Back when NATPE was primarily a national market and the two MIPs were the only events racking up airmiles for industry types, the London Program Market was a must-attend affair for U.K.-based broadcasters, producers and distributors trying to reach the global market. But, today’s crowded calendar – coupled with the international growth of NATPE and the changing landscape of the U.K. broadcast industry – has rendered the London market redundant. Tim Etchells is the managing director of Single Market Events, which owns the London Program Market: ‘As time passes, we’ve seen an enormous number of takeovers and mergers, especially in the U.K. Look at the independent broadcasters. Look at all the distribution houses coming together. At one stage, they were all individual customers. The customer base for this event was becoming less.
‘The justification for a market is that it serves a need. Once it doesn’t serve a need and people can achieve the same thing at MIPTV and MIPCOM, you tend to say, ‘yep, there are too many markets’. The buyers and sellers now say it is NATPE, MIPTV and MIPCOM. They spend enormous amounts of money in those markets.’
According to Etchells, he dissolved the London Program Market when it was still attracting 600 to 700 buyers as well as distribution companies wanting to exhibit. ‘I think you should quit while you’re ahead – reputation is everything in this business,’ he explains. ‘I felt we were going to do damage not only to my business, but to the U.K. distribution business by running a haphazard market.’
The option to reinvent the market is something Etchells is still considering. He believes events that serve a niche market, such as WildScreen and Sunny Side of the Doc, will always be needed. ‘There’s all sorts of opportunities,’ says Etchells. ‘I would really like to do something that’s focused on the smaller cable and satellite channels. It seems they are not well served in some of the existing markets. I think there’s also an opportunity to try to bring in the advertising community. It’s amazing that in a lot of countries, especially [in Europe], the people who make the programs and those who sell the airtime have precious little dialog. They’re two different businesses, yet they’re all under the same roof. The advertising community doesn’t go near MIPCOM, which of course it should. It should be seeing what programs are coming through and what opportunities are there for them to get involved with sponsorships, advertising and so on. There’s no doubt that as the cost of programs increase, they need to find more ways to raise income.’
Etchells confirms he has no definite plans to start up another event, but he’s confident a London-based event held in November can still attract a crowd.
In related news…
Despite early hopes that the re-focus on formats at this year’s Monte Carlo Television Market and Festival would keep the event alive, secretary general David Tomatis recently announced February’s market was the last. The 41-year-old event will be replaced with an entirely new festival that deals with the craft of scriptwriting, directing and production, set to take place July 1 to 6, 2002. Stubbornly labeled the 42nd Monte Carlo Television Festival, the new event will feature an international awards program, panels, workshops and screenings.