That MIPCOM 2021 was going to be an in-person event was announced by Reed MIDEM as early as December 2020. At that time the pandemic was raging with no end in sight, and all TV trade events were being held virtually.

The decision to hold the 2021 affair in person was a pragmatic one since imminent rescue by a vaccine was already being envisioned. It was also financial since no one expected virtual markets to actually make money. Weirdly though, the virtual edition of NATPE Miami 2021 actually made lots of money. In the intervening months, the Paris, France-based Reed MIDEM staged four virtual markets (MIP-TV, MIP China, MIPCOM, and MIP Cancun), and changed up its executive roster, with Michel Fizi taking over for Paul Zilk as Reed MIDEM’s CEO, and Lucy Smith assuming the role of TV Director, replacing Laurine Garaude.

Since June 2021 Reed Expositions and Reed MIDEM have been united under RX France and run by Fizi, who has also served as CEO of Reed Expositions since 2014.

The summer and fall seasons have seen the revival of a number of in-person gatherings and events, including the Berlinale’s summer special, the Cannes Film Festival, Series Mania, and the Venice Film Festival. With expectations high for the return of MIPCOM, VideoAge reached out to companies from the U.S., South Korea, Turkey, India, and France that are planning to attend MIPCOM to hear about their plans, concerns, and new content.

VideoAge: Are you looking forward to the first major in-person TV trade event since NATPE Miami in January 2020?

“Yes!” was the decisive response from Chevonne O’Shaughnessy, co-founder and president of American Cinema International, an independent entertainment company based in Van Nuys, California. “ACI’s last in-person event was EFM 2020. Since then, we have only attended virtual markets, and those just don’t do in-person markets justice. We have missed the energy of real markets, getting coffee with buyers, connecting with them on a personal level, and feeding off each other’s excitement within the market.”

“Of course. It is what we have all been waiting for,” concurred Christine Kim, VP and head of Sales & Licensing at Something Special, a Seoul-based TV format agency. “Ever since COVID struck, we all could only meet virtually. With MIPCOM in-person, I am excited to finally meet again with fellow buyers, producers, and sellers from studios, TV networks, OTT platforms, and more, all over the world.”

Ekin Koyuncu, who was appointed the new executive director of Turkey’s Kanal D International, the business arm of Demirören Media, said: “It has been so long since we have met with our friends and colleagues from the industry and really missed our face-to-face conversations. We are definitely looking forward to it.”

Jimmy George, VP of Sales & Acquisitions at GoQuest Media, a global distributor headquartered in Mumbai, India, was similarly hopeful. “Like many of us in the industry, I too have missed the irreplaceable experience of meeting people face to face, and if travel conditions are favorable, we will attend MIPCOM 2021,” he commented. “It will be interesting to see what coming back to a physical event will look like. We also anticipate that conversations around and about the trade/industry will have changed because of the re-inventing we have had to do over the last 16 months. We are keeping a close eye on when travel restrictions will lift, and we will make plans accordingly.”

“Well, our first major in-person event was [the animation film market] at Annecy [in June]. It was lovely to see everybody again, but having said that, ‘only’ the French were there!” said Emmanuèle Pétry Sirvin, a partner at Paris-based animation production and distribution company Dandelooo. “MIPCOM will certainly be the first ‘international’ event and I can’t wait to see my friends again, so yes most definitely!”

VideoAge: What are your main concerns (health safety, buyers, etc.) heading into MIPCOM?

ACI’s O’Shaughnessy put it very straightforwardly: “Our biggest concern headed into MIPCOM is the Delta variant, but we are confident that the market will go ahead with asking for proof of vaccination.”

“With the increased percentage of vaccinated people, I was optimistic for the fall season,” added Koyuncu. “But it seems like the virus is still in power with different variations, and we need to seek ways to protect ourselves by taking all precautions, so travelling long distances would be one of our main concerns.”

“One concern is the unpredictability of the COVID situation when MIPCOM is actually happening, and if health safety will be in place at the moment (i.e. temperature checks, QR code checks, mask rules, etc.),” noted Kim. “Another one would be how to revisit physical presentations and make exhibitions efficient for both offline and online. Prior to COVID, a networking event was a great place to meet up with new potential buyers. With COVID still ongoing, we may have to rethink how a networking event is usually held with F&B [food and beverage] and think of interesting ways this can be done offline and virtually at the same time, so those attending at home could still enjoy as well.”

GoQuest Media’s George expressed concerns about how the possibility of international travel might affect business. “Many industry executives who usually attend the market come from countries where the pandemic is still rampant, so we’re concerned about the number of buyers who will be able to make it to this year’s market,” he said.

“Even though I am personally fully vaccinated, I do fear that a fourth wave would halt all of our hopes to return to a little bit of normality again,” said Sirvin, before adding, “I’m sure all measures are being taken to make the market as safe as possible.”

“We did just participate in Cannes for the Film Festival, so we experienced how organized the French were in making sure everyone was tested every 48 hours before letting them into the Palais,” commented Lise Romanoff, managing director and CEO of Vision Films, a worldwide distributor based in Marina Del Rey, California. “I am assuming that it will be the same for MIPCOM. There was a free COVID testing site in front of the pier, and we got our results in 4-6 hours. So, as everyone was tested, I felt safe inside the Palais and in my booth at the market.”

VideoAge: How has the pandemic changed your business outlook?

KDI’s Koyuncu said, “This past year has been a huge challenge for everyone, but as a team we were able see the opportunities quickly and determine our priorities. At the beginning of the pandemic, people could not foresee many aspects, especially traditional broadcasters. Productions and daily formats were paused. This led broadcasters to lose their advertising revenues and seek changes in plans. This quickly reflected on their yearly budgets for acquisitions and related expenses such as marketing and localization.

“In these circumstances, while keeping the expenses under control and maintaining the slots running with good performances, many territories went after strong reruns. We have been underlining the strength of our all-time favorites such as Forbidden Love, Fatmagul, and Time Goes By for many years. Once again, the strength of our library provided us a much wider playground.

“With the pandemic, while strong dramas are still in demand, what I see and experience from our recent sales is that people are shifting towards more optimistic, feel-good stories. Romantic comedies have become the breakpoint to the stress we are all experiencing in our daily lives. And with our strong romantic comedy lineup we are eager to expand our reach worldwide.”

“The pandemic further encouraged us to evolve our views of the industry,” said O’Shaughnessy. “We understand that the consumption of VoD platform content is here to stay, and we see the potential in free VoD platforms that have become huge players with large audiences. We have started to embrace new forms that enhance viewing experiences. This is why ACI has decided to expand into the VoD world by launching our own YouTube channel and our own SVoD/TVoD platform that would provide our customers with the best viewing experience and access to the content they want to watch.”

“The pandemic actually brought more opportunities for Something Special,” said Kim. “With the uncertainty of production outlook, more studios are focusing on developing paper formats, and are open to co-developments. With this opportunity, Something Special was selected for several government-funded projects, including the Format Lab project for two consecutive years, where Korea’s A-list creative directors team up with top studios from across the world to co-develop original formats in diverse groups of genres — music competition, factual entertainment, dating reality, crime mystery show, and more.”

Similar to KDI’s Koyuncu, Kim also noted a move toward feel-good storytelling. “With the pandemic and depressing news around the world happening every day, it is natural that buyers are looking more into family-oriented, positive, play-along elements in a format. Factual entertainment has also been gaining traction, especially for more favorable productions during the pandemic, with a focus on daily life and social experiment, which will be easier to be developed into seasons.”

“While we yearn to go back to meeting people in person and doing business with them, we’ve also realized that this is an opportunity to pivot and relook at our strategies and processes as a business,” observed George. “A huge focus has also been given to prioritizing the mental well-being of our employees and helping them transition comfortably to working from home and dealing with what is now the ‘new normal.’ ”

Sirvin remarked, “Being able to ‘set up office’ in the countryside with long working days and taking time to talk with our partners who are working from home in stressful and difficult environments has made us realize even more so that we are first human beings and need to come closer to nature and devote our precious time to meaningful activities.”

VideoAge: Do streaming platforms and services affect your business model for international content sales?

“Yes, they do, especially for Korea in the coming months,” said Kim of Something Special. “With Paramount+, Disney+, Peacock, and other OTTs entering Korea soon, now it will be a multi-player game of OTTs, in addition to Netflix, which already has a wide user base. This provides a great opportunity for OTT platforms to collaborate with Something Special, specifically in the following ways: they can invest into Korean original production, become Korean localization production partners for IPs they own, and can co-develop ideas that can turn into global IPs. We hope the new landscape of OTTs in Korea will bring new opportunities for global OTT platforms to strategically collaborate with Something Special to their advantage.”

“Yes, streaming platforms and those services have affected our business model,” confirmed O’Shaughnessy. “While we once had locked-in deals with certain territories with monies upfront, sales have switched to a disruptive environment that sells rights to channels and platforms directly. This has greatly impacted our cash flow as we have had to come to terms with the fact that the process of receiving profits has been changed to a longer wait with a 9-to-12-month window.”

Vision Films’ Lise Romanoff commented: “We have been busier than ever during the pandemic! Television is stable and VoD is booming. We are currently with more than 30 TVoD, SVoD, and AVoD platforms in North America, and are expanding globally, doing business directly in the English-speaking world, including the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. And we are exploiting our foreign-language versions in Latin America, France, and Germany.”

Sirvin noted the increase in windowing options. “Platforms can come on board either very early on projects or ‘down the road’ — once the program is well established and has gained success on traditional TV (and in many languages too!),” she said. “This creates many windowing opportunities and visibility for our programs. Each platform has its own objectives and needs which enlarges the distribution horizons (formats, age targets, genres), and fosters creativity.”

“While adapting to the changing trends and realities of the broadcasting industry, we will continue to deliver strong dramas and romantic comedies to the international audience,” said KDI’s Koyuncu. “Opening new markets and monetizing our content in all windows is very important for us. In addition to traditional broadcasting, we are aware that we all need to prepare for a digital future. While our audience loves the quality and the richness of our stories, we see the switch to on-demand viewing, especially with younger audiences. With Demirören Media’s brand-new SVoD platform Dramax, we are aiming to introduce our series to a much wider audience, offering all productions dubbed into Spanish and Arabic.”

(By Dom Serafini & Staff Reporters)

Audio Version (a DV Works service)

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