John Morris reports on MIPTV 2001. What trends did he see from the market floor? Read on...
My first impression of this year's MIPTV was that, despite the buzz from the withdrawal of Warner Bros., the market was extremely busy. We experienced a substantial amount of interest in our animation properties from all quarters, presumably driven by the established success of the genre across all age groups, from pre-preschool to adult.
More of Everything
Even documentary buyers' imaginations were caught by the possibilities of enhancing factual programs through the use of CGI, largely due to the success of Walking with Dinosaurs. This effect was very marked when I was pitching our own Terrible Lizards of Oz special feature documentary. It was also very interesting to note the strong buyer interest in animation from all of the various media platforms, be it general entertainment terrestrial broadcasters, or cutting edge t-commerce and broadband networks. This must be due in part to the cultural transparency of the genre, as well as the suitability for viewing animation in all sorts of conditions and formats (from hand-helds to wide screen, from 3-minute shorts to feature length specials). One clear area of unsatisfied demand was for animated shows targeted to 8-14 year-olds.
On another note, there was fierce competition among suppliers, with increased amounts of animation on offer. Two reasons spring to mind for this: first, because there seems to be more players in production than ever before; second, buyers appear more open to looking at a wider range of suppliers many of whom are independent of the major studios. For example, in Europe over the last 18 months there have been many new entrants into the field, especially in Germany (TV Loonland, Kinowelt, RTV, EM.TV); while new suppliers have been added to the list of potential sources for buyers, notably now that Pokemon has opened the door to Japanese anime and similar styles of animation long disregarded in the West. Despite this, many buyers told me that there were more titles on offer but fewer must-buys, which simply goes to prove that volume doesn't equate to quality.
A Scarcity of Quality
In the pre-school programming category, there was certainly more programming offered than in previous markets. I see this as a result of the benefits of longevity, brand extension and the subsidiary earnings that pre-school programming generates in comparison to other programming categories. By the same token, the success of a few properties, our own among them in this area, has convinced many people to invest in productions of their own, without necessarily understanding that it is not such an easy thing to do -- at least to do well.
Unfortunately, quantity has not translated into quality, and there remains a lot of pre-school material that is derivative of leading brands like Teletubbies and Bob the Builder, but fall short in their concept and execution. What many of these shows lack is the conviction from the outset that without getting the TV show perfect, there will be no upside on the other rights, which is why HIT always concentrates first and foremost on the quality of the shows and not on the other products. So quite honestly, I did not see shows that compete with our best properties such as Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina or Oswald.
Other observations from this year's market included the further distancing between commercial broadcasters and public broadcasters in terms of how they approach deals on animation. Commercials were much more concerned about how programs can be used as vehicles for brand extension in TV and across other platforms, while pubcasters focused on the more traditional, straight TV license approach. I also noticed a more aggressive stance on rights issues by many broadcasters particularly in the interactive and broadband areas but equally, found a strong resolve by distributors to hold onto these, especially when broadcasters are not even exploiting these rights yet. The broadband business seemed to gain greater visibility and momentum at this year%2
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