet it was exciting to be part of a sales company that distributed Cannes Festival winners and to have Bob and Harvey (yes, both!) attend our festival/market cocktail parties.
But ever since I made the Big Change, I've been soooooooo happy. Now I am gleefully amongst the ranks of the meek who should inherit the earth (some have already started that inheritance--think Pixar). Albeit a nano-bit smaller, my company's making respectable headway on behalf of a wide range of indies like Bill Plympton and corporate powerhouses of animation-generation, such as Jetix Europe.
Here then is a glimpse into the (exciting) world of licensing, distribution and financing/packaging.
While in Cannes...MIPCOM Junior and MIPCOM (October 7, 8 and 9, 10, 11 and 12)
The "Junior" part of this fall market means two things: it's very tiny when compared to the grandpappy bear called MIPCOM (about 1,000 Juniors, versus about 12,000+ MIPCOM-ers), and it's the microcosmic universe dedicated to kids programming. There are constant meetings, running-intos, and a very well-organized screening library with movies, episodes, shorts -- an incredible range of (mostly) animation content from all corners.
The smartest television buyers (or those with '07 budgets still left to spend) hide out and do intense, focused work, which benefits them multiple ways, since they have a great reason for dodging sellers and producers who'd rather talk to them about their shows than let them simply watch and then pursue the seller. But be prepared, the show concept/series alone may not be enough, they'll want to know all about your cross-platform plans and interactive elements, how will the audience participate, and some networks want you to give them your show for no license fee and want to participate in the Merchandising and Licensing Revenues too. So, yes, the 50+ screening cubicles alone don't a MIPCOM Junior make. And, to be fair, 99.98% of the buyers sincerely care first and foremost about the quality of the program and how well it entertains and engages -- you're in the finalist category when and if they start asking about the topic of revenue-sharing.
The Junior temporary compound is set up at the tres chic Carlton Hotel in Cannes, where there are guarded coffee areas and where our badges allow us to enter the sessions where senior executives and a few wealthy independents entertain and enlighten the Junior participants. The Junior setting is rife with opportunities to further coproduction discussions or deals that could have started elsewhere in France (i.e., Annecy) in June this year, or even earlier, in Cannes at MIPTV, in April.
Yes, there are a lot of steps and months from pitch to signed deal, and everybody in the kids' business side of this business should be honored annually with statuettes for their tenacity. (I remember when Brian Lacey first told me it took him three years of pushing Pokemon until it became an overnight success -- who knew Brian recieved multiple rejections from major broadcasters until the ratings country-by-country started to swell out of control?)
The Main Market: MIPCOM Junior Segues into MIPCOM
MIPCOM's Reed Midem Organization has become super-adept at attracting and programming (and securing advertising and booth rental dollars from) the West, and now the East is coming onto our industry's center stage as well, with "Focus on India" and more sessions/events, cocktails, lunches, etc. And there are new ceremonies about fun New Media and Digital Content, with newly created awards (Mobile Content Awards MIPCOM for the second year). We're all excited about the New Media this time around, since the first Internet boom came too early. So now is the right time to award excellence in digital/mobile content.
Mainstream traditional media and distribution have always morphed. The stronger global markets push us and pull us with their own programming content. Mobile, interactive, social-networking, virtual worlds, the new celebrity is ubiquity and both MIPCOMs got more-than-it-all goin' on!
Here's what you may have wanted to jot down if you had been at some of these sessions (consider the below a MIPCOM Notes Sampler Menu):
TV Broadcasters Tell Us What They (Really) Want
ABC Australia is looking for:
Multi-cross-platform shows, which work on IPTV as well
Characters that allow kids to have fun on different platforms
Live action: funny kids' shows (mixed media? Can we include animation too?)
Canal J, France is looking for:
Short content with a lot of impact
Separate creation for TV and web
Shows with a special kind of humor
The show should be different, an individual USP should be pointed out
ZDF, Germany is looking for:
Mobile content (emphasis: rapid growth in Germany!)
Live-action shows for tweens (sorry animators, this might be a trend across broadcasters)
No kings and princess stories any more
Industry Trends (from a session on Licensing)
Big question -- How to engage and entertain today's "young generation"?
Younger kids can adopt more sophisticated edutainment
Pre-school became a big market specially in the UK
More research before going to production
Not only demographics count in describing the target groups; more and more, social patterns are hugely important
Moms are key -- especially in retail; all promotions targeting moms
Food and Health-Related Programming
A lot of changes everywhere. Eating habits of kids are different, combined with changing concerns of parents.
Trends: Healthy-eating, life style, organic, even retailers like Wal-Mart jumping onto this wagon. But the kids don't necessarily want to be healthier (this received a chuckle of international recognition!)
What does this mean for content providers (yes, this means producers!)?
Positive and healthy life style for kids should be promoted (e.g., Lazy Town and Yo Gaba Gaba)
There are a lot of steps and months from pitch to signed deal. Everybody on the kids business side should be honored annually with statuettes for their tenacity. © MIPCOM.
Nothing Changes Too Radically, No Matter What You Read, See or Hear (or Immerse Yourself In)
Kids Shows Must Have:
A clear distinct character and voice
Ability to attract and build an audience
The point of differentiation: What's going to be trendy?
For different territories (countries, cultures), it is a case-by-case scenario.
(The Re-Introduction of) Classical Brands
The potential: existing awareness + likeability
Things to consider: Is the brand still relevant today? What elements should be updated? What should be preserved?
Case Study -- Strategy of Warner Bros. - Informal research: talking with people to find out which brand has potential for a re-launch - Looking for multi-platform content - Strategic partners? - Develop limited products: Grow slowly and organically - Time schedule: up to 30 months
Combine classical brands with new trends: Banana Splits and Friends Show -- why new in 2007 (results of the research)- high awareness of parents- people are still passionate about the brand- on Cartoon Network since 1990- significant TV presence- hot kids music market- comedy aspect: kids still loves the jokes
New Banana Splits and Friends production- 125 comedy shorts- 15 soaps- Music video- CD/DVD- Records by UniversalAfter a market, attendees are overwhelmed -- it really does all become a blur of information and notes. © MIPCOM.
80% of the [UK] kids have access to Internet
The older they are, less TV is being watched
They expect cross-channel presence of a series
TV on the web: short-form content made for the web, important interactive elements; a world that kids can explore
Key elements: billboards with promotional items or advertisement; meet up with their friends; playground experience at home
Future: digital brands starting on the web and afterwards TV
Two BBC websites for kids- CBeebies: Target group: 3 to 6 years- CBBC: 6 to 12 yearsMIPCOM: Done, But Not Dusted.
Next Up: American Film Market (October 31-November 7)
According to CBS' Les Moonves, who spoke at MIPCOM this year, content is king for all platforms. CSI made $2 billion in revenue for CBS worldwide to date. Courtesy of Zoic Studios, CBS Productions, Jerry Bruckheimer Television, and Alliance At
You're sure to get the gist from trades and blogs -- our global markets are constantly evolving. I tell my clients, what was true six months ago is likely to have changed. Even those of us who are most actively in the marketplace realize that we cannot let ourselves rest between pitches, and so we pull out our notepads and -- like schoolgirls and boys -- jot down notes and do the grown-up thing of making to-do lists based on learning just what everybody else is doing in the new digital space, the cross-platform, mobile/interactive texting world (games are really big now too?). Les Moonves, keynote speaker for MIPCOM, sums up everything about the global television/media business quite effectively:
1. Content is (still) king... for all platforms CSI phenomenon is $2 billion in revenue for CBS worldwide to date
I Love Lucy, 50 years after it premiered, is still generating big bucks for the network
Voting, participating and controlling (e.g., Big Brother) is an important brand extension; the show is streamed online 24/7 and more viewers than ever
2. New media helps to expand audience rather than hurt
Advertising model for Internet content is significantly more successful than asking viewers to subscribe for a series, such as sporting events.
CBS is open to trying new things -- dinosaurs evolved and so are they.
CBS has three new advertising agencies solely devoted to sales for their Internet platforms.
3. Expansion and Diversification (Internet is Queen to Content King?)
In May 2007, CBS Interactive acquired Last.fm, a U.K.-based Internet radio and music community website, founded in 2002. It is the world's largest social music platform, with over 20 million active users based in more than 232 countries. Using a unique music recommendation system known as "Audioscrobbler," Last.fm builds a detailed profile of each user's musical taste by recording details of all the songs the user listens to, either on the streamed radio stations or on the user's computer or portable music device. This information is transferred to Last.fm's database ("Scrobbled") via a plugin installed into the user's music player. The profile data is displayed on a personal web page. The site offers numerous social networking features and can recommend and play artists similar to the user's favorites. CBS is looking at expanding Last.fm's social network to include film, TV, news, etc.
Today's Hottest Prospects -- Consumers Are Gods if Content is King
Yahoo takes the content of their brand advertisers and reuses it by forwarding/sharing on MySpace, blogs, etc. to extend their reach dramatically
They start with a consumer proposition -- that the consumer is the ultimate client -- rather than the product that they are hired to sell and find partnerships for content as in OMG celebrity news and gossip on Yahoo, sponsored by Lipton White Tea.
Peter Tortorici, president of Group M Entertainment, said the principal types of media are now Lean Back and Lean Forward -- via mobile, Internet and radio
Branded Entertainment: The Brand, the Producer and the Agency
1. Marketing Director for PepsiCo International says the "consumer" model is broken due to:
Explosion of choice
Message overload: 3,000 msgs/day, 56 TV spots/wk
Technology is giving rise to new consumer expectations
They are 17 and are not listening to traditional media/messaging anymore 2. Engage the youthful target market with sports, music, other passions via a new model: an invitation to a dialogue offering customized rich experiences. Exemplified by The Matrix cross-platform campaign, which navigates fans across media and co-brands the campaign.
Black Eyed Peas created a Pepsi anthem, a TV commercial and more traditional than non-traditional tools.
Packaging is a gateway to the media: text and win, go online to create a video and win a chance to see the Black Eyed Peas.
Invitation + Participation + Connection = Recognition
American Film Market -- Bye, Bye Cannes. Santa Monica, Here I Come
The tried and true, this is a homecoming in more ways than one for me. My first AFM? 1989... when the market took place in February. In those olden times, live-action movies were It. Then came the bust in the home video rental business, rise of the (bad straight-to-video titles) getting a second chance overseas as TV movies (luckily the cable-satellite channels were coming on strong in those days), and we all know how DVD saved home video (for a while longer than anybody would have thunk).
Nowadays, even the movie business is teaming with hot young companies that have sexy New Media names (at least at the AFM seminars, not really in the Loews Hotel suites). You will find there were animated feature films being sold at the American Film Market for the past couple of years -- thanks to the Academy's Best Animated Feature Film eligibility rules change. For independent animation producers and sellers, DTV (Direct-To-Video) animation titles have a chance if niche and genre (or huge studio releases domestically!); otherwise, stay far, far away from the AFM in Santa Monica (even if you live and work in L.A.). Instead, save up your dollars for next year's (overseas) animation festivals. Safe travels to you all. Article contributor: Anja Zillich of Kidz Consulting, Munich, Germany.
Catherine Branscome established Branscome International in 1999 to act primarily as a specialty sales agency on behalf of independent animators and animation studios. Between deal-making trips and attending markets, Catherine and her associates are finalizing plans for the 2008 launch of a new digital production and distribution company, Go For It Entertainment.
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