TBI Weekly: Will Coronavirus nudge TV markets online?

For all the talk around MIPTV over the past 12 months, who saw a global pandemic as being its ultimate nemesis?

Our industry, like many sectors, has tended to revolve around person-to-person meetings at markets and conferences – but the TV business has always been that bit more sociable than others. Parties, drinks and any excuse for a slap-up meal are a key aspect of TV’s regular get-togethers.

Most working on the international side of the industry are well primed on where their next trip is set to take them, be it LA, Korea, Brazil or the French riviera. And despite the grumbles of regular global travel, it is normally one of the reasons why people in the international content business tend to stay in the international content business.

So while the news of MIPTV’s cancellation earlier this week might not have come as a shock, it has left a few holes in schedules.

Looking ahead

MIPTV is certainly not alone and yesterday Italian broadcaster Rai pulled Cartoons on the Bay, which had been due to take place in Pescara, Italy, between 2-5 April.

French drama festival Series Mania remains on track at present, but organisers have admitted they are “closely monitoring” the situation and “may need to adapt the event” depending on advice from the French government and health authorities.

Elsewhere, Disney had to scrap the launch event of its hot new streamer Disney+ scheduled for this week and TBI understands organisers of the Busan Content Market (BCM) in Korea are also considering postponing their annual event, which is due to take place 6-8 May.

It attracts a swathe of companies including Netflix, Fremantle and Banijay as well as hundreds of firms from across Korea and Asia such as KBS, CJ ENM and iFlix, providing a key opportunity for East-West partnership building.

Many are cancelling travel plans while others due to head to MIPTV have said they are resolutely committed to Cannes no matter what, unable to secure refunds from hotels booked in anticipation of Reed Midem’s annual market on the French riviera.

Such stoicism perhaps underlines the nature of the TV business, but the ongoing spread of the Coronavirus looks likely to mean further unavoidable disruption as events are faced with curtailment.

Emergent opportunities

For the thousands of people who have seen months of hard work disappear, there has been sympathy aplenty, with conference schedules and marketing plans having to be re-worked in this fast-changing business.

For buyers who are used to traipsing market floors around the world looking for their next hit, the coming months also look likely to mean enforced grounding – good for the environment if nothing else.

But the situation also provides the industry with an opportunity to pause and explore alternatives to flying half-way around the world to find new programming and discuss projects. Most distribution outfits are now moving ahead with online screening opportunities for buyers, enabling potential acquisitors to view programming from the comfort of their office – or home.

Red Arrow Studios International is one such firm prepping virtual meetings, keeping the same schedule as MIPTV, while ITV Studios-backed Armoza Formats, ever the innovator, has unveiled its own online ‘ArmozaFest’.

Video conferences and virtual meetings have tended to hold little allure for most execs to date, for what were thought to be obvious reasons. Most projects sound a whole lot more enticing when discussed with a drink in hand overlooking the Croisette.

Nevertheless, deals and projects will surely still be completed, and relationships re-forged in person in the not-so-distant future. The real unknown is whether this enforced cancellation of events in the short-term might yet have a longer term impact on how companies operate: if money continues to be made, perhaps there are bigger questions to be asked about how the ever-increasing events calendar of recent years develops in the decade to come.

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