One aspect of show business that has little historical reference is the actual business of selling and buying film and TV shows. This element epitomized by trade shows is actually responsible for the development of private television around the world and by the creation of the syndication business in the U.S.
Starting with the private TV sector in Canada in 1961 and continuing with private television in Italy in 1976, which soon extended to the whole European continent, the nascent TV stations couldn’t afford to produce their own shows in order to successfully compete with the more established and richer public TV channels. Their only way to establish themselves as entertainment outlets was to acquire TV series first from the U.S. and, later, from the U.K., France, Canada and Latin America.
Program acquisitions also benefitted the public TV sector, since they could reduce the number of shows to be produced, and thus allocate the finite financial resources for fewer, but better shows.
In the early years of public television, programs were mostly exchanged among state networks and movies were sold by producers and studios. In a time with no satellite distribution and no videotapes, the only form of transport was film (for dramas and movies) or kinescopes (telerecording in the U.K.) for live shows, which were recordings of TV programs on film projected through a video monitor.
Under these motivations, it was inevitable that a marketplace would be developed, where film and TV shows could be sold more efficiently, and this occurred for the first time in 1960 in Milan, Italy, with a trade show called MIFED.
A second trade show for the entertainment industry was developed in 1963, in Lyon, France and called MIP-TV, which, two years later, moved to Cannes, in the South of France.
While the MIFED market consisted of rooms inside a building in the Milan Fair, MIP-TV used stands inside the Conference Palais.
In 1964, something unique happened in Los Angeles: the creation of an “organic” (i.e., not centrally organized) market, first named just “Screenings,” later called “May Screenings,” (because they were held in the month of May) and ultimately renamed the current “L.A. Screenings” by Dom Serafini, editor of VideoAge, in 1983.
In 1979, two more content markets were developed: One in Monaco, the Monte Carlo TV Festival & Market, and one in New York City by the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE). Both utilized hotel rooms that were converted into offices. NATPE started in 1963, but its first trade show was held 16 years later in New York City. It changed into a booth-based market in 1983, but returned into a hotel-based event in 2011 in Miami Beach, Florida.
The Monte Carlo TV Festival was started in 1961 and the market was added 18 years later.
However, the Monte Carlo TV Festival wasn’t the world’s first TV festival, that distinction belongs to RAI’s Prix Italia, which was started in 1948.
While the Monte Carlo TV market was discontinued in 2001, MIFED closed in 2005. They were the world’s only major entertainment trade shows that actually closed down.
Naturally, the U.S. entertainment sector has had a trade show since the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) was founded in 1923 in Chicago, but it was first for radio equipment and, in 1947 included television hardware. It was only in 1971, with the advent of syndication spearheaded by the FCC’s fin-syn rules, that NAB started to feature program sales.
Since NAB was a favorite meeting venue for TV station managers, syndicators started to exhibit at NAB in order to sell them first run (original) and off-net shows.
Ironically, station managers would go to the NAB Show to monitor hardware acquisitions and make sure that their station engineers would not go “crazy” over new equipment (they used to refer to them as engineers’ “new toys”). However, it was the station managers who ultimately ended up spending millions of dollars to acquire programs at NAB.
The first NAB Show was held in New York City. It moved for the first time to Las Vegas in 1978, then it became itinerant for a few years, until settling permanently in Las Vegas in 1980.
With fin-syn abolished in 1993, the NAB Show became less relevant to the TV content business and forced NATPE to morph into an international TV trade show.
The end of fin-syn spelled the beginning of the end for two other U.S. trade shows: One organized by the Association of Independent Television Stations (INTV), the other by the Promotion Marketing & Design (Promax).
INTV began in the U.S. in 1972, and starting in 1990 its conventions were held in conjunction with NATPE, up until its annual trade show ended with the repeal of Fin-syn. In 1996, INTV changes its name to the Association of Local Television Stations (ALTV) and in 2002 the Association closed down.
Promax was established in the U.S. in 1956. It began as the Broadcast Promotion Association. In 1985 it changed its name to Broadcast Promotion and Marketing Executives, and in 1993 it became Promax, which in 1997 merged with the Broadcasting Design Association (DBA). With fin-syn, the Promax annual convention became the best market to showcase syndicated shows to local TV stations. Once fin-syn was abolished, PromaxDBA lost its allure to content distribution companies and became a conference-based event.
Before the advent of trade shows for content sales, the only places to buy and sell movies were film festivals in Venice, Italy and Cannes, France.
The world’s oldest film festival is the Venice Film Festival, born in 1932, while the Cannes Film Festival was created in 1939 by a group of Jewish filmmakers to contrast the Fascist Venetian event. However, because of the War, the first Cannes Film Festival was held in 1946.
Then there is DISCOP, which was founded in Los Angeles 1991 by Patrick Zuchowicki as the Discounted Programs Market, a trading firm that helped Film and TV content exporters access the ex-republics of the Soviet Union. In 1993, a stand-alone market was created and named DISCOP. The first editions took place in Warsaw (1992 and 1993) and from then on in Budapest until DISCOP Budapest was sold to NATPE in 2011.
Over the years, DISCOP has organized other markets in Abidjan, Accra, Dakar, Dubai, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, Nairobi, Shenzhen, and Tashkent.