The industry’s calendar showed three TV trade shows that were to be held in Europe in the spring: Series Mania in northern France’s Lille, MIP-TV in southern France’s Cannes, and Cartoons on the Bay, set to take place in Pescara, a town in the center of Italy. With north, south, and the center all represented, the geographical balance was to be well respected. But after the completion of NATPE Miami in late January, the TV sector became aware of a threat to more than just the overlapping calendar dates: the coronavirus, a virus that originated in China that’s more virulent than the similar Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that also began in China in January 2003.

Then on March 1, the French government banned indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people (although football matches were held in French stadiums and weren’t shut down because they were held outdoor).

According to the Wall Street Journal, so far organizers in Asia, Europe and North America have cancelled or postponed some 440 trade shows and exhibitions in response to the coronavirus.

In early March, the French government further restricted indoor gatherings to 1,000 people, causing the cancellation of Series Mania. While the Forum, the B2B portion of the event, would have attracted 3,000 people, its public screenings, with 72,000 people, represented a problem, even though they were to take place in multiple venues throughout town, with relatively few attendees at each locale.

On March 11, a few hours after Series Mania canceled its event in Lille, NAB announced the postponement of its NAB Show in Las Vegas, scheduled for April 18-22. A press release from the Washington, D.C.-based association simply stated that NAB is “reviewing options for later this year.”

Market postponements due to coronavirus concerns started in February, when Hong Kong organizers postponed their FilMart from March 25-28 to August 27-29, and Reed MIDEM rescheduled its MIPIM real estate market in Cannes from March 10-13 to June 2-5.

Then on March 4 came the dramatic news that Reed MIDEM had decided to cancel MIP-TV altogether due to “concerns related to coronavirus.” However, considering that there were only 526 exhibitors and 683 buyers, the total expected participation would have ultimately reached fewer than the 5,000-person limit for indoor congregations. Many industry insiders believe that MIP-TV’s real reason for cancellation is due to lukewarm industry participation for this year’s market that would have caused Reed MIDEM to lose face if the market attracted fewer than the organizers’ aimed number of 8,000 attendees. But even if the market would have reached the expected cumulative number of 8,000 attendees, statistically speaking, it was probably improbable that more than 5,000 people would have been at the Palais at any one time.

“In the current context, many of our clients have expressed concerns about traveling at this time,” said Paul Zilk, Reed MIDEM’s CEO. “Rescheduling MIP-TV in the coming months is not feasible.”

The coronavirus would also have caused a dramatic reduction in the Chinese contingent, which traditionally constitutes a big part of MIP-TV attendees. Plus, delegations from other Asian countries would have been affected, especially considering that South Korea was to have been this MIP-TV’s Country of Honor.

Rescheduling MIP-TV would have proven a gargantuan task since Reed MIDEM already has two concurrent events — the aforementioned MIPIM and MIDEM, a music conference — set for the most logical month to switch it to, June. The month of May, of course, is out of the picture due to the popular L.A. Screenings event. The Cannes Film Festival takes place in May, as well. The next MIP-TV is now scheduled for April 10-15, 2021. It’s not yet clear if Reed MIDEM will reimburse exhibitors who’d already paid or will credit them for the MIPCOM show.

Even before this turn of events, MIP-TV was set to undergo its most drastic transformation ever in its 56-year history. First of all, it was set to start on March 30, instead of mid-April, its typical kick-off date.

Second, the exhibition floor was being completely overhauled. Organizers had planned to move all outdoor stands inside and hold the event across three floors in the Palais in order to create a clustered environment that would have appeared to be bustling at all times. This particular development meant that most of the exhibitors’ stands needed to be relocated and redesigned.

Third, there was going to be a reduced presence from the major studios, while other studios were skipping the market altogether. This latter change, while not welcome by all, would have ultimately been to the indies’ advantage since they wouldn’t have had to contend with the studios, which typically monopolize all of the buyers’ time.

And it’s not that the major studios were abandoning MIP-TV entirely, but rather re-configuring their focuses. Some studios were sending their format executives to MIP-TV. Others were sending their distribution executives to the market to meet with buyers from territories in Eastern Europe that don’t attend most of the major markets throughout the year.

Now we turn our attention to Cartoons on the Bay, a children’s TV festival organized by RAI, the Italian state broadcaster. RAI showed an early alarmist attitude. Its delegation left the Berlin International Film Festival before the event was over, but later sent one representative to the awards ceremony on February 29 to accept the two prizes that RAI-produced movies had won. Subsequently, RAI’s management circulated an internal memo instructing its personnel to use caution in traveling domestically and internationally. (News people were exempt from that directive.) Then on March 5, RAI officials decided to postpone Cartoons on the Bay to another yet-to-be-decided date, even though the festival prizes will be awarded remotely before the summer.

Also on March 5, the Nigerian International TV Summit, scheduled for April 3-4 in Paris, was rescheduled to another yet-to-be-determined date.

One interesting thing to note is that, looking back at VideoAge’s post MIP-TV 2003 review, which appeared in the May 2003 edition, the publication reported: “Between the military conflict in Iraq and the outbreak of a deadly new virus [SARS] in the Far East, not to mention the continuing recession, consolidation, and perhaps even the Oscars, which were on March 23, just before MIP-TV started, the number of buyers at this year’s market was somewhat thinned. Although 2,600 buyers were pre-registered, last-minute cancellations brought the number down to 2,336. However, even though the total attendance was reduced by 11 percent from MIP ’02 to 9,104 people, the number of exhibiting companies increased by 3.4 percent to 1,247 and the total number of participating companies was up one percent to 2,705.”

(by Don Serafini)

Audio Version (a DV Works service)

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