By Leah Hochbaum Rosner
MIP-TV is upon us. Film and television executives the world over are checking their landing gear before descending into Cannes, France to buy, sell and make all manner of television-related deals. VideoAge recently spoke with Andrew Whitaker, U.K.-based president, Europe, Middle East and Africa for the Stamford, Connecticut-based World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), about his combative company’s plans for the Cannes market and why, in its 45th year, MIP-TV continues to be a force to be reckoned with.
VideoAge International: What product are you bringing to MIP-TV?
Andrew Whitaker: We have 468 first-run hours of new programming for 2008-2009, made up of our flagship shows such as Raw and Smackdown. Additionally, we’ll be delivering 15 pay-per-view specials. We also have our WWE library and we can deliver classic WWE programming on an on-demand basis in certain markets. In addition, we have a packaged version that’s also available online. In the last year or so, we developed a WWE mobile offering that we’re rolling out on a trans-regional basis. The mobile content includes highlight clips, ringtones, wallpaper and screensavers that can complement our TV offerings.
VAI: Why is MIP-TV an important market for WWE to attend each year?
AW: MIP-TV is one of the standard-bearers of the yearly calendar as far as the WWE’s concerned. We look forward to catching up with partners to build on our success, as well as building success with new partners. We hope to break sales records this year.
VAI: Did the Writers Guild of America strike affect you in any way?
AW: It didn’t really. We produce 52 weeks of new programming every year. It’s like we’re writing our own action telenovela, so the strike wasn’t a problem for us at all. Plus, as far as we’re concerned, last year was the best year ever for us. We reported our largest gross revenue ever. It’s been a great year.
VAI: Are you on the floor of the Palais?
AW: No. Actually, we had been on the floor for 10 years. Last year, we moved up to the Riviera, where we have a terrace. It was a nice change, so we’re doing that again this year.
VAI: Do you ever get a chance to attend any of the many sessions offered by Reed Midem at MIP?
AW: Unfortunately, no. We’re really too busy learning about the marketplace through meetings with people in the marketplace. It’d be great to be able to attend some sessions. But waste not, want not. We filled up our meetings schedule really quickly this year. MIP is one of the few times during the year when we can essentially round up all of our sales partners in a single week. It’s really too important to miss any half-hour.