By Leah Hochbaum

With MIP-TV fast approaching, VideoAge caught up with some European firms to find out what they’re doing to make some waves at the market.

“What we’re offering is entertainment with an intellectual bent,” said Heather Stevenson, president of Copenhagen-based international distributor Zodiak Television World.

At MIP-TV, the company, which specializes in the international exploitation of format programming created by its Zodiak Television Group, will be launching a variety of formats. Pin Code is a game show in which money is deposited into a player’s bank account and it’s up to the contestant to figure out the code in order to have access to the cash. Codex, a quiz show set in the British Museum, was recently commissioned for a second season on U.K. terrestrial broadcaster C4. Tribal Wives is a show in which six ordinary women are given the opportunity to get out of the rat race for a while and live among primitive tribes.

Stevenson sees Tribal Wives in particular as having a broad reach, particularly in countries where women and men are on equal footing. “Women are disgruntled with their lives all over the world,” she said, before adding that in certain patriarchal societies having women live tribal existences “wouldn’t be much of a stretch.”

Stevenson also has high hopes for Play It Again, a factual entertainment series in which celebrities reveal their relationships with music by learning to play an instrument. The show is set to air on the U.K.’s BBC in spring 2007. “Music is just so universal,” she said. “It’s global in its potential.”

France’s TF1 is also focusing on formats, having just signed on for Canada-based Distraction’s reality format, The Big Experiment, a show in which regular people get to live someone else’s life for a while. Episodes focus on what it would be like for a thin person to be fat for a while or what it would mean for a white person to be black. Originally produced by Rogue Productions for TV One in New Zealand, the series has also been sold to Belgium.

“Primetime entertainment formats are the backbone of our catalog,” said Distraction CEO Michel Rodrigue. “Whilst we continue to work hard to source the hottest new formats for our clients, Big Experiment is a classic example of a strong, well-constructed entertainment show. I very much look forward to seeing the French interpretation of the show.”

TF1’s fellow France-based firm TV France International is also keeping busy, but in a decidedly different way. The TV France International Tokyo Showcase and the Unifrance film marketplace joined forces during the Tokyo French Film Festival, being held March 13-16 in Japan. According to TV France’s Xavier Chevreau, a total of 46 French companies are participating, including 10 Francs, Pathé Distribution, Millimages, Les Films du Losange, Europe Images International and Gemini Films.

Japan is the largest market for French programs in Asia, which is itself a leading market for high-tech tools such as mobile-telephony and broadband Internet connections. At this year’s market, special attention is being placed on the use of these technologies for French content.

While France focuses on technology, Italy is honing in on co-productions. RAI Trade is bringing a remake of Tolstoy classic War and Peace to MIP. Shot in English, the miniseries is a co-production between Italian, French, German, Russian, Polish and Spanish companies. According to RAI’s head of TV Sales, Sesto Cifola, “This is one of the greatest international co-productions in which RAI has ever been involved.”

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