MIPCOM CANNES proved once again it is the place to do content deals and forge partnerships. But it’s also a great place for delegates to gain insights and advice from some of the best minds in the business – via keynotes, summits, sessions and roundtable network events
MIPCOM CANNES 2023 had no less than three industry leviathans: Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) President of International Gerhard Zeiler; Paramount Global president and CEO BOB Bakish; and Canal+ Group chairman and CEO Maxime Saada. Each of them talked frankly and at length about the challenges faced by their organisations in these challenging times.
The good news for the MIPCOM CANNES community is that WBD and Paramount both stressed the continued importance of content licensing. Zeiler said: “We don’t believe that putting everything into one window is the right model. We believe in streaming 100%. But our North Star is the consumer, so if it makes sense to license content to third parties we will.”
On the company’s new streaming platform Max, Zeiler said that WBD aims to make Max one of the world’s “top three to five global streamers”. He was joined on stage by WBD’s head of streaming in EMEA Leah Hooper Rosa who gave an update on launch plans for Max. She said: “We’re going to launch in Latin America in Q1, 2024 and then in Spring 2024 we’ll launch in 22 European countries. Launches in France and Belgium will follow later in the same year.”
Content licencing is a fundamental part of our economic model. It is an incremental platform for the development of our global franchises, which helps get our content in front of as many consumers as possible – Bob Bakish
Bob Bakish was named MIPCOM CANNES personality of the year at the start of his keynote. Getting into the nitty-gritty, he echoed Zeiler, saying: “Content licencing is a fundamental part of our economic model. It is an incremental platform for the development of our global franchises, which helps get our content in front of as many consumers as possible.”
Bakish acknowledged that the media industry is currently in an economic trough that has been deeper than expected because of the downturn in ad revenues. But he cited a new content deal in Greece and the continued growth of the company’s free streaming platform Pluto TV.
Canal+’s Saada gave an intriguing talk during which he said one of his obsessions has been to “reduce our dependencies. We were too dependent on France and French domestic soccer. So we have become more international and invested in a wider range of sports.”
Saada sees Africa as a big opportunity, but stressed that Canal+ is “still too dependent on third party content. So a big move will be to grow our production arm StudioCanal.”
Firms focus on growth
Ambitions for in-house growth was a recurring theme among the industry’s leading players. It was evident in BBC Studios’ session and also in Blue Ant Media’s presence at the market. Following the acquisition of marblemedia by Blue Ant Media in August, Matthew Hornburg, co-president of the business, said: “We’re bringing a lot of new content across genres, and that’s one of the main opportunities of marble media coming together with Blue Ant.”
Laura Fernández Espeso, CEO of production powerhouse MediaPro Studio used her keynote to say that the prolific content creator is also focused on growth: “The most important goal we have now is the Anglo markets. We have a very specific 10-year plan to grow in the US.”
Rebecca Glashow, CEO BBC Studios Global Distribution, said that during tough economic times: “It’s all about staying disciplined. This industry has always had peaks and troughs, but it’s about taking a long term view on the business. At times like this, it’s really important to draw strength from the long-term partnerships that sustain you.”
Big stories, big stars
MIPCOM CANNES is also great platform for showcasing prestigious new drama series. This week saw the premieres of Fremantle-distributed Alice & Jack, Mediawan Rights-distributed Zorro and Concordia, co-distributed by Beta Film and ZDF Studios. Alice & Jack co-star and executive producer Andrea Riseborough was in Cannes for a Q&A.
AI and FAST: the next big things
MIPCOM CANNES’ Summits were a key opportunity for learning and networking. Introducing the Fast & Global Summit Talk Series, media universe cartographer Evan Shapiro acknowledged that FAST has had “a great moment”, but added that now is the time for the sector “to grow up as a business, from an operational and data perspective.”
Shapiro advised delegates not to view FAST’s growth is isolation. “They need to be considering the other streaming platforms coming to connected TV platforms.” The biggest threat to FAST, he suggested, is YouTube, which dwarfs FAST in terms of audience and revenues.
Shapiro was followed by Srini Ka, co-founder of Summit sponsor Amagi. He painted a more buoyant picture, stressing that FAST is “the fastest-growing segment of the TV industry”. He highlighted the entry of new FAST services and major content brands, international expansion, better user experience and an influx of premium content like live sport.
The challenges and opportunities presented by AI were discussed across the week. At the FRAPA Summit, there was debate about how AI might impact on format origination and development. AI also came up as a source of inspiration in Fresh TV Formats. As for the Unlocking AI Summit, there was a keynote by MEP Dragos Tudorache talking about the EU’s plans to regulate AI. “We are not trying to regulate the technology per se,” he said. “That will be impossible. But rather to look at the use of AI, and to try to identify uses that are risks.”
‘Serving the most diverse generation ever’
Some of the most intriguing keynotes focused on attempts to expand access for creative talent around the world. Eva Longoria, actor, producer, director and activist, and Chris Abrego, chairman of Banijay Americas, used their media mastermind keynote to reveal the launch of a new production studio. Longoria said Hyphenate is “about providing an alternate model for all the incomparable creators who are being suffocated by the system.”
We want to create visionary, culture defining content for the most diverse generation ever – Eva Longoria
Implicit in the Hyphenate approach is a desire to embrace creative diversity: “At a time when big companies are investing less in multicultural content, we want to create visionary, culture defining content for the most diverse generation ever.”
‘Representation just isn’t there’
EbonyLife CEO Mo Abudu used her keynote to critique the industry’s lacklustre progress on diversity: “I see very little on television that speaks to me as a woman of colour. Probably every company has a D&I officer. And one wonders why? Because representation just isn’t there.”
We have worked with Netflix on local scripted content for Africa, but budgets for African content still sit at the bottom of the global content pyramid – Mo Abudu
Abudu took particular issue with the level of programming budgets allocated to Africa-originated stories. “We have worked with Netflix on local scripted content for Africa, but budgets for African content still sit at the bottom of the global content pyramid.”
A more positive perspective was presented by Amazon Prime Video in its Spotlight On Africa. Here Ned Mitchell, head of originals, Africa & Middle East, Amazon MGM Studios, told delegates: “We’re trying to build the greatest selection of stories in the world, and South Africa and Nigeria have some unique stories and great talent producing content.”
With Mitchell was Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, head of Nigerian Originals Amazon Studios. She said there is a lot of opportunity in unscripted content. “We are collaborating with local talent.” Mitchell and Mba-Uzoukwu gave a sneak preview of a new Nigerian project called Ebuka Turns Up Africa, a travel-reality hybrid starring media personality Ebuka Obi-Unchendu.
Diversify TV Excellence Awards
Looking more generally at diversity, highlights included the seventh edition of the MIPCOM CANNES Diversify TV Excellence Awards, which celebrated the best new TV shows representing diversity in all its forms. “When we truly commit to elevating these new authentic voices, we get spectacular work like the projects we’re honouring here,” said Mark Garner, EVP and head of global FAST channels at the awards’ founding partner A+E Networks.
Nine awards were presented, starting with Representation of Disability – Non-Scripted, which went to Inside Our Autistic Minds (distributed by BBC Studios). About Antoine (Amuz Distribution) won the Representation of Disability – Scripted award. Nights in Tefía (Buendia Estudios Canarias) won the award for Representation of LGBTQIA+ Scripted, while the prize for Representation of LGBTQIA+ Non-Scripted went to Lotus Sports Club (Dutch CORE).
The award for Representation of Race and Ethnicity – Scripted was won by Little Bird (Fremantle), and the award for Representation of Race and Ethnicity – Non-Scripted went to The Swap (Southern Pictures). There were two awards for Representation of Diversity in Kids Programming. Preschool was won by Reu and Harper’s Wonder World (Channel 5 / Doc Hearts Ltd) and the Older Children award went to Phoenix Rise (Sinking Ship). Deborah Williams, CEO of the UK-based Creative Diversity Network, won a Behind the Scenes Impact award.
It never gets old celebrating diversity. We are showing the TV industry what creatives can do when they tell everyone’s story: when they include the underrepresented – Femi Oke
Guest presenters included sports star, activist and TV personality Ellie Simmonds, and the creator and lead actor of drama Sort Of, Bilal Baig. Awards host Femi Oke summed up the collective mood: “It never gets old celebrating diversity. We are showing the TV industry what creatives can do when they tell everyone’s story: when they include the underrepresented.”
Women in Global Entertainment
Other important events in terms of diversity included Monday’s Women in Global Entertainment Power Lunch at MIPCOM CANNES. Held in partnership with A+E Networks, the lunch was preceded by a panel session featuring senior women executives.
Later in the week came the International Mentoring & Networking Breakfast for Women In Media. Created in partnership with médiaClub‘Elles, the two-hour event is a powerful platform for female executives from around the world to discuss the challenges they face in their careers.
Florence Sandis, president of médiaClub‘Elles, said the event is valuable because women are navigating a world that is “still dominated by men. Sometimes women lack confidence or don’t dare to fulfil their ambitions. We want them to dare, so this event is about support. It’s about helping women become more strategic, which men are often very good at.”
Top image: Attendees at the Mentoring & Networking Breakfast for Women In Media gather outside the Palais des Festivals after the event