By Dom Serafini

The NATPE-ization of DISCOP has started showing its effects, now that the U.S.-based market, NATPE, has taken over the event, which was held in Budapest, Hungary, June 18-20. The growth of this Central and Eastern European market had been phenomenal, to the point where, if not kept under control, it could turn out to be problematic.

Over 400 exhibitors and 1,000 buyers participated at the 15th annual DISCOP East ’08 market. In total, there were more than 1,800 participants. One could see the market growth everywhere — from the added fourth floor, to the new tables in the basement, to the longer corridors with more hotel suites turned into sales offices at the Sofitel.

For some distributors, such as Germany’s Bavaria Media, DISCOP has become so important that, according to its head of Distribution, Oliver Kreuter, it requires the premiering of new shows, just like MIP-TV and MIPCOM.

But many exhibitors had hoped that the growth was going to be organic and not pumped-up. Already, signs of growing pains showed up in services such as shipping, AV readiness and hotel reservations. Some exhibitors also worry that the ratio of sellers to buyers cannot remain as it has been — tilted toward the buying side. Indeed, the major challenge for DISCOP’s organizers could be how to manage growth.

At least two resourceful exhibitors, Italy’s MondoTV and Canada’s The Fremantle Corp., posted copies of VideoAge open to their ad as replacements for brochures that were stuck in customs.

Other than that, the market was good for most participants, many of whom were looking forward to attending DISCOP Africa, to be held in Dakar, Senegal, February 25-27, 2009. Among the main events there is a planned meeting of all French-language African TV networks.

Going back to DISCOP East, one observation had been that Budapest has become a very expensive city, and perhaps a thought should be given to moving the market further East to Bucharest in Romania in 2010 since distributors have contracts for the Sofitel’s venue up until next year’s event. Reportedly, Romania could offer at least 40 percent savings and, according to one Romanian buyer, the market could be held at the Marriott Hotel. DISCOP organizers have already been approached by several people about this move and it seems that they are giving it some thought.

Meanwhile, DISCOP East ’08 exhibitors — specifically, Latin American companies — were happy with their sales, as they were among the first to harvest the riches of the Central and Eastern European TV market. Indeed, DISCOP’s Latin presence was so predominant that it has developed a flourishing Spanish-language TV publishing trade sector, even though the language is not spoken among buyers.

The success of this DISCOP could be gauged by very early Friday morning during VideoAge‘s breakfast meeting, sponsored by DISCOP, which attracted more people than normal, even though it was held on the market’s last day. This is when, customarily, most participants have left or are busy packing or recuperating from the previous night’s late-ending HBO party, which, traditionally keeps many in bed until well into the afternoon.

Among the parties to remember were the yearly Dori Media cocktail, the opening reception, Hungarian TV’s gala party and a dinner offered by the Italian ambassador to Hungary for the large Italian contingent and their guests. Dates for DISCOP 2009 are June 17-19, at the same venue.

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