MIPTV Takeaways: Blue Ant’s Ben Barrett on budgets, pre-buys & why €35 bowls of pasta matter

MIPTV 2023

MIPTV has wrapped and as the 5,510 participants (according to organisers RX France) head back to their 86 countries of origin, Blue Ant International’s Ben Barrett reflects on anniversaries, budgets and what links soaring prices on the Croisette with TV.

MIPTV celebrated its 60th anniversary this year and it’s almost hard to reconcile the amount of evolution our industry has experienced over six decades.

My very first day working in television was 25 years ago this week and it all started at MIPTV. As I reflect back over my quarter century of attending this market, this one feels different to any I have been at before and my presiding takeaway is we are in the middle of a major shift in the industry.

Ben Barrett at MIPTV 2023

Bugdetary pressures

The cheapest meal I could find on the Croisette this week was a bowl of pasta for €35. It’s just another indication that price inflation is alive and well. Likewise, the cost of producing television has ballooned, which means serious barriers to entry for high-end projects. So innovation and creativity have never been more important as we all seek new ways to work around financing obstacles. We’re tasked more than ever to find interesting ways to maximize rights and IP with existing and emerging channel partners with a variety of windowing strategies across multiple platforms.

Pre-buying is the new packaged

MIPTV has always been predominantly a finished show market, even in comparison to its big brother MIPCOM, which enjoys a greater US attendance, but now early-stage projects are dead centre of the agenda. More than ever before we are seeing early stage projects at the market not just from producers and distributors but also now broadcasters who seek to fund the shows they are backing. Our own example is Blue Ant Media’s pre-MIPTV announcement of A Secret To Die For, a true-crime series pilot produced by Blue Ant Studios, and a FAST channel original that we brought to the market for the sole purpose of seeking pre-buy partners.

MIPTV 2023

Success metrics

The overwhelming focus on ROI and performance in the era of streamers presents a dangerous precedent and a real challenge for smaller, independent producers going forward. During her keynote interview, See It Now Studios’ (CBS) Susan Zirinsky addressed these challenges, referencing a “tsunami of content” being pitched, however the analytics that streamers are using means that many great and worthy smaller projects won’t be financed as the “computer says no” in terms of potential audience.

Evolving copro financing models
The MIPDOC Co-production Summit saw a raft of co-pro opportunities with producers and broadcasters alike looking to find collaborations to get projects greenlit. A great example of this is the co-produced docuseries Citizens at War: A Year In The Ukraine, a fascinating six-part series that takes viewers behind the front lines in the war in Ukraine, revealing incredible survival during an existential conflict. The project was the subject of a case study panel I participated in during MIPDOC to provide insight on how Blue Ant International led the financing on this meaningful project by bringing several partners together including Tilt Media in Australia, GTV Docs in London, Film.UA in Ukraine and broadcasters TF1 and ZDF.

MIPTV 2023

The new fast track

FAST is here and it continues to rapidly evolve to the centre of the stage. Everyone is either catching up or in Cannes to wrap their heads on how to leverage free streaming to extend the life of a single project, launch new originals or create their own channels. In response to this, MipTV dedicated an entire block of programming to the rapidly expanding FAST broadcast model. Multiple sessions during the Streaming TV (FAST) Summit delved into the biggest new growth trend of 2023 from all angles with some of the biggest leaders giving their takes, including Carlyn Staudt, Head of Commissioning, Blue Ant Media and GM of Love Nature who joined a moderated discussion to provide insight into launching, monetizing and building advertising models in 2023.

Less is sometimes more

During my initial walkthrough of the Palais, my first observation was that there were visibly far more open networking spaces and far less trade booths. But that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have found over the past few days that less can be more. Lots of attendees went to MipTV to do business and the quality of meetings are a better reflection of the market. Pacing is slower – but that allows for more quality discussions and longer meet times. There was more time to do different types of meetings which ended up bearing unexpected fruit.

Ben Barrett is global head of content & financing at Blue Ant International. Based in London, he oversees the distribution group’s content licensing and global partnerships throughout the UK and Europe.

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