Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

MIPCOM 2013 Takeaways: Cracking the Cannes Market #1

Cannes hosted 13,500 delegates who attended MIPCOM, the leading international television market.

The vibe was positive:

  • Meeting rooms were busy,
  • Restaurants were full,
  • And sales folks were smiling more often than at any recent post-GFC market.

Here are my first impressions:

1. Here Comes Africa!

Nigeria and South Africa caught my eye with their new and busy stands in the Palais. I also met with a Kenyan delegation.

There’s something happening here:

  • Africa has massive scale – a population of more than a billion.
  • Nigeria’s film industry is the world’s #3: It is measured at $500 million, and completes around 1,000 films / year.
  • I experienced South Africa’s thriving and youthful media industry at Wild Talk Africa. The RSA’s creative talent, lower production cost base and tax benefits are attracting international players.

Africa is both the world’s last under-developed continental market, and the focus of a growing strategic rivalry between the West and China that is likely to accelerate development – or regional proxy wars.

I’m betting that Africa rapidly becomes an important buyer and producer of nonfiction programs.


2. China Update: The Caution Light Is Still Flashing

I met with Sunnyside’s Yves Jeanneau, who has invested wisely to create alliances with China’s government and private broadcasters, and its professional associations.

  • He announced Asian Side of the Doc 2014 which will be held in the giant southern city of Chengdu from March 18-21.
  • I’ll be there – amongst other reasons to promote my Chinese newsletter!

Highlights from several conversations with MIPCOM delegates who are active in China:

  • China’s huge delegation at MIPCOM is no longer a talking point, but a regular fixture in the global video ecosystem.
  • The nonfiction sector continues to grow, driven by China’s scale, expanding wealth, and deep cultural respect for content-rich programming.
  • China’s governing Communist Party promotes docs as an alternative to ‘trashy’ reality TV.
  • CCTV10, the Science & Education channel, is challenging CCTV9, the national documentary channel, as the peak player.
  • Competition is a good thing for sellers and partners!
  • Provincial and even municipal broadcasters are also launching non-fiction channels and blocks.

There are many basic structural issues to be resolved:

  • CCTV is the major public TV player, but many Western distributors point to the lack of transparency.
  • They ask: “Where is the rate card and the standard contract?”
  • License fees are mainly in the low $’000’s.

Corporate sponsorship is a proven path to schedule individual productions and programming blocks:

  • This can equally apply to entertainment- or content-driven nonfiction.
  • The sponsorship model involves producers with agents and dealmakers.
  • American and Western agents are established in the major media centers.

But: Buyer Beware!

  • Also, I heard of instances where producers and provincial broadcasters had jointly arranged to fund series through sponsorship deals with regional companies or government agencies.
  • CCTV spotted the programs on the regional broadcaster’s schedule, liked them, and then commandeered them for a national CCTV network.
  • The sponsors backed out because they were no longer reaching their target regional audiences.
  • And the producers were left to cover the deficits.

Key Takeaway

  • Take many small steps before mortgaging your house in hopes of selling a billion downloads in China.
  • And put ASD Chengdu on your calendar.


3. Is 4K the New HD?

  • A year ago, 4K was a real outlier, mainly on the agenda for the few projects that could be up-ressed for giant screens in museums.
  • At this MIPCOM, it was a different story.
  • Japan and Korea are launching 4K channels, and are buying finished programs now.
  • I was in on several conversations about the value of future-proofing the archive via 4K.
  • These are very early days, there’s a big 3D hangover, and the costs are still prohibitive for most productions. But the shift is on!


4. Content Is Coming Back?

  • The Palais was dominated by a huge banner of ‘Duck Dynasty’ from A+E Networks
  • But I overheard a conversation that there was a shortage of new, topic-driven documentaries and series.
  • The Reality tidal wave had discouraged producers and distributors from remaining in the market.
  • Meanwhile a cadre of new niche channels in a variety of territories had used up their launch inventories, and they were looking to buy docs and specials.
  • A trend? Maybe. But definitely good news for the handful of distributors who remained active sellers of wildlife and other content-driven categories.

5. What Was It Like at the 1st MIP? How Did It Happen?

  • Our gracious friend Dr. Reiner Moritz has attended every MIP over 50 years.
  • Don’t miss his fascinating story about doing business with 16mm projectors and no cell phones.

6. Reporting from the Croisette?

And here is my video report from the Croisette.


Speaking Engagements

footageMarketplace ‘13
Soho Club
New York City, October 17, 2013