Time to bid au revoir to MipTV

Poppy McAlister, 12 April 2024
From C21

MIPTV: Poppy McAlister, head of UK-based distributor TVF International, offers her take on the end of MipTV, how the international distribution calendar is changing and the state of the business.

The end of MipTV – we all saw this coming. This week’s industry confab in Cannes wrapped up almost exactly as everyone expected it to, with lower attendance and a splash of rain.

After 61 years of MipTV and the industry calling for a change, we should be feeling a sense of satisfaction, closure and excitement for the 2025 industry calendar. Instead, as the curtains closed on the Croisette this week, the feeling on the ground was one of uncertainty. If we all saw this coming, why are there still so many questions?

As we arrived on the Croisette, high hopes of wild closing parties and a rush of last-minute attendees vanished fairly quickly. The truth is, the conspiracy theories surrounding RX France’s decision to cut the cord on the spring trip to Cannes are more exciting than the reality; the market has simply run its course.

Inside the Palais, instead of being rammed into the Riviera like cattle, many distributors and exhibitors were missing in action or holding meetings in restaurants like Le Californie. The rest of the Palais earned the prestigious nickname of a ‘ghost town’, with no exhibitors on the beach and ‘the Bunker’ almost entirely closed off.

One thing the industry can agree on is a statement RX France recognised themselves, that ‘the distribution calendar has moved forward to London in February’.

The 2024 edition of the London Screenings was the largest yet, whereas MipTV attendance had been shrinking even before the pandemic. It is no surprise, therefore, that only 3,500 delegates attended MipTV, when as many had made the trip to London just six weeks before.

The change in the industry’s markets is inevitably having an impact on distributors’ slates. This year, many distributors opted to go big at the London Screenings, where they could launch titles at a bespoke event rather than at MipTV. On the one hand, MipTV offers a natural juncture to follow up on these leads; but on the other, the pressure on distributors to release new titles at MipTV and to make buyers’ attendance worthwhile is likely another reason behind the move to London in February.

At MipTV this year, TVF launched just over 200 new hours of programming that were distinct from our London Screenings offering. Some of these hours are returnable series from our output deals, but many are brand new titles such as Fluid: Life Beyond the Binary (1×48’), a documentary on the science of gender fronted by Mae Martin; true crime series The Trials of Kyle Rittenhouse (2×45’/1×90’); and A+E Networks Blaze series Weird Britain (12×45’).

Despite the pressure of back-to-back slate launches, having two marquee markets in the first half of the year has given canny distributors twice the opportunity to give premium shows their moment in the sun, so more creative thinking will be required to keep this up going forwards, with MipTV vacating the April calendar.

Requests from buyers at MipTV this week were split into two broad categories: returnable, splashy, entertainment formats; and blue-chip core genres like history, science and wildlife.

Still grappling with risk aversion in the c-suite and audience retention, buyers want to see fresh angles to well-known topics, or programming with a strong contemporary hook.

Some of our top requested titles this year were 1979: The Year of the Islamist Revolution, a historical miniseries that provides context for understanding today’s Middle East; Marlon Brando: In Paradise, which reveals the lesser-known conservationist side of the Hollywood icon on the 100th anniversary of his birth; and Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre, about the October 7th massacre by Hamas.

What these titles have in common is a strong ‘why now’; a reason for buyers to program them at a time when budgets are not reflecting the growth in content output.

There was much anticipation about the Mip London presentation from RX on Tuesday, but very little was actually revealed about the event. RX maintains that the event will be complementary to the London Screenings, offering buyers and exhibitors from outside London a base hub and a chance to attend.

But buyers and sellers alike are finding it hard to understand how these two events can co-exist. The London Screenings week is already packed with many events overlapping, so it’s difficult to imagine where a whole other market can fit in.

At TVF, we’re lucky to be based in the Big Smoke already, unlike for example, mainland European distributors. Hopefully, Mip London will lead to an expansion of an already established and successful event, allowing more buyers from around the world to get involved.

But as the sun sets on MipTV, looking towards 2025 there is still a lot to be determined, with many questions unanswered, and plenty of food for thought. We’ll miss our April prawns on the Croisette, but at least we can still get them at Mipcom in October. And Soho has plenty of better bars than Brown Sugar. When one door closes…