Navigating the near future a prime concern at MIP Formats

Making formats transmedia-friendly and rights retention were among the hot-button topics discussed during Reed MIDEM's inaugural MIP Formats conference in Cannes.
April 12, 2010

This year’s edition of MIPTV was also home to the inaugural MIP Formats conference, a one-day stream of panels and sessions geared towards the global format industry.

Held on Sunday, MIP Formats featured five sessions ranging from the Fresh Talent Pitch to panels exploring hot-button topics of relevance to format producers and broadcasters, ranging from how formats can be brought into the transmedia age (‘Formats Everywhere: Three-Screen Thinking’) to the increasing presence of major studios in the format field (‘The Big Picture: Acting Global, Thinking Local’). Other topics covered included trend analysis (‘Format Futures’) and a session co-produced with FRAPA examining the monetary value of the format industry (‘How Formats are Valued in the Market’).

The transmedia panel featured digital execs from major global producers including Digby Lewis, director of content and digital development for the Shine Group; Pasa Mustafa, head of digital studios for Endemol; Marco Ferrari, chief officer of digital entertainment for Zodiak Entertainment and Doug Scott, president of Ogilvy Entertainment. Scott supplied a branded content perspective, saying that the assorted multi-platform projects created by Ogilvy Entertainment for clients such as IBM and Cisco incorporate a ‘from the brand up’ approach, in which the brand values and key messaging are dispatched via multi-platform entertainment. One case in particular, the Digital Cribs online series for Cisco, illustrated how social media brings eyeballs to projects, with episodes devoted to diverse tech-savvy cultural figures, including video artist Lincoln Schatz and DJ Paul van Dyk, each generating buzz through different social media outlets depending on each individual’s fan base.

Shine’s Lewis and Endemol’s Mustafa also stressed the importance of social media to their respective companies. Stating that Facebook’s audience is bigger than any TV network’s, Lewis said Shine’s digital content division, ShineVu, is keen to develop digital originals as well as original formats that can be spread across platforms. The company is also keeping a close eye on how it can create content with new tech innovations such as the Apple iPad in mind.

Mustafa highlighted Endemol projects such as The Gap Year, an online reality travel series that debuted via social network Bebo, as well as Married on MySpace, a franchise that made the move from the social networking hub to TV when its second season aired on Latin TV network Si TV. Echoing a sentiment from Lewis that ‘everything is content,’ Mustaf said that in the transmedia age, material that wouldn’t have been considered for traditional broadcast can still make captivating online content. Now, it’s not too far a stretch to think about ‘making the audition tape part of the programming.’

Zodiak’s Ferrari also pointed to the importance of fostering community through programs as well as the need to develop 360 properties that are as geek-friendly as fan-focused. Its recently announced FlirtApp (launching in the U.S., the UK and Italy via Apple’s app store), developed by Zodiak’s in-house digital division Neo Network, is meant to exist as a companion to the company’s dating-oriented formats such as Date Expo and Destination Love.

Casting ahead to the near future, the panelists said they will be interested in the impact of new consumer tech developments like the iPad, as well as the trend towards co-viewing.

Trends also figured as part of the chat during the ‘Acting Global: Thinking Local’ panel, with one trend in particular stimulating discussion. The panelists – ITV Studios president and CEO Paul Buccieri; Yoni Cohen, SVP of international sales and development for Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution; CBS Studios International’s SVP of international formats Paul Gilbert and Mike Morley, EVP and CCO of international production for Sony Pictures Television – weighed in on the moves made by broadcasters to retain format rights, a practice that Morley said may wind up ‘forcing a lot of young production companies out of business.’

‘There’s a real bitter harvest in taking all of the rights away,’ Morley said, calling for a balance in order to prevent production companies from becoming ‘disincentivized’ from developing format-friendly projects. Furthermore, he said broadcasters that insist on taking all rights may find themselves ‘the last port of call’ when it comes to being pitched new content.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.