The frenetic atmosphere of previous MIPTVs was definitely not in evidence at this year’s event (April 2 to April 6). Even the cocktail and party circuit was somewhat subdued, leaving some long-time participants nostalgic for the days of free-flowing Veuve Clicquot at the legendary Warner Bros. parties. Still, business proceeded as usual, albeit with a slightly different approach. Several booth occupants remarked that the volume of walk-by traffic on the floor of the Palais was distinctly lower than previous years, replaced by a higher proportion of scheduled meetings, which led to firm deals in several cases.
Tim Sparke of Mercury Media International in the U.K. came to MIPTV hoping to raise funds for his six-part series The Eyes of War, and before the week was out, had met with success. TV2 Norway came in with a commitment for 20% of the program budget, and promising discussions with other European and North American broadcasters will continue after the market, Sparke says. The Eyes of War looks at the relationship between broadcasters, journalists and military organizations.
Welsh pubcaster S4C announced two major coproduction output deals in an effort to infiltrate the North American market, one with PBS (or more specifically Lark International, a consortium of six PBS stations) and the other with Canada’s AAC Fact. The PBS agreement is for over US$3 million in co-financed programming, with an emphasis on science, health and history topics. The arrangement with AAC Fact is a long-term development deal, also with the goal of producing history, science and technology docs. Two series have already been given the greenlight by AAC Fact and S4C: Secrets of the Sultans (Café Productions) and War Surgeons (John Gwyn Productions).
AAC Fact and Lark brokered a separate deal, in which they have agreed to produce $12 million to $16 million of co-financed programming. They anticipate production of more than 30 hours for broadcast on PBS. Again, the focus will be science and history, as well as health and medicine. Indie producers from the U.S., Canada and Europe will be involved.
National Geographic, as usual, held court on a yacht outside the Palais throughout the week. In an effort to affirm Nat Geo’s commitment to indies, Janet Vissering, senior VP of programming and operations for National Geographic Channels International said a major new science series is in development with producers outside of the Nat Geo fold. She explains that Nat Geo has approached five prodcos with the idea for a project and asked each of them to develop a pitch. The successful production company and the details of the project will be announced by Nat Geo at the end of May. In other Nat Geo news, the National Geographic Channel launched in Argentina on Cablevision’s Channel 42 on April 1.
Discovery Networks International signed a multi-year production deal with the U.K.’s Granada International, representing 100 hours of new programming to be broadcast on Discovery’s outlets outside of the U.S. The agreement is an extension of Discovery’s contract with U.K. distrib ITEL, now part of Granada International. DNI also announced its decision to institute synchronized primetime schedules for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Discovery Health throughout DNI’s regions. The synchronized schedule begins in fourth quarter of this year.
The Discovery Channel and NHK have agreed to coproduce HDTV programs, with a minimum of one one-hour program each year. NHK also plans to acquire Discovery’s Inside Space Station for broadcast in its ‘Hi-Vision Special’ time slot. NHK launched a 24-hour HD channel in December 2000.