As novelist Richard Farina said in the ’60s: Been down so long, it looks like up to me. The same seems true about the world doc market. While last October’s MIPCOM held the promise of recovery, this year’s fest could actually deliver. While some industry players smell spring in the air, others remain cautious.
At London-based distrib TVF International, head of programming Pippa Lambert is priming for a busy market. TVFI brought about 80 new hours to miptv, but this time around the new additions sit at 340 hours – a number inflated by 480 half hours of Collector’s Lot, a TV24 series for C4 that ran from ’98 to ’02. Focusing on eccentric U.K. collectors, Lambert says the series can be diced into smaller lots for genre-specific nets.
While Lambert notes most broadcasters are looking for event-style one-offs, she wants to be prepared. Last market a walk-in walked off with 140 hours from the catalog. ‘If we don’t have the bulk, then we can’t do those deals,’ she notes. tvfi brought on two more full-time sales staff and will also be shopping pitches to CEs and broadcasters for the first time.
Over at France 3, science and wildlife CE Fabrice Puchault definitely feels a change in the air, one brought on by fresh storytelling techniques. ‘The documentary genre has really found new forms of storytelling,’ he notes, ‘using CGI, technology, fiction, mixing genres. There’s an extraordinary vitality [there].’
Puchault has already seen a slight increase in demand, which he puts down to the fact that docs offer audiences a deeper look into world events than is offered by other sources. ‘People need understanding,’ says Puchault. ‘Whether it be wildlife, or undercover stories, or politics, they watch documentaries because they know they will find something more complex; something that could make the world a bit more understandable.’
But Andrea Portante, Rome-based sales and marketing manager for Rai Trade, adds a note of skepticism. ‘It seems that the market is picking up a little bit,’ he observes, ‘but I’m never sure it’s something real or something spreading from word of mouth. For Rai Trade, the impact of the market is always secondary to the product we can bring to it. Our market share, especially in documentaries, is small, so the impact of having a couple of good products is much more important than the overall direction of the market.’
Portante notes Rai Trade is in negotiations for a library of mostly lifestyle programming from a group of Italian broadcasters. He is also excited about Looking for Sophia, a Sophia Loren bio coproduced with ZDF/ARTE and AVRO.