By Karen Ruttner

Laurine Garaude is bursting with optimism when it comes to MIPCOM 2009. Participant enrolment is at a healthy clip, the panel schedule is rife with marquee talent and executives, and the overall attitude is that of “change for the better.” VideoAge had the opportunity to get insight in regard to the industry’s new direction and how this year’s MIPCOM will serve as guide from Garaude, who is acting director of the TV division of Reed MIDEM, MIPCOM’s organizer.

VideoAge International: We know that nowadays the quality of participants is more important than the quantity, but exhibitors like to be reassured that a good number of buyers will be at MIPCOM. How are things looking in terms of projected attendance this year?

Laurine Garaude: Attendance is looking good. Currently we have over 3,000 buyers signed up for MIPCOM and some 400 for MIPjunior. We should have close to 4,000 buyers at MIPCOM. The overall projected attendance is in the region of 12,000 or more participants.

VAI: The fact that Warner Bros. was allowed to pull out from this past MIP at the last minute caused some awkwardness among the other U.S. studios. Is there a way to avoid similar occurrences this year?

LG: Warner did participate at last MIP-TV, although they didn’t have a stand. These have been particularly challenging times, and this was directly linked to the economic situation, but Warner will be back as usual at MIPCOM.

VAI: Do you have any news concerning your next head of U.S. operations? You were recently in your New York City office to interview potential candidates. When will you be able to announce the appointment?

LG: We are currently interviewing candidates and we hope to be able to announce an appointment soon.

VAI: Can you give us an idea of the key events that will make MIPCOM a must attend market?

LG: MIPCOM will once again to be a very busy and dynamic global market where the entertainment industry converges to showcase, license and finance the most compelling new programming and productions across all platforms. In addition to the business aspect we are also expecting a number of world renowned creative personalities and stars. We are delighted to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons, the longest running comedy series on prime time TV, together with Twentieth Century Fox Distribution. We are proud to welcome to MIPCOM the series’ creator Matt Groening and executive producer Al Jean as keynote speakers and we will be honouring Matt Groening with our inaugural Creative Icon Award on October 7. The legendary Jerry Seinfeld will be in Cannes with Endemol to launch his new comedy format The Marriage Ref with his partner Ellen Rakieten (The Oprah Winfrey Show). His packed schedule includes a press conference which is open to all MIPCOM participants. Of course, the conferences too include a line-up of leading industry figures who will be giving keynotes, including: Tom Rogers, President and CEO of digital video recorder pioneer TiVo, Tony Cohen, CEO of Fremantle, Brian Goldner, CEO of Hasbro, Richard Pinder, COO, Publicis Worldwide and Javier Perez Dolset, President & CEO Zed Worldwide. Lisa Kudrow will be in Cannes to promote the format Who Do You Think You Are and will speak on the importance of creativity in the session “International Format Creators”. The famous Japanese format creator and producer, Yasushi Akimoto, will also be speaking in same session. We are also delighted to welcome the British actor, John Nettles, who stars in one of Britain’s highest rating TV police dramas, Midsomer Murders.

VAI: Why is this MIPCOM of particular importance in terms of its place in the industry landscape in the current economy?

LG: As Sir Martin Sorrell said during his keynote at MIP-TV, it is expected that the post-recession media world will be forever changed, the economic crisis having accelerated the changes taking place particularly in the areas of digital, production models and the relationship between TV and advertising. In addition to the traditional buying and selling of international programmes which characterizes MIPCOM, and which is even more important in these challenging times, MIPCOM 2009, the largest gathering for TV and media professionals, will be of particular importance in helping professionals take stock of the key issues, identify new business models, exchange with fellow counterparts internationally and create new relationships and partnerships in new areas. The conferences offer an ideal opportunity to do this and bring together some of the greatest minds in TV and media. This year’s central conference theme is entitled “Rethinking your Business” and includes over 45 sessions, keynotes, screenings and matchmaking events. During such challenging economic times and coupled with a period of rapid migration to online viewing, we see “Rethinking your Business” as an immediate call to action to re-examine production funding and distribution monetisation models. There will be three key streams of conferences and events. “Rethinking Production” kicks off the conference programme, which will focus on identifying new revenue streams, taking a close look at co-production deals, commissioning, Internet distribution, new formats and online content monetisation. We have been working closely with a number of producers’ associations worldwide in developing this programme and to make the initiative as accessible as possible for new independent producers, who are so important to the creative process, we are offering a special rate to first timer producers. The new “Games2TV2Games Summit” is a full-day conference track where we will explore the impact of online gaming on the production business and how to develop revenues with online partners. Online gaming is one of the fastest growing areas of entertainment and there are new opportunities for producers and broadcasters to forge new relationships with online gaming companies. MIPCOM is seeking to facilitate this by bringing together game developers with international TV channels and production executives. Finally the third focus “Connected Entertainment” will look at the impact of technology innovations and Internet-enabled TV sets in the home on all areas of the TV industry, including cable, IPTV, telcos and online distribution platforms. It will look at how Pay TV can adapt to the threat from web video. It will also focus on how the explosion of Mobile Apps will offer new sources of revenues for the content industry.

VAI: You’re a Yalie, how do you cope with an industry full of Harvard’s MBAs?

LG: Well I never thought about it that way… I guess we are complementary!