Digital Disruption Shifts TV Sales Plans at Markets Like Mipcom

·5-min read

With the majority of big global TV distributors opting out of a physical presence at Mipcom, the flashy stands have been replaced by snazzy digital platforms showcasing content rolling out starting this fall.

Among them are a series of virtual festivals by Banijay, which acquired Endemol Shine in summer 2020 and boasts a catalog of more than 88,000 hours of programming. Rather than join Mipcom organizer Reed Midem’s virtual Mipcom Online Plus event, the mega-indie is going its own way, as are so many other distributors.

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The latest of its planned digital forays is a non-English language scripted festival designed to showcase the group’s eclectic mix of European dramas. These include six-part French show “Germinal,” a modern adaptation of Émile Zola’s classic 1985 coal-mining strike saga; Swedish boarding-school drama “A Class Apart”; and Italian coming-of-age series “My Ballerina,” a co-production with Italy’s Mediaset.

“We have a vast array of scripted output coming out of all our production companies, especially from Europe, so we’ve picked some of those new launches to showcase with interviews, creative teams and trailers and all the info around the shows,” says Matt Creasey, vice president of sales, co-productions and acquisitions at Banijay.

Rather than replacing events such as Mipcom, Creasey maintains that the online showcase is a “natural evolution” of a platform that the indie had been building long before the pandemic, because immersing buyers in content, he adds, is now “a year-round job.”

Fremantle Intl. chief executive Jens Richter expressed similar sentiments. While the “Got Talent” distributor will have a small physical presence on the ground at Mipcom (its miscarriage-of-justice drama “The Allegation” is the only German entry in Canneseries), Richter argues that international program sales aren’t just the preserve of TV markets.

“The way we sell shows is changing,” he says. “We’re selling them every day of the year and are far more connected to producers. You used to see lots of producers at Mipcom, but now you establish an ongoing dialogue with your key providers permanently.”

Richter adds that gap financing, international co-production and getting involved at the inception stage of projects, all of which Fremantle now does, relies less on a traditional distribution model that pivots around seasonal programming markets.

This strategy, he adds, relies on constant conversations and formalized partnerships with content creators, platforms and broadcasters.

As a case study, Richter proudly points to Fremantle’s partnership with South African pay-TV channel M-Net, which led to best-selling crime drama “Reyka,” and a deal with the Larraín brothers’ Chile-based production company Fabula, with which Fremantle made “La Jauría” and the forthcoming “Senorita 89.”

Smaller boutiques also want more skin in the game, with companies such as Australia-based factual producer LGI Media (formerly Looking Glass Intl.) now seeking to position themselves as early-stage investors.

“We’re starting to identify projects early with producers to help shape them, and then raise the finance for it as part of our co-production partnership,” says Nha-Uyen Chau, founder and CEO of LGI Media. “Our skills in raising finance complements the production skills of our producer partners.”

LGI’s autumn slate includes one-off documentary “Feed Me,” about the subculture of feederism, and scripted SBS teen mystery series “The Tailings.”

As Australian borders remain closed, Mipcom was never on the cards for LGI or its China office, but Chau adds that the company has attended a few virtual markets “where it’s made sense.”

If ITV Studios’ executive VP of global content Julie Meldal-Johnsen could pin market appetite down to one thing this fall, she says it would be escapism. The distributor, which is also focusing on its own bespoke virtual Fall Festival event, will be launching “Inside Dubai,” an aspirational three-part series on the emirate’s billionaires, and, following its success with “Schitt’s Creek,” is also expanding into comedy.

This includes the launch of one of Paramount Plus Australia’s first originals, “Spreadsheet,” which focuses on a busy lawyer (“IT Crowd’s” Katherine Parkinson) who builds her own dating platform to cope with the chaos of her romantic life. In a first for ITVS, there’s also an adult animation series, “Ten Year Old Tom” from Steve Dildarian (“The Life & Times of Tim”) and Nick Weidenfeld (“Rick and Morty”).

“This is new for us, but adult animation is [trending] around the world; audiences are very hungry for it,” says Meldal-Johnsen. Keshet Intl., meanwhile, has three new shows from Scandinavia this year that all focus on strong female characters. “Pørni” — Norway’s answer to “Fleabag” — is about a divorced mother and social worker trying to find her way in the world. “Dreaming of England,” from Sweden’s SVT, focuses on three generations of women from the same family.

The big launch from the Israeli distributor this year, however, is the tense, eight-part NorwegianGerman thriller “Furia,” penned by “Mammon” creator Gjermund S. Eriksen.

Produced by Oslo-based Monster Scripted and Germany’s X Filme (“Babylon Berlin”), the series follows undercover agent Ragna as she infiltrates a far-right terror cell to avert a major event in Berlin. According to Keshet’s VP of sales Rose Hughes, the push by global SVODs into Europe as well as the mushrooming of local SVODs has created a “buoyant” programming market.

“There’s such a demand for content right now — we’re doing lots of deals often with multiple windowing at the same time,” she says. “There are also so many new buyers to talk to in the SVOD space: Discovery’s D Plus, BrutX in France and Acorn and BritBox in the U.K.”

Hughes is also excited about the blossoming AVOD space, pioneered by the likes of Discovery-ProSieben joint venture Joyn in Germany. Fremantle’s Richter also says AVOD, including free ad-supported TV channels such as Pluto TV or IMDb TV, is “a huge growth area,” noting that the traditional pay-TV world has always existed alongside ad-supported free programming.

“If you look at the traditional local markets, there’s no linear broadcaster that doesn’t have a VOD extension, and for commercial free-to-air that’s mostly AVOD, so the market is already there,” says Richter.

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