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MipTV 2014: digital talk, traditional TV money

At Mip TV last week, the talk was all about new digital worlds, while the deals were for the most part still in traditional broadcast money.

For the first time, Mip showcased productions made by online studios in a series of Digital Fronts sessions. YouTube paraded its star talent, smaller online studios pushed digital shows and social media gurus advised how to make your audience big and sticky.

Meanwhile, the wheels of the great TV sales machine housed in the huge Palais des Festivals kept turning down linear tracks, with the odd digital detour.

Some delegates felt that this market was quieter than before. While Mipcom in October is felt to be more important, there’s also speculation that the
rise of January’s factual festival Realscreen in Washington as a market for the increasingly popular genre may have depleted interest a little from across the Atlantic. But there was the usual intense atmosphere in and around themarket.

China continued to grow its presence. ITV Studios announced sales of 500 hours of programming across China and Thailand, including a multi-year drama deal with China’s internet services giant Tencent. BBC Worldwide also agreed deals with Tencent and with Hong Kong’s fre-to-air broadcaster TVB, with factual being the biggest slice of the packages.

MipDoc, which took place on the weekend before the main market, had its own buzz. Amongst other presentations, delegates heard from National Geographic Channels International manager, global acquisitions Ben Noot, who buys for the core channel as well as female-skewing channel People, and was after action-packed factual shows. Andrea Harrick, director of acquisitions at
Canada’s Blue Ant Media, who acquires over 500 hours a year for eight channels, was looking for “history, paranormal, cryptozoology and natural disasters.”

The craze for unexplained phenomena is widespread, says Paul Heaney, md of TCB Media Rights, which was represented on Pact’s umbrella stand for producers and
distributors. “Every single pre buying broadcaster, when you cryptozoology says yes.”

Amongst a string of deals this Mip, Heaney has sold Arrow Media’s World’s Most Extreme and 747: The Jumbo Revolution to Channel 7 Australia. The recent Malaysian Airlines MH 370 disappearing jet has made people obsessed about planes.

34 companies were represented at the Pact stand this market. They included Barcroft Media, which runs YouTube’s number one emerging news channel. Ceo of Barcroft Media and Barcroft Productions Sam Barcroft was one of the UK online voices to be speaking from the UK during the Mip Digital Fronts programme.

Although there's still scepticism about the money to be had in the online world, all the big broadcast players are scrambling to identify what digital ground they can occupy, with a view to making, or at least keeping, profit. "Bosses are desperate to work out how to transfer to digital," says Barcroft.

In the here and now, Barcroft has also been talking with distributors about repackaging older titles. "The shelf life of titles is reducing dramatically," says Barcroft. Some content can be adapted to be given another life online.

The option for smaller companies to be based at the Pact stand is under threat, as UKTI government funding is likely to be redirected to larger companies in the creative sector. Sitting at a table surrounded by producers and distributors using the stand for meetings, Pact chief executive John McVay struck a warning note. He pointed out that many of the market’s national umbrella stands are fully funded; the UK only admits some funding, but this does make all the difference. “If it focuses support on mid-cap enterprises and ignores SMEs it will be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said.

The last word at Mip has to go to Shane Smith, co-founder of the rapidly growing Vice, which launched more content at Mip, aimed at generation Y and created by generation Y. Getting excited about upcoming Vice documentaries on how we are killing our planet, Smith received spontaneous applause from a Mip grand auditorium audience, normally sleepy and distracted by their phones. "Media can change the world,” he said. “Let's change the fucking world."

Posted 15 April 2014 by Pippa Considine

C4 backs Rupert Everett on sex and the digital rig

Channel 4 pushed the boat out on Tuesday night with its preview of the next iteration of factual shows for the channel.

A champagne-and-canapes reception, held at London's Serpentine Sackler Gallery, heralded deputy chief creative officer Ralph Lee's introduction of new programming, which he undoubtedly hopes will keep drawing audiences as big as those for drama. Lee described presenters James Rhodes, Grayson Perry and Rupert Everett as "powerul protagonists."

The next big campaigning series, significantly airing in the run up to the general election, is Fresh One's The Great Instrument Amnesty, a cross between Jamie's School Dinners and The Choir. Pianist and campaigning presenter James Rhodes declared his passion for the project, which he hopes will lead to more children playing an instrument, swearing as gutturally as violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy, or Gordon Ramsay. He then played on a Steinway, under the glamorous architecture of the Gallery, grabbing attention by performing a composition for the left hand only. Very Channel 4.

Keeping up the momentum with major rig shows, The Garden is following 24 Hours in A&E with 24 Hours in Custody, filmed in and around Luton Police station, including cells and interview rooms. The combination of rig and handheld footage in a volume series led to private speculation amongst producers mingling at the preview about the size of the budget.

The first ever digital rig doc, four-parter Freshers, got top billing, described as "revolutionary" TV. It will be interesting to see if spying on text conversations, emails and instagrams can make compelling viewing. But after Channel 4's triumph watching people watching telly - and in the hands of Raw TV - there's every possibility.

Studio Lambert's Gogglebox has slowly but surely become a jewel in the crown, the promotional showreel including a clip of Steph and Dom in an intimate clasp (not sure how they could have been glued to their TV sets at that angle...).

The channel has landed a coup with Rupert Everett investigating prostitution in the UK in Love for Sale, delivered by executive producer Neil Crombie and Swan TV, who are behind Grayson Perry's documentaries.

Perry plugged his two impending shows, sporting a to-the-floor rainbow Pierrot costume and protesting that he hoped that he remained a risk to the channel.

Perhaps significantly Ralph Lee referred to "our ability to back the unknown", rather than the usual language of risk taking. Either way chief creative officer Jay Hunt and chief executive David Abraham will be hoping that this next tranche of factual can deliver at every level.

Posted 03 April 2014 by Pippa Considine
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