TBI Weekly: All eyes on MIPTV 2023

MIPTV 2023 – © Yann Coatsaliou/360 Médias

MIPTV might have been quieter than previous years but news was in no short supply.

From FAST’s increasing demands for exclusivity, to “painful” market corrections and factual tape becoming more valuable than gold dust, it was an event that saw keynotes and sessions produce genuine headlines.

Here are six key takeaways from MIPTV 2023.

Is FAST the new SVOD?

Attending panels when you could be pressing flesh and striking deals is always a risk so it was noticeable that of all the sessions put on by MIPTV organisers, it was FAST that filled the room (aside from The WIT’s brilliant format session).

Admittedly, the FAST sessions were not held in the sometimes deserted Debussy but there were still hundreds in attendance to find out more about the nascent tech.

Jennifer Batty

Two things stood out. Firstly, while FAST has become huge in the US, in most countries it remains nascent. TBI broke news this week that Australia is poised for growth over the next four years and will overtake Germany in revenue terms by 2027, according to the latest research from Omdia.

Yet zoom out and its revenue raising potential still remains considerably less than other platforms. Omdia’s Maria Rua Aguete pointed to the fact that while FAST revenues are set to hit $12bn by 2027, social media – and Tik Tok in particular – will hit $90bn. YouTube will pull in $37bn alone, closely followed by Netflix and Meta. Nevertheless, $12bn is “not to be sniffed at”, as Rua Aguete put it.

Secondly, the battle for eyeballs is getting increasingly heated and exclusivity of channels and content seems to be one weapon of choice against the competition, just as it was in the heady days of SVOD.

Jennifer Batty, Samsung TV’s head of content acquisition, admitted that surging interest in the space has created an environment in which platforms need to differentiate themselves. “Exclusivity is definitely the direction that we’re looking at,” she said, adding that “we want to be able to differentiate ourselves with the content we are taking to people. Having content everywhere means it is harder to build the brand.”

For content owners, it means prices for content need to rise. “For more exclusivity, things need to change in terms of commercial bonding,” said Banijay Rights’ VP of digital, Shaun Keeble, “but there is certainly a need for differentiation especially across more maturing markets in FAST.”

Just as the SVOD streamers of five years ago used original programming to build their brands, now it is the turn of FAST – although it is unclear whether the sums will stack up.

Painful corrections & bursting bubbles

Certainly, the sums for DTC streamers from the US studios did not add up and the global industry is now finding itself in retreat from the SVOD spending frenzy.

Sister co-CEO Jane Featherstone described the necessary but “painful” correction currently in play as spending gets squeezed, but also pointed to the emergence of more cooperation between commissioners.

Jane Featherstone

“The streamers now have extremely unique and clear brands, they can share more in order to make the sums add up and that is really a healthy place to be in,” she said, while not ruling out a move into distribution for her fast-growing company, which has been behind Chernobyl, The Split and This Is Going To Hurt.

“We are riding along the wave and we are nimble and independent and we’ll see where it takes us, but I do think the distribution model will be reignited in a serious way with the FAST channels. The days of exclusivity in perpetuity are probably numbered.”

StudioCanal’s CEO Anna Marsh also said that the bubble “has burst”, pointing to a slowdown in greenlights and much longer development periods.

Yet, underlining the complexity and rapidity of the change, Marsh also used the same keynote session to unveil further investment in the space.

A new drama – How To Stop Time – is in the works with Canal+, via Benedict Cumberbatch and his Sunnymarch prodco, which is backed by Studiocanal, while Marsh also confirmed the backing of UK-based prodco Strong Film & Television.

“Our strategy is not to go about and buy as many companies as we can. We are looking for strategic alliances, to work with like-minded talent and producers in front and behind the camera. We are out there looking for partnerships,” underlining a common theme as dollars become more scarce.

Boarding the format bus

Talking of partnerships, perhaps the biggest deal of the week was around Destination X, which secured a co-commission from the BBC in the UK and NBC in the US.

‘Destination X’ bus

The Belgian format, created by Geronimo, follows 10 contestants as they embark on the road trip of a lifetime but have no idea of their location.

And, as any good marketer would do, Be Entertainment took the wheel and headed to Cannes with aforementioned bus, allowing buyers to see what the adventure reality competition show is all about.

The deal underlined the increasing importance of formats, as scripted budgets get tightened, but also the longer tail effect of The Traitors, as buyers look for formats with a similar tone.

The Traitors was not left behind however, as distirbutor All3Media International unveiled a raft of its own commissions as the trailblazing hit continues to prove that the country-by-country roll-out strategy – whose very survival was being questioned by some in recent years – is alive and well. You just need the right show.

Play the tape

While format deals sung from the news pages, quality finished tape factual programming is currently as valuable as gold dust – at least so far as National Geographic’s Ben Noot is concerned.

Talking to an audience at MIPTV this week, the global acquisitions director for the Disney-owned channels highlighted how the market has been changing, despite his job title.

“Over the last five years, doing acquisitions has been harder to do than co-productions and pre-sales. I think finding good finished tape that is available in as many markets as I can buy for is becoming rarer and rarer,” said Noot, before telling the audience: “If you have finished tape, I’d love to see it.”

What Noot is after, chiefly, is returnable factual content, which he described as “the bread and butter of the acquisitions department”.

And Nat Geo isn’t the only factual giant with this game plan – speaking on the same panel was Isabelle Oliphant, senior acquisitions manager at Warner Bros Discovery (WBD), who also hammered home the interest in returnable series.

She told the crowd that she is seeking factual series based around “fallen icons”, “topical, news adjacent titles”, the British royals and “anniversaries” such as the 9/11 terror attacks.

All eye-grabbing topics that should shore up some factual interest as WBD prepares to roll out Max, the combined Discovery+ & HBO Max streamer, next month.

Talking about their generation

The future of the kids TV industry was up for some serious discussion in Cannes, with a half-day summit devoted to the topic and a large focus on capturing the Gen Alpha audience.

Evan Shapiro

While talk around TV and gaming has lately focused on more adult fare like The Last Of Us, it is games such as Fortnite and Roblox that are taking youngsters away from traditional TV.

Ashley Fell, a researcher and trends analyst at Sydney-based McCrindle, kicked off the summit with a keynote in which she explained that if producers want to engage with this “tech savvy” generation then it has to look online.

Media expert Evan Shapiro told the audience that “social video is now premium video”, highlighting the immense success of YouTubers such as MrBeast and advising producers to take a digital-first content strategy to connect with a generation that is largely disinterested in consuming content via television.

“Be brave enough to greenlight yourself,” said Shapiro, who advised creators to develop content for TikTok And YouTube and establish a presence there rather than sitting around for a TV deal.

Next year, numbers & MIPCOM

And so to the numbers. Attendance stood at 5,650 participants from 86 countries (including 140 who were virtual), up 22% on last year, according to organisers RX France. But down from north of 9,000 for MIPTV 2019.

MIPTV 2023

The question is how much that matters, as Siobhan Crawford touches on in her format-focused column for TBI.

For most of the execs TBI talked to, a less frenetic market isn’t necessarily a bad thing – although they were the ones who had committed and were already in Cannes. There is critical mass, for sure, but at present MIPTV seems to be on the right side of that, with attendees from those 86 countries providing considerable ballast to the argument.

And, there is a broader picture here that might support MIPTV as a worthy fixture in the calendar for the foreseeable. As Featherstone pointed out, distribution is coming back into vogue, partnerships are key and finished tape is hot. While scripted might be facing swinging cuts, investment in formats and factual is increasing.

There’s also the rapid emergence of FAST. Whether it proves to be a gold rush bonanza for the few or a bona fide source of long-term revenue, it is the conversation that matters. Its existence and potential provides another reason for people to attend.

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