By Josh Selig 25-10-2016
Delta flight #412 from LaGuardia to Nice almost didn’t make it. As we descended towards the Cote du Azur, we flew smack into typhoon winds, raindrops the size of jellybeans and enough turbulence to shake a martini.
The German woman behind me heaved into a paper bag, prompting the two Frenchmen on either side of her to do the same (imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery). I am not a religious person, but I did find myself praying to other people’s gods, and wondering who would sign the payroll at Little Airplane if big airplane went down. Needless to say, we did finally land with a thud in Nice, and so began my seven days of pitching and bitching, otherwise known as Mipcom 2016.
MipJunior served up the usual roomful of crazies doing whatever they could to get the attention of the poor buyers, who bobbed and weaved around the Martinez like hunted animals. There was one perky couple dressed in matching red elf suits and I found myself hoping that they were not on their honeymoon. My favourite seller was the 6ft tall guy dressed as a banana. I watched him during what appeared to be a tense negotiation in the Participant’s Lounge and overheard him say, “Gentlemen, when it comes to toy rights, this banana don’t split.”
The highlight of MipJunior was the keynote by the lovely and brilliant Deirdre Brennan, the newly minted VP of content at Corus Kids, Canada’s largest kids’ media company. Unlike so many keynoters who waste our time showing sizzle reels and reading press releases, Deirdre offered up a thoughtful and sensitive commentary about our shared responsibility to children. There were many wonderful lines in Deirdre’s speech, but my favourite one was: “Kids are creative, resilient and fearless. Why should they expect anything less from us?” Amen.
Japan was the Country of Honour at Mipcom this year, which meant they spent a lot of yen on give-away bags. They also sponsored the beautiful Japanese fan dances outside the Buyer’s Club, which were a surreal but welcome diversion for anyone who happened by. I was even handed a small wooden box of yummy sake. So thank you, Japan, for always being so utterly and perfectly Japanese.
A big topic at Mipcom was linear platforms vs OTT, or ‘over the top.’ Like most indies, I prefer not to chose sides. I love them both, but they do have some big differences when it comes to preschool shows. The linear broadcasters are mostly just searching for the next toy hit. They’ve traded in curriculum for play patterns and, with a few exceptions, they’re now pretty much just shop windows. (Not judging, just saying.)
As for the digital companies, their goals are quite different. They don’t care much about toys, but instead view preschool as a gateway drug to get families hooked on their streaming platforms. (Still not judging, still just saying.) All of this is good news for indies because it means there’s a big demand for original kids’ content, and content is still king no matter whose kingdom we happen to be in.
Security was tight this year in Cannes. There were soldiers with machine guns strolling along the Croisette like extras in a movie. There was also an expanded security perimeter around the Palais, and the French guards actually looked inside your bag instead of just pretending to. My own bag was filled with preschool show bibles, prompting one wise-ass guard to say: “Sorry sir, but I am only buying Boy’s Action for six- to 11-year-olds this year.”
On my flight home, I read a great piece in the New York Times by Verena von Pfetten about “monotasking.” She espoused the virtues of doing just one thing with your complete attention. Needless to say, this appeals to a person like me who has trouble even thinking and feeling at the same time. “Humans have finite neural resources that are depleted every time we switch between tasks,” Verena wrote. This factoid helped explain why, just a few days after Mipcom, I cannot recall any of my meetings.
So there you have it, Mipcom 2016. You loved it. You hated it. You loved to hate it. For all us middle-aged television execs, Mipcom is our own little spring break, our Cancun, our chance to be reminded that we probably shouldn’t dance in public in the age of social media. But we do dance. And we do sing. We pitch and we get pitched. We rush from meetings to dinners, making sure we squeeze every drop of juice from this peach of a week.
And somehow, between the cheap rosé and the air kisses, something does get done. Projects get pitched and picked up. Deals get signed and shows, finally, get made. Regardless of the madness that is the kids’ industry, I for one am proud to be a small part of this wonderful, odd community that serves kids so well, drunk or sober.