The weather in Cannes alternated between heavy downpours and bright skies, perfectly reflecting the mood among many participants at this year’s Mipcom.

On the one hand, TV executives gathering at the annual programme sales market were in an optimstic mood.

Demand for content is booming around the world, fuelled by an increasing number of channels as well as the growth of OTT players like Netflix and Amazon.

Figures released by producers’ alliance Pact during the market showed that UK television exports rose 5% in 2013/14.

Sony Pictures president of television Steve Mosko summed up the mood of confidence: “Because of the digital explosion we have pretty much doubled the buyers we have around the world,” he said.

Sony was talking up its new superhero drama Powers, which it is releasing on its PlayStation platform. Meanwhile, Netflix was pushing its new big budget drama Marco Polo which chief creative officer Ted Sarandos said was of the same scale as Game of Thrones.

The importance of the international market was also underlined by the presence of high profile keynote Mipcom speakers such as of 21st Century Fox co-chief operating officer James Murdoch and The X Factor creator Simon Cowell.

Cowell’s production outfit Syco was one of many companies to throw lavish parties on the Cannes beach front to highlight their success in the TV business – in Cowell’s case the fact that the UK version of The X Factor has swept the world and is now shown in 147 territories worldwide.

Yet below the surface, there was a sense of anxiety about this Mipcom. In particular it centered on the viewing habits of millennials, who represent the future of the industry.

Millennials, those born since the turn of the millennium, are watching less linear television than previous generations as they find an increasing array of other things to do with their time – social media, gaming and watching short form content.

Former Endemol boss Ynon Kreitz, who now runs the Disney-owned online video platform Maker Studios, took to the stage at Mipcom to claim that millennials were watching one third less linear television than adults aged 25-49, and less than half of what adults 50-65 watch. “It’s not that they watch more as they grow older, but that they watch less as they grow younger,” said Kreitz.

“There’s a massive shift from linear to online video – short form in particular,” said Kreitz.

Many, of course, question the ability of the likes Maker to be able to effectively monetise this surge in online viewing by the millenials.

And few think that traditional TV is on its way out. Instead, it’s widely recognised that people are now consuming lots of TV content but in different ways — in particular via OTT networks that can be watched on the web, mobile apps, streaming devices and gaming consoles.

Consultancy group PWC predicts that internet advertising is poised to overtake TV as the largest advertising segment by 2018. But it thinks that TV revenues will still continue to grow, just not as fast as digital.

Marcel Fenez, global leader of PWC’s entertainment & media practice, said: “We are not saying TV is declining – the fact that it is losing its number one spot doesn’t mean that revenues are declining.”

But the new money and real growth is in digital, he said.

Which is perhaps why Simon Cowell revealed at Mipcom that the next project Syco makes will likely be released digitally instead of with a broadcaster.  He said he was developing a High School Musical-style scripted series.

And, it was interesting to hear James Murdoch describe his company in the following terms: “The business at the end of the day is a digital video business.”

It spoke volumes about how he sees the direction of travel for the TV industry in the next few years.

Traditional broadcasters, facing increased competition from digtial disruptors, look set for a difficult period. And the winners are likely to be agile, internationally focused content producers with their eye firmly on the evolving digital landscape.

Tim Dams

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