By Leah Hochbaum

More than 1,500 participants — a whopping 50 percent increase over last year’s numbers — will be in attendance at the upcoming DISCOP 2007 market, to be held June 20-22 at the Sofitel Atrium Hotel in Budapest. VideoAge spoke with a number of television execs and DISCOP insiders to learn why the event, which focuses on Central and Eastern Europe, is growing at such a rapid pace and what, if anything, they expect from the market.

“DISCOP is simply a great opportunity to follow up with our clients about conversations we began at MIP-TV,” said Granada International’s Dorit Schilling. “It’s great to see everyone in one place and catch up.” She did, however, point out that many buyers don’t attend DISCOP due to the fact that there are too many markets throughout the year. “But there’s a good chunk of people,” she added.

As to the question of why the market has grown so quickly, Schilling had this to say: “DISCOP has raised its profile because Eastern Europe has become a much stronger market, with the region becoming more economically stable in recent years.”

Schilling is hoping this newfound stability will help her sell as much of Granada’s catalogue as possible. She’ll attend the market with a collection of Jane Austen films, including Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Emma, as well as action docudrama Perfect Disaster because “literary adaptations and action movies tend to sell well in Eastern Europe.”

And while she looks forward to the newly grown market, Schilling won’t be attending DISCOP’s newest program, DISCOPRO, a day-long conference and networking event dedicated to co-production opportunities in the region. “I hope to go next year,” she said.

Patrick Jucaud, general manager of DISCOP, said that DISCOPRO will become a permanent DISCOP event, but that next year and at all future DISCOPs, it’ll be a two-day extravaganza, complete with a pitching element. “We felt it was too early this year for that,” he said.

DISCOPRO, which will be held Tuesday, June 19, will feature panels and seminars on topics related to all the European Union, government and privately-backed incentive packages available to encourage pan-European co-productions.

“With the recent expansion of the EU, the proposed ascension of the Balkans to the EU, a booming Central and Eastern European-based television industry…there has never been a better time for a conference such as DISCOPRO, and we look forward to expanding the program into an annual event,” Jucaud said.

When asked why DISCOP has grown by leaps and bounds, Jucaud referenced DISCOP’s joint partner, NATPE, which acquired the Budapest market in 2005. “Since we teamed up, we’ve seen more American companies attending DISCOP,” he said. “In fact, last year we saw a 100 percent increase in U.S. attendance.”

In addition, said Jucaud, the partnership with NATPE “allows us to feel more in touch with the problems and solutions this industry is facing. Our relationship with NATPE helps us better understand the issues.”

James Anderson, sales manager at U.K.-based 3DD Entertainment, who will be on hand at the Sofitel, has noticed the market’s change for the better. “DISCOP has gone from strength to strength and we have noticed considerable growth in many territories in the region.” 3DD recently finalized a number of deals with key Central and Eastern European buyers pre-DISCOP. An Evening with James Blunt and Gorillaz: Demon Days Live in Manchester were snapped up by the Czech Republic’s Ceska Television, while Russia’s Kultura TV bought Natalie Cole-Ask a Woman Who Knows.

Things are definitely looking up for the region. Jucaud summed it up best: “Many of our clients struggled through years when it was difficult to do business, but now they are finally gratified with the marketplace.”