Global change driven by digitalization that is transforming whole industries – nowhere can it be better observed than in sophisticated French Cannes hosting a traditional tradeshow for TV programs every spring. miptv is the oldest of its kind, with its debut in 1965 and at a time when many hardly recognized the need for its own tradeshow for this segment. TV programs used to be local, without the potential of being distributed internationally. This has changed: Now, every year billions of US$ are made from both, licenses for finished programs from drama series to documentaries and for formats ranging from entertainment shows to rights to adapt successful series to location.
In spite of all this: miptv does not do really well and its organizer, Paris based ReedMidem, is looking for a new role for its ageing former flagship. Already in the 1990ies mip-doc, a 2-day special screening for documentaries and reality, was scheduled to take place just before actual miptv. A few years ago, mip-format was added, with a focus on formats, e.g. show formats that are internationally adapted like for the classic “Pop Idol”. For around three years there have been experiments with mip drama screenings, a series of premieres of international TV dramas and series that will be merged with a new big International TV Drama Series Festival which is part of miptv and open to a broad public starting next year.
If diversification and the desire to attract more participants to the Côte d’Azur was the prime reason for introducing mip-doc, recent expansions aim at retaining attendance numbers because the tradeshow is perceived of becoming quieter which is reflected in official attendance figures although not that markedly. TV Tradeshow Director Laurine Garaude says that participant behavior changed which leads to a subjective perception of significantly fewer people. This may be true to some extent. Of the people attending the preceding special tradeshows during the week-end only few stay over for the actual miptv. That also means that many participants stay a lot shorter than in the past. People used to arrive on Sunday and be around for more or less the whole week (okay, from Thursday and Friday it was also significantly quieter, but still … ). In the meantime many only come to the show for one or two days. That also means less business in Cannes.
Reasons for this development are complex and ultimately reflect the structural change of a whole industry. On one hand, it is a result of increased global competition with many local tradeshows of the same kind, but also with bigger ones like NAB or MAY Screenings of Hollywood majors in Los Angeles, both also taking place in spring. As a result, already years ago, majors cut their attendance on spring miptv to a minimum and instead focused on the sister-show of the miptv in autumn, mipcom, which has performed increasingly robustly. Thus, miptv in spring misses a major attraction.
Another reason that is a lot more threatening for the future existence of the spring show: The traditional tradeshow model is less and less needed! “More and more sellers have their own servers where programs can be screened throughout the year. As a result, you can find fewer exclusive things here. “For me, there’s hardly any reason to be here”, says the program buyer of a big public broadcaster group that did not want to be mentioned. Over time this could turn into a real issue as it is heard of more and more exhibitors that they do not want to be present at the spring show. So far, ReedMidem prevented this for example by denying exhibitors that do not come in spring their customary booth for autumn, as exhibitors repeatedly explain. It would be an alternative option for the organizer to cut high booth costs but that does not appear to be an option so far. “Though that would allow them to position themselves as customer-friendly, now there’s the risk of a vicious circle – fewer visitors – fewer exhibitors – fewer visitors …”, says an exhibitor who also does not wish to be named.
At the same time there are quite positive comments. Fewer people around mean calendars are less cluttered and exchange is much more valuable and intensive and eventually the direct result of miptv attendance is a lot more intensive…, you hear from quite a significant number of visitors. Here, the festival concept that will complement the miptv starting next year has the potential to prove of real support. After all, this also depends on whether Cannes will be successful in setting itself apart from newly developing massive competition – in Lille, France and Berlin alone two new TV-series festivals have been scheduled for the coming year. If Cannes can succeed in this race: Great! But eventually it would have less in common with the traditional business mode. Structural change cannot be stopped …!