There’s been a genuine feeling of optimism coursing through this year’s Mipcom programme market in Cannes.

“It’s buzzing,” said one UK producer I met here, who likened the market to those from the pre-recession days before 2008.

Others are more cautious, but still veer towards the positive. Zodiak Rights chief executive Matthew Frank says that it is too early to call the market at this stage, but he does admit that there is a sense of “renewed optimism” at Mipcom.

Certainly, the hallways of the Palais seem to be busy, teeming with buyers and sellers of TV programmes. Along the sea front, the US studios are out in force in their expensive pavilions, while relative newcomers from the digital world such as Facebook and Amazon are also prominent here.

Executives point to three key factors that seem to be fuelling the positivity in the international TV sales market.

Firstly, this year’s Mipcom has taken place against a background of improving sentiment about the global economy, with key territories like the US feeling more confident than in recent years. Even recession-hit economies like Spain, once a key buyer in the international TV market, are said to have picked up.

Secondly, the growing popularity of paid-for video on demand – whether across OTT services like Netflix or via television VOD platforms offered by broadcasters like Sky, Virgin or BT Vision – has strengthened the hand of content producers, spurring demand for quality programmes.

“It’s created a demand for content that has re-energised the industry,” says Luis Silberwasser, EVP and Chief Content Officer Discovery Networks International.

And thirdly, there’s a sense that the market for TV programmes is continuing to grow right across the world, particularly in key emerging economies such as Brazil, India and China. A rising global middle class, with increased leisure time and spending power, is choosing to do what many in the developed world have done in their spare time for the past 40 years: watch television.

Encouragingly, the UK seems to be one of the key beneficiaries of this growing global demand for new programmes.

And that’s because the UK has a strong reputation for producing innovative, creative shows. British broadcasters, particularly the BBC and Channel 4, says Nutopia founder Jane Root, have innovation embedded in their DNA.
“Compared to the US, there’s almost an allergic reaction to doing anything copycat. There is such a premium on innovation in the UK.”

Figures published this week by producers’ alliance Pact seemed to confirm the appetite for British programming from global buyers.

Pact reported that revenues from the international sale of UK TV programmes and associated activities stood at £1.22bn, a 4% increase from 2011.

The US was the most important export market with sales up 11% to £475m. Meanwhile, revenues from China grew 90% to £12m and sales to India grew 42% to £4.3m. (Not all the figures pointed up though: the UK’s second biggest market, Australasia, fell back 1% to £103m, while sales to France, Spain and the Netherlands dropped -8%, -14% and -29% respectively.)

Nevertheless, it’s here at Mipcom that one quickly understands the global revenue potential for successful shows.

Shine International, for example, announced yesterday that its hit drama Broadchurch has clocked up sales to an astonishing 100 territories. (A US version of the drama is also being made by Fox in partnership with Shine America, Kudos and Imaginary Friends).

Even formats considered past their prime in the UK can have a very long shelf life around the world.

FremantleMedia chief executive Cecile Frot-Coutaz revealed that there is still great global appetite for the company’s talent formats –The X Factor, Got Talent and Idols. “In 2013, we will be making more versions of every single one of those titles than we did last year. There’s still demand for them."

Tim Dams

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