It has been a MIPCOM like no other and yet despite the lack of rosé and late-night gossiping on the Croisette, distributors and buyers still came together – with numerous deals emerging over the past five days.
Here, TBI reflects on some of the key pick-ups to have been revealed over the week and explores what they mean for the business as a whole.
Max-imising acquisitions & learning languages
For the drama business, two major trends emerged from MIPCOM Online+, and both involved WarnerMedia’s recently launched streamer HBO Max.
On the eve of the virtual event, the SVOD confirmed it had acquired Bad Wolf’s UK drama I Hate Suzie and there was more to come, with the streamer also adding two other new European-made dramas, the psychological thriller Possessions and Adult Material, the latter about the British porn industry. Both shows underlined the appetite for acquisitions at HBO Max – which has seen its launch slate hit by the pandemic’s effect on production – but the sale of French, Hebrew and English-language drama Possessions also highlighted the embrace of multi-language – and non-English language – scripted shows among global buyers.
Other deals saw broadcasters across Europe, Latin America and the US acquire Movistar+’s Spanish drama Tell Me Who I Am, Icelandic drama The Minister picked up by Australia’s SBS and TVO in Canada, and RTL in Hungary and Poland’s Telewizja WP adding NTV’s Russian crime series Shepherd, following deals with distributor Dori Media Group.
While programming news on the scripted and factual side might not have been up to the normal frenetic standards of a typical MIPCOM week in Cannes (ah, remember them…), the flow was steady – except in the format world.
Deals were scarce, which was perhaps unsurprising given the fact that most commercial broadcasters have been looking to keep a close eye on budgets, with a tendency for both buyers and sellers in the format biz to be focusing on building on existing relationships rather than striking out anew. There were moves being made, however: NBCUniversal International Studios-owned Matchbox Pictures and Sydney- and LA-based Eureka Productions teamed up to co-produce an Australian version of NBC’s competition format Making It for Network 10, while BBC Studios secured deals with companies including Greek broadcaster ERT, which is preparing to air a local version of quiz show A Question Of Sport.
Reflecting demand for tried and tested IP, BBCS also agreed new deals for fellow quiz show format Weakest Link, which returned to NBC in the US last month, and SBS is extending Mastermind. South Korea, MIPCOM’s country of honour, remains a key partner in thew format biz too, reflected by Canada’s Media Ranch striking an “exchange partnership” with Something Special, the firm launched earlier this year by former CJ E&M exec Jin Woo Hwang and former SBS FormatEast MD Insoon Kim.
At a time when buyers can ill-afford to risk their budgets on unproven content, the current popularity for tried-and-tested returnable shows was clear among a flurry of factual deals emerging this week.
Recently-merged UK-and-Australia-based distributor Beyond Rights – whose acquisitions chief left yesterday, as revealed by TBI – started the market in fine fettle, having shopped more than 320 hours of returnable, unscripted series to US broadcasters. Animal Planet US, CF Entertainment, The Weather Channel, HGTV US and the Science Channel were among those to pick up series, with long-running obs-doc series Highway Thru Hell and Heavy Rescue: 401 proving big hits with buyers; multiple seasons of both series selling to numerous networks.
That’s not to say newer productions weren’t still doing the rounds, with science series The Animal Within and sports and adventure show The Huntsman both headed to Germany’s free TV channel NTV after it inked pre-sale agreements for both with Autentic Distribution. Elsewhere, NENT Studios UK tuned into current US politics, acquiring Joe Biden: Comeback King, a new 1 x 60-minute biography about the presidential hopeful, while A+E Networks headlined its MIPCOM catalogue with a new 6 x 60-minute History Channel series with the working title of Great Escapes With Morgan Freeman, underlining the trend for Hollywood A-listers being drafted in to help shows cut through in an increasingly cluttered market.
Kids’ animation has weathered the pandemic better than some sectors but the merit of splitting the cost of production, especially as Covid-19 continues to cause disruption, was evident this week at MIPCOM Online+ and there was more than one production partnership to emerge from the event.
The UK’s Jellyfish Originals, the children’s animation original production arm of Jellyfish Pictures, and China’s Alpha Group announced a co-production agreement, with the two companies joining forces to create Battle Of The Bugs, a futuristic action-comedy about three youngsters who must save the world from invading giant robot bugs. Jellyfish will be providing script to screen production services whilst managing global pre-sales and consumer products rights outside of China and Asia. Alpha Group, meanwhile, will oversee all rights in China and Asia and spearhead the licensing programme.
Likewise, US-based kids studio Splash Entertainment and ViacomCBS-owned, Israel-based Ananey Studios revealed that they have also teamed up for preschool series Family Rocks, which debuted at MIPCOM this week. The series follows the Stone Age adventures of the Quartz family, a clan of Neanderthals, a story that Splash director of development Peter Young said the company “fell in love” with as soon as they saw it.
MIPCOM Online+ may have dominated most people’s schedules this week, but it isn’t the only industry event taking place. The sixth edition of the MIA (Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo) Italian film and audiovisual event is also underway and, unlike most of its contemporaries, is still holding a physical component – with attendees adhering to Covid-19 protocols, of course. Hundreds of guests are attending the Rome event in person, with the rest logging on to MIA Digital, and an array of guests in place as well as pitching and funding forums. Organisers have also lined up 137 films and 100 other TV series and documentaries to be shown across the five days from 14-18 October, with attendees looking to make the most of the now somewhat rare in-person networking opportunities.