Three years ago, organizers of the Monte-Carlo Television Market launched a formats section as part of their event – just before the likes of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Survivor hit it big in U.S. primetime. Now, the focus on formats is the primary feature distinguishing Monte-Carlo from the ever-increasing raft of international markets on the scene.
This year’s Monte-Carlo market (February 19 to 22) attracted major format specialists, some of whom had previously questioned the value of attending. Says David Lyle, head of light entertainment development, acquisition and resources for London-based Pearson Television, ‘I can remember about three years ago we really wondered whether we would continue to go to Monte-Carlo, but we’ve stayed, and I think it’s been useful. It’s more accessible to a lot of Eastern Europe and Central Europe. It’s also more affordable, which means you reach a number of customers that you don’t see at other times.’
Caroline Beaton, head of international and new business for London-based Action Time, agrees with Lyle. ‘Geographically it’s a very specific market for us – Central and Eastern Europe have a strong presence there, South Africa, Israel, Greece, Turkey – some territories that you might traditionally say are smaller and don’t have the huge presence at the major markets, but actually are doing a hell of a lot on our side of the business and should not be ignored.’
Both Lyle and Beaton say they found Monte-Carlo a good environment for conducting business. While they booked fewer meetings than at events like NATPE or MIP, they were able to spend more time with prospective clients – an hour to an hour and a half on average – explaining programs in more detail. Lyle says he successfully shopped around $20 Challenge, a format in which four backpackers are dropped off in a strange city and asked to carry out various challenges over three days, armed with only US$20. Beaton says Bank Raid, The Trap and, of course, Survivor were her company’s hot format commodities, raising interest from as far away as Russia and South Africa.
While Beaton describes this year’s Monte-Carlo as the most productive market she has ever known, she says she found it generally quieter than previous years. ‘The overall buzz didn’t seem to be there, the corridors weren’t bustling and a lot of people seemed not to be taking suites, just holding meetings down in the lobby and not even registering. So, while I felt that the key people in our world attended and had a presence, there were many people who were downgrading. It just seems to be an extremely niche future that it’s got.’
Not everyone agrees, however. Scott Hanock chose Monte-Carlo as the market to launch his new California-based distribution company, TVFilmBiz International, even though he says formats are not a big part of his business. ‘To me, you’re not in a rushed atmosphere and you can talk intelligently about scheduling, the needs of an audience, and what they’re going for in broadband. That’s why I found it to be a very informative and real market for me’ Monte Carlo is my pre-MIPTV.’