Distribution is changing. The Frank brothers have created a digital rights trading platform, TRX, which sits alongside others from the likes of Screen Hits. With these, online screening rooms, Skype and other new ways to connect, the folk running TV markets must be concerned.
Outgoing NATPE boss Rod Perth (left) offers a robust defence of the industry get-together. “Online content screenings and utilising online products like Skype as a communication tool is both valuable and inevitable, and actually helpful to the most important markets,” he says. “Our event is all about blending both traditional suite and market floor screenings, and digitally providing screenings that augment and make markets even more valuable.”
NATPE’s Miami event has become bigger and better for many in recent years, while NATPE Europe moves back to Budapest this year. Reed MIDEM, meanwhile, reported 13,700 MIPCOM attendees in October, the same in 2013. MIPTV has claimed 11,000 delegates for three years.
What is clear is that international TV is a people business, and talking shop with a glass of rosé in Cannes remains popular. “Most exhibitors do the majority of their business outside of these markets and have done for some years,” says distribution veteran and Raydar Media founder Alison Rayson (right).“Digital screenings have enhanced this trend and so the major markets have become less transactional and much more about relationships, strategy and pitching.”
Even those behind new platforms such as TRX say the platforms are not designed to replace the physical markets, rather to provide an effective way to trade secondary rights and exploit smaller territories.
“TRX allows people to transact very quickly in an online environment, but it doesn’t market or promote shows,” TRX CEO Matthew Frank told TBI late last year. “That is the function of MIPCOM or Natpe or ATF. TRX kicks in as those markets finish.”
At the same time, Laurine Garaude, director of MIPCOM organiser Reed Midem’s TV division tells TBI that the markets have evolved beyond being simply places to buy and sell. “MIPTV and MIPCOM bring together the global content ecosystem and are where television producers, distributors and acquisition executives from around the world come to do deals,” she says.
“Face-to-face remains a critical element of the business process. In addition, these relationships increasingly involve projects at the early stage, where investments and coproduction alliances are discussed or format deals imagined.”
Chris Bird, film and TV strategy director, Amazon Video UK agrees. “These days you can screen all the shows online, so there are fewer reasons to travel, but markets still present a great opportunity to hear about the latest ideas, network with peers, and build relationships,” he says.
Greg Phillips (left), president, Content Television & Digital, says: “Our experience shows that in-person meetings at markets are vital for building stronger, more meaningful and solid relationships and, ultimately, operating a more profitable business model. Digital screenings and Skype have their place in operating time efficiently with buyers from across the world, but our goal is to spend more time getting to know our clients, and their channel and territory needs – and the markets provide an invaluable opportunity to achieve this.”
For Nicky Davies Williams (right), DCD Rights CEO, “online screenings and Skype are certainly an essential tool to keep business moving throughout the year, but they don’t compare to the face-to-face time you get with clients at the key markets”.
She adds: “It’s important to spend time getting to know buyers, their audience, their schedules, their regional trends, etc to build an ongoing partnership – and you really can’t do that effectively only on screen.”
NATPE’s chief Rod Perth concludes: “The major international markets that are well organised and have solid reputations for creating a return on investment and will continue to thrive because there will always be the need for sharing, community, relationship building, networking, and ultimately the in-person interaction that flourishes in a market and conference environment.”
He adds: “Relevance is key. We are committed to being nimble while responding to both exhibitors and sellers needs to connect them with every sector of our business that continues to be interdependent.”
While there is (perhaps unusually) a consensus that markets remain vital and worthwhile for buyers and sellers, online screenings, trading platforms and ever more ways to communicate mean distributors will increasingly be more selective about which they attend.
“There’s still no substitute for a face-to-face meeting with a client – either in their office or at a market and we see this continuing and we’ll continue to send our teams to all the main markets,” says Cineflix Rights boss Chris Bonney (left).
“However, the increased frequency of markets, and the growing strength of NATPE and Real Screen are putting pressure on travel schedules, and MIPTV in particular.”
Former Cineflix Rights chief and TCB Media founder Paul Heaney, meanwhile, captures the mood of many in the industry.
He says: “In a world where content is so similar, relationship building has never been more important. Email doesn’t have the same effect as a Salad Nicoise and a glass of Cab Sav.”