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MIPCOM 2000: A Report from the Front

Across the board, MIPCOM 2000 proved to be a much livelier market than in past years. While there are still some worries and complaintsmost people could still find something positive to report.

MIPCOM, the international content market for TV, video, cable and satellite was held in Cannes from October 2 to 6, 2000, with 11,762 people converging on the Palais to meet, discuss and conduct business. While business has seemed in recent years sluggish, this market had an energy that was based in real television and Internet business; and when speaking of the Internet it was for the first year real business and not dot.com hype. The talk was of taking characters from one medium to the next, using both as a tool to raise awareness and profitability.

There were a lot of first timers at this market with the total number of stands (494) increasing in excess of 7.15% since last years edition (461 stands), while the number of companies registered at the show (2,924) grew by 11.90% (2,613 companies at MIPCOM 1999). The number of buyers reached an all-time record as well with 2,895 executives (up 11.75%). This included a significant increase in Asian buyers, proving that their economic crisis is over. The record number of visitors was up 11.45% from last years 10,555, and was attributed to the addition of new media companies.

"With 22% of the companies involved in new media activities, MIPCOM 2000 has clearly demonstrated its ability to address the way broadband and convergence are impacting the media industry," explains Xavier Roy, Chief Officer, Reed Midem Organisation. "If content is still king, the context in which it is produced, branded and delivered is now playing an essential role. With MIPCOM, and MIPTV next April, we are determined to offer industry professionals a key opportunity to take on this new challenge." Focused on television in the new economy, the various MIPNET panel discussions further enhanced the growing importance of convergence as nearly 2,000 international television executives gathered at the sessions which were spread over three-days. On the floor one could hear people discussing the issues raised at MIPNET, especially the worries of ownership and copyright infringement in this digital age

MIPCOM 2000 was Momentum Animation Studios first market, and what an experience it was. We made the decision to attend a mere 6 weeks before it began, and by the time we arrived in France we were exhausted. What followed was five days of intense learning. We had no real idea of what to expect, and meeting with the main players in the animation game -- whether it be TV stations, heads of acquisitions, distributors or other companies interested in co-productions -- was great. The feedback from the people we met with was invaluable and being able to wander around and see what other companies were producing was interesting. One of the main points highlighted was how necessary it is to go to the markets, meet people face to face, and see what the buyers are buying. We had wondered if we were throwing ourselves in the deep end, and we were, but with fabulous results. It is true the only way to learn is by doing, and we now have several parties interested in a couple of our products and a possible co-production deal. None of this would have happened if we had stayed at home. Compared to how I had envisioned it, the market was surprisingly relaxed and casual, despite the huge deals being negotiated and signed, and everyone was happy to help in any way they could.

Lisa Zerbe, ProducerMomentum Animation Studios

Organization is the key -- we pre-booked our key appointments first, but left some space to accommodate other interested parties whilst at the market. Both MIPCOM Junior and MIPCOM were extremely productive, mainly due to the fact that we were in the happy position of launching 6 fully-financed animated properties into the marketplace at MIP Junior. The shows were well-received resulting in 19 pages of follow up contact information, most of whom we subsequently met with during MIPCOM. A very busy and rewarding market indeed.

1. Less Internet trawling this time and, happily, many more seriously interested TV buyers, especially from Europe.

2. A resurgence of interest from Asia -- at pains to tell us that the economic crisis is now over and it's business as usual.

Lynn Chadwick, Vice PresidentGreenlight International B.V.

MIPCOM 2000 was a vital week for TV-Loonland. Prior to this market, the TV-Loonland name and reputation for producing and distributing high calibre, original animation for children, youth and family was building momentum but even so, many people were not making the invaluable, immediate connection between the TV-Loonland corporate identity and its production output. The recent purchase of Sony Music Entertainment subsidiary Sony Wonder combined with the acquisition of number one European distribution specialist for Latin America Salsa Distribution and UK animation house Telemagination has really established TV-Loonland as a major player within the international marketplace. Through these strategic deals, and with the co-sponsorship of MIPCOM Junior featuring the super-successful In a Heartbeat and Yvon of the Yukon, the TV-Loonland name was buzzing around the market to no end. We're off to the races now and already gearing up for Natpe 2001.

Lisa Hryniewicz, Head of DistributionTV-Loonland AG

Both MIPCOM-Junior and the Cartoon Forum before it were distinguished by a "professionalisation" of the presentation of new projects.

The Internet has created a fascinating openness, and a new type of input and movement is now possible, both technically and with content. The Internet itself is often the subject-matter of series. With this we can see the far-reaching effects it has not only on society but also on the individual. The gates were open again for real creativity as everyone needs original content with its finger on the pulse.

There was a clear trend to the 70s, and many series had "flower power" elements, either graphically or as subject matter. There was also a trend toward historical series. Sure, even new media has to be a part of life-long learning! As knowledge changes quickly, it needs to be continually updated or deepened. History is an important theme. Live-action for teens with good special effects was also well-received. I noticed a lot of smart pre-school programs -- target group fun-addicted adults?

A surprising market in the most positive sense!

Marie-Line Petrequin, Managing Director Animation & DevelopmentIgel Media

StarToons should have done MIPCOM years ago. The contacts were fantastic. However, theres one thing that disturbed me about it -- which really just shows why I'm an animator and not a suit -- is the fact that in all our meetings with the wheeler-dealers, the topic of "entertainment excellence" or "quality animation production" NEVER came up. These words weren't in the running vocabulary of the people there. Instead, they talk about "co-production," "back-end," "percentages" and "trade agreements."

Yeah, money makes the world go 'round, but if the shows suck, what's the point? And there are so many "great deals" made for crappy, poorly executed animation material. The trend nowadays is towards the cheapest crap the market will bear. So you can imagine that as an animator with a track record, I felt somewhat out of place.

Our properties -- Tuna Sammich and M7 -- were tremendously well received there in Cannes. To make them happen, we'll need to identify a U.S. distributor. It looks as though we can pretty well get worldwide distribution from the people we met there, but to make it financially feasible -- at least for a "little guy" like StarToons -- we need this to air on American TV.

What impressed me most, while I would sit there on my bed at night flipping through French TV shows, was how much American entertainment they use. They just dub 'em over in French, but they're our shows. Why? Because entertainment is one of the things America does best! This country needs to wake up and realize that if they give away all their entertainment production to Canada and other countries, there just ain't gonna be much left for us to offer...besides corn. Being a good Chicago boy, I know all about grain, OK?

Jon McClenahan, Animation DirectorStarToons International

MIPCOM 2000 was RDAStudio's first to Cannes but we did have some personal experience from attending its sister show for the music industry (MIDEM) on several previous occasions. The show format is almost the same and the name of the game is still access. This year, we had great luck indeed in setting up meetings, both with people whom we wanted to see and with the people who expressed interest in meeting with us. Ironically, since we are a Canadian studio and distributor ourselves, our most productive meetings may turn out to be the ones we had with other Canadian companies and broadcasters, such as Teletoon, Funbag and Cochran Entertainment.

Since our stock in trade happens to be Flash animation, we noted the welcome presence of new media companies such as Icebox and Wildbrain. While much is still being said these days about the technical convergence of TV and the Net, for those of us actually working in new media, the content convergence is right here and right now. Websites are no longer relegated to just being "about the TV show." Rather, the Net is emerging as the pivot player in multi-platform production. At MIPCOM, we were showing a retro-future series based on Dean Motter's Electropolis. The print rights have already gone to Image Comics in the U.S. and our studio is producing the Internet Flash series, primarily to pre-build a fan audience, prior to print publication next May. This has further led to a TV co-production and animation broadcast deal that now gives us a "triple crown" across all three media. We are very excited about the cross-platform synergies this opens up for the property and see this as becoming the viable business model for the near future.

Ever since we first started producing content for POP.com, people kept asking us, "How do you make money with content on the Internet?" We now believe that the answer is a hybrid media model that combines the strengths of several media into one. TV isn't going to the Internet "as is" and the Web is never going to succeed on TV, at least not in its present form. We now believe that what these two industries both are amounts to being reluctant parents of a bastard offspring, namely one labeled as "new media," itself just a child which is still trying to find its way in the economic world.

MIPCOM 2000 taught us that we are not alone. There now exists a real economic potential to cross-pollinate TV broadcast territories with Internet globalization. In many ways, the future has arrived.

Last but not least, MIPCOM provided us with access to people who have even further access and people who enjoy connecting like minds and compatible projects. At the top of our "best citizen of show" list would have to be Marie-Line Petrequin and the crew at Igel Media. She personally went out of her way to connect us and we are forever in her debt. All that's left to do now is to enter into a deal directly with each other, and that ball is currently in their court.

All in all, "Great show, quality attendance, will be back next year."

Robert Leth, Vice President and General ManagerRDAStudio

This was my first experience at MIPCOM and I was not there just as VirtualMagic Animation, a service provider of digital ink & paint looking for work, but with a new development for children's television.

I was expecting to compare this experience with my trips to NAPTE. Each is an international marketplace where deals are struck. But MIPCOM, unlike NATPE, is very structured and focused. At MIPCOM it is mandatory to have appointments to meet with anyone. They even suggest it strongly in their registration package. Getting appointments prior to the show with most of those we wanted to was fairly easy. Everyone goes by the appointment sheet. If you do bump into someone on the floor, they're running to the next meeting.

The oddest part of the show was how quiet the floor was. I was fully prepared to be blasted at by hawking and noise and I expected to be hoarse after the first day. During the market, I never felt that I had to yell above the madding crowd, except for these few occasions at parties and on the street. And many of the booths are closed during lunch. What a civil way to attend a show and do business!

As development virgins, this makes for a great business experience. VirtualMagic is a co-production partner with Robert Leonard and Baby Nessie Entertainment, LLC for an animated series, Baby Nessie. We were there looking for distribution, production and financing partners.

The nice part of having appointments was having the full attention of the individual you were pitching to. In 20 minutes you could tell your story and hear their story. After awhile, however, it all started to run together and the pitch seemed scripted, but the opportunity to get an ear and interest in the series in this manner was ideal.

Baby Nessie

, an endearing tale of a baby Loch Ness Monster, did get a lot of interest. During the market, we were able to get meetings based on our presentation material and after the show we have received several positive follow up inquiries from distributors. We would have never been able to present this property to so many worldwide in this concentrated period of time. MIPCOM does attract the world.

I was amazed by the amount of animation that was being featured. My low estimate is 50% of the exhibitors had some form of animated entertainment available for sale. The acceptance of animation was very high.

I was not surprised to see that everyone was very accepting of a co-production deal and encouraged the assembling of the right partners for a project. In some cases, they suggested partners to pursue. In a couple of cases we could hear a note of chagrin from those who have always been able to do the whole deal, but are now resigned to the multi-tiered business plan.

In our case, everyone we met (about 30 companies) seemed sincere in wanting to see this project succeed. I hope that they were this kind to all, but secretly wish that these good feelings were a result of our Baby Nessie project! Next year, I hope to be in Cannes with a distribution partner to see the show sell.

Jan Nagel, Director of Business Development and MarketingVirtualMagic Animation, Inc.

DIC's experience at MIPCOM was incredible, especially because the company had not had a booth at the market in three years. DIC has long been known as a leading supplier of quality animated content for kids so buyers were anxious to come to our booth to find out more about our offerings. We had a tremendous response to our three new series, Super Duper Sumos, Action Girls, and Salem.

In general, the market was very positive for animation, and I was impressed by many of the high-quality animated properties being offered.

Pat Ryan, Executive Vice President International SalesDIC Entertainment

At this years MIPCOM, I was struck by the continued and growing presence of the "dot-coms," in spite of recent stock market downturns and the shuttering of several high profile entertainment Websites. For the animation community, this is good news because the digital media present outstanding opportunities for animation.

Much of the buzz at the market had to do with the convergence of television and the new media, thanks at least in part to the MIPNET conference which focused on this subject. I was asked to participate in one of its panels, discussing digital rights management and protection. This gave me the opportunity to bring the audience up to date on the status of several closely watched legal cases in the United States. The best known of these is the Napster case, in which the lower court found that the creator of the software and a centralized Website for individuals to exchange MP3 files was liable for contributory and vicarious infringement of copyrights. This decision is currently on appeal. If upheld, this decision will confirm what most of the entertainment industry has felt for a long time -- that the unauthorized copying and distribution of musical and audiovisual works over the Internet is illegal.

However, these decisions raise a more fundamental question. Has the industry won some major legal battles, but lost the war? Before the ink was dry on the Napster decision, peer-to-peer file sharing programs were already available. By avoiding the use of a central Website clearing house, infringement becomes much more diffuse and enforcement becomes more difficult and expensive. In the meantime, the legal precedents engendered by this litigation seems to be progressively limiting the application of the fair use defense and freedom of expression. If the entertainment industry succeeds in this battle for control over Internet access to audiovisual and musical works, it will end up at best limiting the creativity and vitality of the medium. At worst, it will create a rampant underground movement that will be working with almost religious fervor in designing around whatever methods of protection the industry may devise.

Everyone seems to agree that artists need to be paid for their work, and clearly, those who finance artistic creativity (e.g., the studios) need to be compensated for their investment as well. The real question is whether the entertainment industry and the digital world will be able to come up with an economic model that will effectively "monetize" digital content, through pay-per-play, subscription, advertising, sponsorship or otherwise, and devise a technology to implement that model seamlessly and effectively.

Louise Nemschoff, Entertainment and Intellectual Property Attorney MIPNET Panelist

Sometimes we Europeans complain like hell about the scheduling of Cartoon Forum and MIPCOM virtually back to back! This year, however, Elephant were thrilled to be able to capitalise on the good reaction to our presentations in Visby at the Cartoon Forum and we were actually able to take one major deal for Johnny Casanova almost through to its logical conclusion, which has really speeded things up!

My general impressions were that independent animation producers are in for a tough time, as the big international players swallow up smaller more vulnerable companies. One thing is for certain, there will be far less options open to us and the chances of keeping hold of those hard fought for IPRs will be virtually nil!

Sarah Muller, Managing DirectorElephant Productions Ltd.

At MIPCOM, I was networking with studios that might have an interest in sending their animation productions to our studio in India or even co-production deals with us. On that level it was very successful. Every studio and producer that we met, were very impressed with our set-up. In fact, we received our next production deal with Rainbow Productions while there. Our competitive pricing and English speaking, full-time staff has been our biggest advantage. Moreover, Trivandrum is known as a holiday resort with lovely beaches and waters. What a way for our clients to relax while they work!

K. Subramaniam, Creative DirectorToonz Animation India

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