Although it’s been years since the Iron Curtain came down, a residual shade still hangs over Russia and the West. To help rectify this situation (at least in the realm of television), 10 Russian companies are attending MIPTV (March 24 to 28), a record high for the annual event in Cannes, France.
Antonina Zorina, head of the international department for Moscow-based sports channel 7TV, is one of the attending delegates who is looking to both buy and sell factual shows. She says the one-year-old terrestrial channel has only recently made the decision to program documentaries, and is open to both series and one-offs. Says Zorina, ‘Portraits of famous sportsmen, history of tournaments – all kinds of sports and everything about sports [are of interest].’ 7TV is also shopping a couple of docs, including one about the historic 1972 hockey game between Canada and the Soviet Union.
The Russian companies at MIPTV may have to work to overcome some negative impressions about breaking into their territory. One Canadian distrib says she has often tried to set up meetings with Russian outlets, only to find them hard to reach by email or fax, and reluctant to follow up after an initial call. ‘It’s not an easy territory to work in,’ she notes.
However, Richard Jeffs sees plenty of opportunity in Russia, albeit from a different perspective. Notes the business affairs manager for London, U.K.-based Iskra Television (a clip and format sales company), ‘We have had great success with Russian contacts in taking some of the most entertaining clips from various shows on Russian TV and helping license them in the U.K., Europe and North America.’
Ten years ago, Jeffs was GM of a joint venture between the U.K.’s Central Television (now part of Carlton) and Goskino (Russia’s state-run cinema unit), which produced dramas, commercials and docs. ‘It was a marvellous experience for us,’ he notes. ‘A lot of people still look at Russia as a mysterious place , but it’s not. It really has remarkable people.’