Yes, the world is reeling from the steely grip of a global economic downturn, but judging from the activity along the Croisette for MIPTV 2009, there are still deals aplenty being made and things to discuss. In between scores of meetings and mixers, we’ve managed to steal a few minutes to encapsulate some of the newsy bits emerging from this year’s model of MIPTV.
At Monday’s keynote presentation, Endemol CEO Ynon Kreiz delivered an optimistic message to a packed Grand Auditorium at the Palais, stating that Endemol’s aim for the immediate future is to make its global production network an ‘indispensible partner’ for the hundreds of networks it works with around the world. Kreiz also announced a €15 million fund designed to ‘facilitate our creativity’ and ‘drive international potential’ for its titles. Kreiz’s keynote was enhanced by snappy 3D visuals and rounded out by a short tribute to its enduring Big Brother franchise, celebrating 10 years. While the spirit of the message was unabashedly positive, Kreiz did say the production powerhouse has been ‘humbled’ by the economic chaos sweeping the world, but in a post-address press Q&A, he asserted that ‘Those who survive will come out of it stronger.’
The spirit of optimism also reigned supreme in FremantleMedia‘s breakfast presser held on Monday. FremantleMedia CEO Tony Cohen cited 2008 as a record year for the company, and says 2009 is shaping up to be equally busy. FremantleMedia formats at MIPTV this year include Let’s Dance, True Beauty, Risking It All, the interactive reality hit Non Stop Joe and Triple Zero Heroes.
The night before, at a press dinner held by Scripps Networks International, newly-anointed SNI president Greg Moyer told assembled journos that international interest is high for three of its channels – HGTV, Food Network and Fine Living. Joined by colleagues Kristen Jordan (SVP international), Mary Ellen Iwata (VP international), Hud Woodle (director, international development) and Larry Smith (manager, international), Moyer told the press contingent to ‘watch this space’ regarding upcoming international activity.
More forward thinking was apparent in a chat with National Geographic Television International‘s Maryanne Culpepper (EVP, editorial and new business development) and Mark Wild (newly-appointed director of international development), who revealed that NGI is eager to continue tapping into co-production possibilities and to move into new formats and approaches. One such new endeavor is NGTI’s first foray into fully-scripted drama, I, Darwin, premiering on PBS’ Nova in December and available as a 1×110 minute film or a 2×52 minute mini-series.
Sean Cohan, SVP international for A&E Television Networks, said the company ‘is continuing to invest in content at the same or higher levels’ than previous years, with offerings such as Steven Seagal: Lawman, Hammertime, Obsessed and 102 Minutes that Changed America (two realscreen MIPTV Picks, incidentally) among the new and recent titles brought to market this year.
Meanwhile, Caleb Weinstein, SVP of Discovery Enterprises International, told realscreen that he looks forward to continuing to educate international buyers about the breadth of Discovery’s content, and about its continued evolution, enhanced by the launch of DEI at last year’s MIPTV, from ‘a TV company to an entertainment company.’ Weinstein says DEI will continue to ‘create more touchpoints for consumers and our franchises’ and endeavor to find new ways to ‘maximize every hour of the library.’
Prodco execs were also cautiously optimistic in general about the prospects for factual entertainment in the year ahead, with several saying that co-productions will ramp up as everyone looks to continue to produce high-quality content with potentially less funds on the table. Resilience is indeed a virtue, and producers seem to be more than willing to face any oncoming challenges by working smarter. In short, the message appears to be take heart, as no one’s crying into their rosé just yet, at least not in our presence.