Distribution is just like surfing a wave. Sometimes you are hanging ten other times you are wiping out. This all depends on several factors, all of which are completely indefinable and unpredictable until it comes up like a surprise wave.
What the heck am I talking about? When I started thinking about this part of the business, I started struggling with where to start this story. Distribution is everything to a show. That is the mantra that keeps coming up, but distribution can take so many different forms. Let’s just focus on television distribution for the time being.
There are networks that buy shows or produce shows and then sell them worldwide. There are distribution companies, like Lions Gate that primarily distributes world wide and then there are sales agents that sell to other distributors domestically (that means the U.S.), like to Lions Gate, and around the world.
As mentioned in the A.D.D. of the Deal, the big assemblies for distribution are MIPCOM, MIPTV, NATPE and KidScreen Summit. There are others but these are the premier, must-attend television events. For the most part, MIPCOM and MIPTV are the “mack-daddies” of all markets. MIPCOM and its progeny MIP Jr. are held in October and MIPTV, sort of a step sister to MIPCOM, is an April show, all held in lovely Cannes, France. NATPE (the National Association of Television Programming Executives, an acronym that few know) is now in Miami, Fl and seems to focus on the Latin American markets. KidScreen is a Valentine’s gift (yes, we abandon our loves) in New York each February around the time of the Toy Fair. Convenient, huh.
What happens at these markets? Who goes? Let me lift the curtain on these shows. All of these conventions were created for the purpose of buying and selling television shows. Just so you know, there are markets for the sales of feature films, music, games and other content, which I will talk about in the future. But let’s concentrate on the “small screen” for the time being.
Those that display in “stands,” or booths, are usually those that have something to sell that is ready to air or almost ready to air. These sellers are distributors, sales agents and producers that are also doing distribution like Moonscoop, EOne, PorchLight and a few more. They all have content they feel the broadcasters or networks will want. Networks and broadcasters, like BBC, NBC, ABC, CBC, TF1, ABC Australia, and the list goes on, will also display because they might have original content that they want to sell to other territories.
So, who is walking the floors? It is a combination of broadcasting groups from different countries and territories, regional cable networks, network acquisition executives, and buyers of all sorts all looking for new content. Because so many networks and buyers are under one roof, producers with their developing content, wannabe producers that have a great idea to pitch, production companies looking for work but are willing a co-production and some other strange and quirky people attend to meet, network and hopefully sell. This makes for a delightful circus of mostly well dressed people.