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Our annual MIPCOM wrap session, moderated by MIP Markets social media manager James Martin, featured a quartet of industry experts discussing what trends the previous week revealed. The session was livetweeted by MIP regular Simon Staffans.

Starting off the discussion, Traci Paige Johnson, co-founder of yummico and creator of kids’ programming for the last 20 years, admitted she’s never previously been to a MIPCOM, and that her presence here was a reflection of how the kids’ programming market is evolving.

There is so much creativity around these days that the bar has been raised, and the reality now is that in order to get noticed you absolutely have to be here,” she said.

“I’ve also seen a lot of strong comedy, and we all know that funny equals money. On top of that, mobile devices are driving new kinds of creativity and enabling creators to test out basic concepts and get audience feedback.”

  Johnson compared it to “running around in your underwear”. But it’s clear that “audience interaction in the creative process is going to be a big factor in the future.”

Mary Ann Halford, managing director at FTI Consulting, cited Jeffrey Katzenberg’s admission yesterday that he offered the creators of Breaking Bad $75 million to make three more hours of the show, which he then hoped to sell in 6 minute chunks.



“Everyone is looking for new and bold ways to package content. This incident tells me that people are really thinking outside the box, simply because the audience now has so many ways to watch content,” Halford said.


“Content owners are going to innovate to accommodate the audience. The other very significant thing that became crystal clear this week is that producers no longer have to go to networks, with platforms like Netflix and Amazon as alternatives.”

  For Louisa Heinrich, founder of Superhuman Ltd, flexibility is key to the future for producers and especially for distributors: “I’d like to see changes in what is allowed to be done to content, so that viewers could be offered a seven minute, super-compacted version of a 23-minute show which would drive mobile traffic, and I think we need to see changes in terms who is allowed to view and when they get to do so.”

She also pointed to Peter Blacker of Telemundo’s assertion that pirates are just “superfans” and their activity highlights niches that producers and distributors can exploit and optimise.



“The massive amount of illegal downloads of Game of Thrones is testimony to that need for greater understanding of what drives piracy, because what people do illegally is a very useful indicator of what people want,” said Heinrich.


  MIPBlog liveblogger and digital strategist Angela Natividad used a scene from Orange Is The New Black as a metaphor for where the TV industry currently is. “The show takes place in a prison. One episode features a mythical chicken that many of the prisoners, including the protagonist, become obsessed with finding. No one really knows whether the chicken exists, but everyone buys into this search.

“I think that’s how the industry was: worried about losing viewers to LOLcats when, instead, fragmentation yielded even more demand for quality programming like Mad Men and Game of Thrones,” she said. “Before, Netflix was referred to as a disruptor while HBO was often cited as a glowing example of how to operate. But this week I heard HBO mentioned once… and a lot of enthusiasm about Netflix.”



Netflix is the producer and distributor of Orange is the New Black, one of several of its shows that is now winning critical acclaim, both within and without the industry. “The industry is no longer scared of the Netflix model,” said Natividad, who added that instead it’s perceived as a best practice, powerful distribution partner and great content model. Networks like the CW, for example, are now building online-only networks with series content produced exclusively for digital.



“It’s also because of Netflix that the industry realised binge-watching actually drives people back to TV — something we would’ve already known if we’d been following pirates in the first place,” Natividad went on. She finished by citing Blacker, who said the industry needs to create products that don’t punish people just for having a certain consumption preference.

One of the concerns panelists cited was how demands for content, and high production quality, are rising while budgets plummet.

  Johnson worried that this dynamic would lead to more content being produced with “sweat equity” up-front, and no guarantee for an investment return.

Natividad cited another speaker from earlier this week, who said industry players must move from an attitude of “competition” to one of “co-opetition”. “It’s about partnering with people you considered competitors and allocating different pools of investment intelligently.”



“I really hope we’ve turned a corner,” said Heinrich, observing that whenever a disruptive technology goes mainstream, it takes awhile to figure out how best to use it. “It has to be about the creative view: ‘How can we use these new possibilities?’ versus ‘How can we do the same thing we’ve always done through this new pipe?'”

To conclude, Martin asked the panelists if they agreed that this was indeed a “golden age” for TV, in quality terms. All agreed, with Halford inparticular hitting the nail on the head:



And that, as they say, was a wrap!


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Gary Smith is News Editor of MIPTV/MIPCOM daily News and Preview magazines, and a frequent contributor to MIPBlog.

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