By Leah Hochbaum

At this year’s 22nd annual MIPCOM, held October 9-13 at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, it was business as usual, with a relatively relaxed market that left attendees asking: “Is there no next big hit?”

“There’s no one thing galvanizing the industry right now,” said CABLEready president and CEO Gary Lico. “This is the 20th time I’ve been to [a market in] Cannes, but this is probably the calmest it’s ever been. TV’s become more homogenous, so no one’s going crazy over the next Survivor or the next Friends like in past years. Everyone with a booth had an opportunity to be noticed. It creates a more democratic environment.”

This more independent-minded market helped CABLEready with It Could Happen Tomorrow, a new series from the Weather Channel that Lico said saw a lot of interest at MIPCOM. “It has something for everyone. It’s science. It’s a documentary. And it’s weather porn,” he added with a laugh. “It was nice to come to a market with something that worked across so many different channels.”

Andrea Stokes of Canada-based Canamedia concurred that the lack of one clear-cut breakout hit “makes life more lucrative for lifestyle and documentary distributors such as ourselves.”

Indeed, the market could prove to be a profitable one for Canamedia. “We had serious interest from major broadcasters worldwide in our new HD science/adventure/travel series Angry Planet, and got a great response for our new HD political documentary Beyond the Red Wall: The Story of Falun Gong,” she said.

Yet, while much of the talk about MIPCOM was about what wasn’t there (namely a big hit), most of it was about the deals being made.

“The market was definitely a busy one,” said Oliver Kreuter of Bavaria Media, which finalized a string of package deals while in Cannes, including an agreement to send 20 German TV movies to Iran’s QMIP. Arab Radio and Television also chose 10 titles from the distributor’s catalog for one of its pay-TV outfits, while, on the co-production side, the company managed to find five Eastern European partners for its new avalanche disaster movie Val Montana, including the Czech Republic’s Nova TV, Hungary’s RTL Klub, Slovakia’s TV Markiza, Romania’s TV Romana and the Ukraine’s IC-TV.

“The Iran deal is the result of some lengthy talks and negotiations by one of our sales managers way ahead of the market,” said Kreuter. “She was able to provide a suitable selection which ultimately was rewarded at MIPCOM.”

RHI Entertainment also clinched a raft of deals while in France. “Unlike our last MIPCOM which, thanks to being flooded out of the Palais, resembled a scene from our upcoming miniseries Tidal Wave, this market was dry, sunny and very busy,” said Joel Denton, president of Production and Distribution for RHI. The company signed an output deal with France’s M6 to acquire its slate of upcoming miniseries, TV movies and library catalog.

Australia’s Beyond Distribution also signed some contracts, selling children’s series Milly, Molly and Amazing Extraordinary Friends to ABC in Australia, and is currently finalizing negotiations for sale of the series in other key territories. The company also concluded major pre-sales for a third season of long-running kiddie fave Backyard Science, as well as inking an agreement with Australia’s SBS to license the new season of myth-debunking series MythBusters.

“This particular market was the best yet,” said Fiona Crago, general manager of Distribution at Beyond. “We came home very excited by the new opportunities presented and we felt that the programming that we were representing was stronger and more commercial than ever.”

For more detailed information about MIPCOM, look in the November issue of VideoAge International for Lucy Cohen’s wrap-up of the action.