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Countdown to MIPCOM

The days and months leading up to MIPCOM are crucial for distributors and producers hoping to sell their wares. Planning for the annual international television market in Cannes (October 2-6) is a detailed affair, encompassing everything from the placement of catalogs...
September 1, 2000

The days and months leading up to MIPCOM are crucial for distributors and producers hoping to sell their wares. Planning for the annual international television market in Cannes (October 2-6) is a detailed affair, encompassing everything from the placement of catalogs in the booth to grandiose lunches or cocktails. For some, it’s all about the booth – the look, the size, the location, the screening facilities. For others, the marketing materials and appointments take precedence.

On the following pages, four distribution companies of various sizes and levels of experience – NVC Arts, TVF International, ITEL and Filmbridge International – share the specifics of their game plans. In the final section, umbrella organization U.S. Independents provides an example of an alternative to going it alone.

ITEL: Let’s do lunch

An £8,000 (US$12,000) lunch may seem extravagant, but for London-based distributor ITEL it’s a regular MIPCOM expenditure, not once but twice per market. Mike Morris, itel’s head of marketing and business development, explains that the purpose of these midday repasts is to engage in some ‘permission marketing’ – talking shop to the guests (mostly buyers), who have

tacitly given their consent by accepting the invitation.

itel generally accommodates 100 to 150 people per lunch at the Carlton Hotel on the Croisette. As guests return to their seats with full plates from the buffet,

they are invited to watch program clips on any of the 12

monitors positioned around the room. Each luncheon targets a specific genre of buyers, to maximize the impact of the marketing.

‘They’re working events, they’re not cocktail-and-chat,’ Morris says. ‘If you’re not in the business, they’re probably incredibly boring. But they work really well because the buyers have a chance to go through the whole slate, see bits of it and jot down notes. Then when they come to meet us at the stand, a lot of the preamble is done.’

In Morris’ opinion, these lunches are cost-effective rather than expensive. ‘We are interested in those 150 people, but in fact we’re really interested in only about 30 of those, because there are probably only 30 who can make a significant difference to the success or failure of a program. If we can get those, it’s worth spending £8,000.’

itel’s overall budget for the market is about £100,000 (us$150,000), Morris says, which includes £60,000 (us$90,300) for a stand of approximately 200 square meters in the new Espace Riviera building and £20,000 (us$30,000) to bring 20 staff at £1,000 per person (flight, meals, hotel, etc).

Within the booth, itel sets aside space for four screening areas, each equipped with a tri-standard vcr and monitor. In addition, says Morris, they have an ‘internet bar’ – three pcs with widescreen monitors, one of which has an isdn link so buyers can access itel’s website. dvd or cd-rom showreels run on the other two computers.

itel launched its website at last year’s MIPCOM, and plans to promote it further at this year’s market. Morris notes, ‘We did a lot of research with our buyers before we got into web technology, and at that stage it was clear that what they wanted was a reliable source of information, to be able to look at our catalog and interrogate it online.’

Morris says spending to design and build the site amounted to less than £40,000 (us$60,000). ‘We spent a lot of time developing a powerful database and search engine to run the site, but didn’t spend any time or money on things like streaming video or clips on the basis that at that stage – and even now – we don’t think that will enhance the sales process for those programs.’ He adds that itel does plan to invest £250,000 (us$375,000) in the digitization of material down the road.

In the meantime, high quality print material still figures prominently on itel’s list of priorities. Based on the

projects itel is taking to MIPCOM, Morris estimates spending about £10,000 (us$15,000) on glossy brochures, ranging in size from two to six pages each. ‘We have our own internal marketing budget, but we also capitalize some of the costs,’ he notes. ‘If, for example, we’re doing launch promotion for a program, we’ll actually work

with a producer to develop a plan that works for both of us. Those costs will be cash-flowed by us, but recouped from sales income. So, that gives us a little bit more leeway in the amount of money we can spend.’

Film Bridge International

The cost of taking a stand

After seven years of attending MIPCOM as a non-exhibitor, Santa Monica, U.S.-based distrib Film Bridge International has decided to rent a 3 x 7-meter section of floor at the annual market. The turning point for president Ellen Wander came at miptv in April, when she began inquiring about space at the fall event.

Wander says she didn’t hear back from Reed Midem until June, at which time Film Bridge was offered a choice between two locations – the upper or lower level of the Palais. Wander settled on the former, though she was more concerned with her neighbors than the site itself. ‘The way I made the decision was to take a look at the companies close to us,’ she says, adding that she wanted to be near those selling projects similar to Film Bridge’s.

Wander estimates the financial consequences of opting to exhibit are around us$25,000 overall, with $10,000 going into the stand. The booth itself costs about $7,000, while the remaining $3,000 covers carpeting, lighting, furniture, a tv stand, monitor and tri-standard vcr. Although participants have the option of bringing their own equipment, Film Bridge contracts with a company based in England to avoid the hassle of shipping from across the Atlantic.

To help keep expenses down, Film Bridge recently came up with an idea for re-useable booth signage. Wander explains, ‘We’ve had individual letters made that spell out the company’s name in 12-inch, heavy-duty plastic, and painted iridescent silver. Those letters set up against

a black background stand out really nicely, and give a really good, clean, professional look to our stand . . . It’s kind of a short-cut.’ The cost to have the letters made was $600 to $700, but because they will be used repeatedly, the expense will be amortized over several markets.

Wander and a sales manager fly from California to Cannes, at a cost of $800 to $1,200 per ticket, and stay for a week. A representative from Film Bridge’s London-based financing company joins them, though his flight rings in at only about $300. Wander says they don’t

do much entertaining, so remaining personal expenses consist largely of meals and accommodations.

Another big chunk of Film Bridge’s cash – around $5,000 – goes towards flyers and promotional tapes. Wander says the producers whom they represent generally provide the creative materials, and then Film Bridge pays the duplicating costs.

In the weeks leading up to the market, the company is sending out about 100 promo reels for Beyond the Summit, The Everest Environment Expedition, the doc project it will be pushing in Cannes. ‘A lot of the business is done before the market,’ Wander notes. Once the event starts, the

company will keep a dozen promo tapes for Everest at the booth, one of which runs continuously, and at least two dozen copies of the finished film itself, both pal and ntsc versions.

Film Bridge represents genres other than docs as well, and Wander says they’ve found it more effective to create distinct sets of marketing material. ‘Typically in the larger

territories there are different buyers for docs and tv movies. Rather than

put everything on the same reel, we

separate [them],’ she says.

For Film Bridge, MIPCOM is more about sealing the deal than initiating new business. Says Wander, ‘When we get to the market, it’s a good idea to close the business rather than just introduce people to our company.’

NVC Arts: If you tell them, they will come

After seven years of attending MIPCOM as a non-exhibitor, Santa Monica, U.S.-based distrib Film Bridge International has decided to rent a 3 x 7-meter section of floor at the annual market. The turning point for president Ellen Wander came at miptv in April, when she began inquiring about space at the fall event.

Wander says she didn’t hear back from Reed Midem until June, at which time Film Bridge was offered a choice between two locations – the upper or lower level of the Palais. Wander settled on the former, though she was more concerned with her neighbors than the site itself. ‘The way I made the decision was to take a look at the companies close to us,’ she says, adding that she wanted to be near those selling projects similar to Film Bridge’s.

Wander estimates the financial consequences of opting to exhibit are around us$25,000 overall, with $10,000 going into the stand. The booth itself costs about $7,000, while the remaining $3,000 covers carpeting, lighting, furniture, a tv stand, monitor and tri-standard vcr. Although participants have the option of bringing their own equipment, Film Bridge contracts with a company based in England to avoid the hassle of shipping from across the Atlantic.

To help keep expenses down, Film Bridge recently came up with an idea for re-useable booth signage. Wander explains, ‘We’ve had individual letters made that spell out the company’s name in 12-inch, heavy-duty plastic, and painted iridescent silver. Those letters set up against

a black background stand out really nicely, and give a really good, clean, professional look to our stand . . . It’s kind of a short-cut.’ The cost to have the letters made was $600 to $700, but because they will be used repeatedly, the expense will be amortized over several markets.

Wander and a sales manager fly from California to Cannes, at a cost of $800 to $1,200 per ticket, and stay for a week. A representative from Film Bridge’s London-based financing company joins them, though his flight rings in at only about $300. Wander says they don’t

do much entertaining, so remaining personal expenses consist largely of meals and accommodations.

Another big chunk of Film Bridge’s cash – around $5,000 – goes towards flyers and promotional tapes. Wander says the producers whom they represent generally provide the creative materials, and then Film Bridge pays the duplicating costs.

In the weeks leading up to the market, the company is sending out about 100 promo reels for Beyond the Summit, The Everest Environment Expedition, the doc project it will be pushing in Cannes. ‘A lot of the business is done before the market,’ Wander notes. Once the event starts, the

company will keep a dozen promo tapes for Everest at the booth, one of which runs continuously, and at least two dozen copies of the finished film itself, both pal and ntsc versions.

Film Bridge represents genres other than docs as well, and Wander says they’ve found it more effective to create distinct sets of marketing material. ‘Typically in the larger

territories there are different buyers for docs and tv movies. Rather than

put everything on the same reel, we

separate [them],’ she says.

For Film Bridge, MIPCOM is more about sealing the deal than initiating new business. Says Wander, ‘When we get to the market, it’s a good idea to close the business rather than just introduce people to our company.’

TVF International: Success is in the details

When potential buyers stop by the MIPCOM booth of London-based distributor TVF Inter-national, they’ll be able to screen in style. ‘This MIPCOM, tvf will introduce a plasma screen to the stand, as well as dvd viewing facilities,’ says Lilla Hurst, the company’s head of sales and acquisitions. She readily acknowledges that fewer buyers stop to view programs than in the past, but reasons that flashier equipment could help grab attention.

Hurst explains: ‘dvd is a more flexible format – it’s very different from just plunking a vhs into a tv. You can have your whole catalog on dvd and play around with it. I think it makes the meeting more active and lively.’ As for the plasma screen, ‘I got fed up having the showreel on a standard tv. No one is going to walk past and see that,’ she says.

TVF International’s total spending on the market comes in around £20,000 to £30,000 (us$30,000 to $45,000), which includes registration, flights, accommodations

and stand design. Hurst says she and head of sales Anne Roder-Botbol have a personal budget of about £2,000 (us$3,000) each, most of which is spent on other people. The other six tvf staffers who attend the market are

allotted smaller sums.

The company has moved into the new Espace Riviera from the old Riviera village (remember the tents?), which Hurst views as a definite plus. ‘The combination of space, light and a sea view made a significant difference to

the atmosphere of the stand [at miptv], and achieved

the relaxed but professional feel we were after.’ Just like

buying a home, she notes, the key factor to consider is ‘location, location, location.’

In terms of the look and feel of the stand, experience has taught Hurst what works and what doesn’t. While in the employ of a different company, she once worked in a booth that was all black. Although the stand looked very classy, ‘it was like sitting in a coffin for a week,’ she recalls, adding that buyers may have found the screening space intimidating (two small, black rooms).

tvf recently switched to a new stand designer, who

prepared a model of the booth before the contract was secured. ‘Discussions always need to take place with the stand designer in order to go over any improvements that might be needed to make the sales team’s meetings more accommodating and effective,’ Hurst says. For example, this year they’ll have chairs on wheels, so staff can move them around without lifting them above buyers’ heads when the stand gets busy.

A final touch tvf offers at MIPCOM is champagne every evening at 6:00 p.m. ‘It’s a good way to end the day,’ Hurst says. They also plan to give away grab-bags filled with hangover cures – though tvf won’t be hosting any of the big boozy soirées. ‘I don’t believe that parties are a go anymore in Cannes,’ she says. ‘I think you can only have a party in Cannes if you’ve got a fantastic budget and really pull out all the stops.

‘I think the whole atmosphere of the market has changed . . . Now it’s just highly, highly competitive and intensive, and people will not go out as much as they used to. One party becomes another party. We would rather spend our money on parties at smaller markets.’

Under the Umbrella

U.S. Independents Inc. offers shelter

At a market the size and scale of MIPCOM – 16,934 square meters of floor space and 1,133 exhibiting companies in 1999 – the fear of being lost or overlooked in the crowd isn’t irrational, particularly for small independent producers or distributors. Add to that the cost of establishing a presence – 5,185 euros (us$4,700) for a basic stand of nine square meters on the upper level of the Palais – and attendance at the annual television event in Cannes becomes a daunting proposition.

No hard-and-fast rule requires each company to go it alone, however. The emergence of Virginia-based co-operative group U.S. Independents proves that a viable alternative exists for indies who are willing to share space and resources for the duration of a market. ‘It is not an association or a membership,’ explains director Meg Villarreal. ‘We are very loosely defined as an umbrella organization.’

At miptv in April, U.S. Independents represented 16 participants and occupied a relatively spacious booth (around 37 square meters) in the market’s new Espace Riviera. Villarreal says they will have the same location for MIPCOM and expect to represent around 12 to 14 indies, adding that their budget for the event is us$50,000 to $55,000. She and co-director Diana Ingraham have overseen and coordinated the group’s presence at the Cannes tv markets since 1997, developing a three-tiered system for prospective participants.

Registration at tier one costs us$2,300, which covers accreditation for two people from the same company and a listing on the usi in-booth roster. Access to meeting or viewing space within the booth is not included, though

it is possible to leave and pick up messages. Says Villarreal, ‘It’s sort of a glorified mailbox and messenger service, and [offers the] ability to put out information on the hot boxes [folders stuck on the walls].’ usi does not impose a limit on the number of registrants at this level, ‘because they don’t take space. In other words, we don’t have to worry about scheduling them in,’ she explains. They are listed in the MIPCOM guide under U.S. Independents.

For tier two status, which includes use of the shared space, indie producers or distribs pay $5,300. ‘We try to guarantee [each registrant] will have a minimum of two hours a day – usually an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon is assigned to them – that they can count on as their time in the booth,’ Villarreal says. Two screening areas within the booth, each equipped with a tv monitor and tri-standard vcr, are shared among them. To make this arrangement work within the given area, usi directors have capped the number of tier two registrants at eight, though Villarreal says she would gladly seek more room

if demand required it.

Additional tier two perks are accreditation for three company reps, guaranteed space on the flyer racks, permission to display one large poster or logo, a minimum of four hot boxes, and a separate company listing in the

MIPCOM guide (with U.S. Independents in parentheses).

Only two companies currently put up the $11,100 fee to register at the tier three level -Washington, D.C.-based Voice of America and American Public Television Worldwide in Boston. Villarreal says they each get a dedicated space about half the size of a basic stand, which works out to approximately one-third of the total booth. They can do whatever they want inside their rooms in terms of posters, she adds, and they each have their own vcr and monitor. Up to five company reps can be accredited under U.S. Independents, though only three can be listed separately in the guide (unless they opt to pay an additional fee).

For the price they pay, tier three participants could afford to go it alone, yet they choose to stick with usi.

Joan Cavanagh, APT Worldwide’s vp of international sales, explains her company’s position: ‘They offered

flexibility in space options, which gave us the ability to have a dedicated screening room without having to undertake the expense of our own stand. We get great

service from the U.S. Independents folks and enjoy the company – and the traffic – which results from sharing the space with other participants.’

Tier two participants Michael Murphy (of Los Angeles-based prodco Michael Murphy Productions) and Annie Roney (of California-based distrib Roco Films) concur that financial considerations influenced their decision to hook up with usi. Says Roney, ‘It’s a cost-effective way

to attend and meet buyers from around the world.’ She estimates adding $6,000 to $7,000 to her costs if she were to participate independently. Adds Murphy, ‘Being independent, it’s awfully hard to go to a lot of these events and always be paying for a booth.’

The heightened exposure and networking opportunities are equally appreciated. Murphy, who has attended several markets under the usi umbrella, including natpe and miptv, explains: ‘It’s nice when you have an organization that has a presence and is known. That can be a calling card to a lot of different broadcasters . . . On top of that, it really helps that I then have the opportunity to go one-on-one with other distributors or broadcasters to talk about the sort of programming they’re placing, and to get an idea of the broadcasting landscape… It’s a perfect situation.’ He adds that he made two dozen new contacts over the past 12 months through usi references.

To keep things running smoothly, Villarreal and Ingraham start organizing well in advance. ‘Because of the size of these markets, planning starts a good four to five months out,’ Villarreal says. They try to collect fees from registrants before the market, but usually front at least a portion of the total budget, which covers decorations, telephones, electrical set-up and booth incidentals, as well as accommodations and airfare for Villarreal and Ingraham. Registrants are responsible for the cost of their own hotel and travel arrangements, though usi will help make reservations.

Past participants have the right of first refusal. Villarreal explains: ‘We give them a cut-off date – which nobody meets – then we call them back and say, ‘Are you going

to participate?’ After that is when we go out and contact the other people who might have dropped off cards at the booth during the past market or heard of us through word of mouth.’

In addition to coordinating the umbrella stand for

this year’s MIPCOM, usi has teamed with a number of international companies to launch ‘Kickstart,’ an information exchange session among international indie

producers. The event is scheduled for Sunday October 1 from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Gray D’Albion Hotel. Denmark-based Filmkontakt Nord, the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Association in Canada, Australia’s That’s-A-Wrap Distribution and Creative Networx in Munich are the other organizers.

‘It isn’t a pitch session,’ Villarreal notes. ‘For want of a better description, we’re calling it an enhanced business card exchange, where you put forth verbally what you’re involved in and what it is you need . . . Instead of going blind into a situation, you’re dealing with somebody

you can probe and get information. We’re hoping it

will get producers who are stymied at some point over

that hump.’

About The Author
Selina Chignall joins the realscreen team as a staff writer. Prior to working with rs, she covered lobbying activity at Hill Times Publishing. She also spent a year covering the Hill as a journalist with iPolitics. Her beat focused on youth, education, democratic reform, innovation and infrastructure. She holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University and a Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto.

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