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Viewpoints from the frontline of content.

The fight for Budapest

By David Jenkinson 18-04-2023

With both C21 and Brunico planning events in Budapest within a week of each other this June, C21’s founder provides perspective on the skirmish from his mobile operations room in Cannes, offering thoughts on the fight to date and who the ultimate winner might be.

In case you’ve missed it, there’s a fight going on in the content events space right now, with both C21 and Brunico planning events in Budapest this June, a week apart.

But before I suggest who the winner will be, let’s reflect on how this battle started, and how it is likely to end.

When NATPE filed for bankruptcy in September 2022 it left a gap in the market, with events cancelled in Miami and, potentially, Budapest in 2023.

NATPE’s collapse was not based on any good reasons. Over several years it gradually declined, partly because the domestic US syndication business went away, but also due to its inability to clearly define an alternative position.

In my view, another key reason was that it had failed to evolve to recognise the changing shape of the international business, from an aftermarket sales-driven market to a coproduction and co-development one.

C21 announced Content Americas and Content Budapest (fka Content East) as place holders for the January and June time slots and hired the team that had delivered the NATPE events for the past decade along the way.

This, at the very least, offered employment to six of the key members of the team and kept the ambition to hold events in the old NATPE slots alive.

We had been presented with an opportunity to extend the ‘Content’ franchise into the vacated Miami and Budpest slots, and took it.

Content Americas happened (miraculously) in January in Miami, with renewed focus on the Lat Am market, which in our view had always been sidelined at NATPE Miami, despite the fact up to 50% of its business came from this sector.

Content Americas sold out, attracting 1,600 delegates over three days, running a conference programme in Spanish and garnering an 8.5/10 in the subsequent delegate survey, making it one of the most satisfying pieces of work we have ever done at C21.

Supported by our Spanish-language service Cveintiuno and hosting the inaugural Rose d’Or Latinos awards, it will be back in 2024 at a newly renovated Hilton Miami Downtown hotel and is already well on the way to being an even bigger hit.

With America in the bag, our focus turned to ensuring the rest of our Content events in 2023 joined up, with the same aim of developing regional business with an eye to the international market.

Partying on the Danube in Budapest

Content LA moved in alongside The LA Screenings Independents in May and we continued to develop the plan for Content Budapest, in the same slot NATPE Budapest had occupied. Our thinking was that if NATPE Budapest did come back, the two events would exist side by side on the same dates and everyone would be able to go to both.

Content Budapest would be different though. It would host a market but also have an extended focus on developing coproduction business across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The future is about co-development, not about acquiring finished shows.

We announced an agenda based on formats (in partnership with FRAPA and K7), coproduction, local talent pitch competitions and attached a raft of information-rich sessions that mine the C21 Content Trends Report strand. We also partnered with MRM, the Ukrainian team behind Kyiv Media Week, to launch the CEE100, an initiative to profile the leading players redefining business across the region, to be launched at the event.

With this all lined up, the Act Local, Think Global tag was applied to Content Budapest and the move to the five-star Kempinski Hotel Corvinus – together with a plan to bring back the legendary boat party – completed the picture.

When Brunico went ahead with its purchase of NATPE and moved its dates to the week before Content Budapest, this made it less straightforward.

So the fight kicked off to announce more buyers, exhibitors, sessions and initiatives as we both worked hard to convince the market to ‘come with us.’

Where we are now, as MipTV rolls out its 60th edition – and what may be its quietest yet – there will be much talk about two competing events in Budapest in June, just days apart.

NATPE Budapest is highlighting its established market credentials and Content Budapest is pitching its fresh approach to building partnerships across CEE and with international partners beyond the sales market that had previously defined the Budapest event.

Of course, none of us want confusion in the marketplace and both C21 and Brunico would prefer to go it alone with either event having no competition, but this is where we are. Some people will go to NATPE Budapest, some people will go to Content Budapest. Some people will go to both.

Who wins in the long term is yet to be seen.

In the meantime – once the confusion about which event to attend is resolved – the real winner will be the CEE content business, which will be super-served by two competing businesses who are trying to deliver the best experience for clients and delegates.

Competition increases quality – from programmes to channels to platforms to events. It’s irritating and confusing for all of us right now. But it will settle down to deliver a stronger return for the market in years to come.

Have to go. Incoming!

today's correspondent

David Jenkinson Editor-in-chief & managing director C21 Media

David Jenkinson is an award-winning journalist and content industry executive who manages a portfolio of digital, publishing, events, production and training companies within the international content business.

Having held senior editorial positions at Haymarket, International Thomson, EMAP and Cahners’ Moving Pictures International, he created and co-founded C21Media in 1997, one of the world’s earliest surviving digital businesses.

C21 brands include, C21TV, Cveintiuno, ClubC21, C21Screenings, Drama Quarterly, Channel21 international, Content London, Content Americas, Content Canada, Content LA, Content Academy, WritersRoom and Content Nigeria.

Jenkinson is also founder of Studio21, a next-generation talent incubator with a mission to discover, develop and connect new voices with the global television business.

He also leads Media Enterprises, the C21-backed investment company that supports high-growth potential businesses within the content industry. Investments include Blonde Mamba, Rose d’Or and News Agenda.

Jenkinson was previously editor-in-chief of Moving Pictures International, running daily, weekly and monthly publications within the film business.

He led EMAP’s TV World to win the prestigious PPA International Business Magazine of the Year award in 1993, and worked as part of the senior editorial management team at International Thomson.