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Home > Perspective


Business as usual

By Danny Fenton 20-10-2016

So it was back to Cannes in the autumn once again, albeit a few weeks later than usual. As we boarded the plane for the post-Brexit Europe to which we once belonged I wondered whether things would be much different at the biggest market of the year.

The early portents weren’t good. Once again, inclement weather meant some delegates from the UK were rerouted via planes, trains and automobiles to their destination, some ending up as far afield as Milan in their attempt to get to Cannes.

Once in the conference town two things were immediately noticeable to the seasoned Mipcom-goer: the heightened security and the horrific Sterling to Euro exchange rate. £1 now bought just €1.10 in perhaps the most expensive town in Europe.

I’m not sure if it was as a result of the exchange rate but there appeared to be far fewer British producers and broadcasters than normal and the perennial question, ‘Will the Americans turn up?’ was answered in an interesting manner. Broadcasters seemed thin on the ground and some had even taken each other’s traditional market pitches, AETN usurping Discovery from the stand it once held that proudly overlooks the Croisette.

The gap left by the missing US broadcasters was ably filled by the new kids in town: the VoD platforms. Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and Hulu were all being hungrily pursued by producers.

Although the players may have been somewhat different, the content game at Mipcom seemed to be remarkably similar. The programming trends in non-scripted (very much now the poor relation to scripted at Mipcom) were pretty much the same as a year ago. Quiz, dating, social experiment and crime seemed to still be very much on the menu.

And when I say crime, I’m not referring to the spate of format theft accusations spinning around Mipcom. It felt like open season for legal threats, the only beneficiaries of which are likely to be the lawyers. In the wake of these stories it became perhaps even more apparent that there seemed to be a remarkable number of formats that bore a passing resemblance to one another.

Makeover formats The Story of My Life from Talpa and Endemol Shine Group’s Fast Forward both used prosthetics to show the contributors what they would be like when they age in the future. And Red Arrow’s Look Me In The Eye and Flare Media’s Face To Face both involve people staring at each other in silence to resolve issues.

Perhaps the format legal teams currently battling it out in the highly publicised current spats could take a leaf out of the market trend for conflict resolution formats. Channel 4’s Lie Detector, our own I’ve Got Something To Tell You, Keshet’s Boxed and Freeform’s The Letter all addressed this same general resolution theme.

And talking of themes, it seems the biggest growth area in the past year in non-scripted formats was dating and adventure. Hence it was not surprisingly DRG is combining the two with Animal Attraction, which it bills as ‘love at first smell,’ as daters live like animals in the wild.

Other dating formats of note include Newen’s Love On The Dance Floor, a kind of blind date meets dancing, ITVs new Meet The Parents (a kind of blind date where the parents select the partner) and CJE&Ms Sweetheart In Your Ear (a kind of a blind date using an earpiece to communicate with your potential love).

Generally, there was a dearth of strong formats on the market and the ones of note tended to be the more ridiculous ideas that shouted louder than the rest.

Step forward adventure format Travel With My Goat from Tuvalu; RTL’s Get The F**k Out of My House, a competition show offering cash to the last man standing in a packed house; and Man Birth from Singapore, in which men experience child birth – without physically giving birth, of course. Last but not least, and possibly my personal favourite, was Televisa’s Trans FC, a reality football competition show for transgender people.

All in all it seemed a buoyant market. Many things change but ultimately people with ideas both good and bad come to Cannes to trade them, and I can certainly say, from my perspective, it seems like Mipcom is in rude health. Long may that continue.

today's correspondent

Danny Fenton CEO
Danny FentonPERSP2

Danny Fenton spent five years at the BBC where he worked on a number of award-winning shows including Standing Room Only, Clash of the Titans and Match of the 70s. After a brief time in the independent sector he set up ZigZag in 1999 with his business partner Kevin Utton.

ZigZag has produced over 300 hours of programming, ranging from entertainment formats like Change the Day you Die and Bad Boy Racers to factual programming such as Little Prince – Big Fight and Celebrity Gladiators.

Danny has also overseen the launch of ZigZag offices in New York and Manchester and executive produces all ZigZag content. He is also the founder of the New Independent Producers Alliance.