Riviera Resort Cannes readies for TV fiesta

CANNES: Blue skies. Crystal clear sea. A full sun overhead. Warm sand. A cool breeze that wraps around you. Cafes and restaurants with tables lining the sidewalk and serving mouth watering yummy French food from Provence and Cote D’Azur. Not to forget the wines from Bordeaux.

Welcome to Cannes on the famous French Riviera – home to the famed Film and Advertising Festivals and the lesser known TV festivals MipTV and MipCom.

The Cannes Croisette is packed with people, one sees dogs of every shape and size, every breed and race, being led around by their masters and mistresses – also of every shape and size. The elderly walk slowly, stumblingly, the youngsters make big strides.

The place is dotted with both young and old alike happy for a sunny escape to the warmer climes of this southern haven in France. A few kids are kicking a ball around on the sand, while others are hitting it around in a game of volleyball. A middle aged woman strips down, revealing a swim suit and plunges into the sea. Somewhere else an old couple sit on two chairs by the beach quietly holding hands, while another younger couple are kissing like they mean serious business.

The rest of France seems to be upset with its government for trying to institute a practical labour law and has been protesting; Cannes seems to be oblivious to all of this. Thankfully so.

30 March 2006 seems just perfect. The management at Reed Midem could not have asked for better weather. And even as it readies for its busiest MipDoc and MipTV ever, scores of trucks, vans, tents, containers, line up outside the Palais des Festivals and the Carlton Hotel. Close to 700 executives and workers are at work to bring out the 43rd MipTV. Twelve thousand TV broadcasting, and animation production, distribution and commissioning professionals and documentary producers are expected to descend on Cannes in the next two days for seven days of hectic back to back meetings, and deal making, followed by partying.

Inside the Palais, carpets are being laid out, booths and kiosks being erected, direction markers being put up. Clearly, MipTV has arrived and made its mark globally as one of the biggest content markets in the world. The TV division is led by the young and good looking Paul Johnson who under the leadership of Paul Zilk has been working hard to globalise what was once a more Europe and America focused TV market. Asia has been the target for the past two years since the duo took over a couple of years ago. Two years ago, China was given the status of country of honour, last year it was Korea, this year it is Dubai. Two years from now it could well be India, if the TV, mobile and animation community so desire it!

Wherever you look within and outside the Palais you can see the stamp of the west Asian kingdom of Dubai everywhere whether it is at the registration area where huge posters promoting the Dubai Media City or it is at the entrance to the Palais.

The ESP Films gang of Vineet Gupta, Rajgopal, Harry and Rana

This year gains significance from India’s viewpoint as more than 40 Indian producers and broadcasters have ventured out in order to increase their global competitiveness. First time attendees - actors and producers Anuj Saxena and JD Majethia – will add colour to the international TV star studded MipTV. Three - four years back there used to be barely 12-15 companies attending MipTV or MipCom. Other majors attending the market include Star TV (under Fortune Star, Hong Kong), Sahara One Media and Entertainment (to distribute their film library), Zee TV, the Ronnie Screwvala promoted UTV and Hungama TV, the Kishore and Sunil Lulla promoted Eros, Reliance Entertainment (senior executive Krishnan Durbhe is part of a speaking panel), WEG India (the private distributor of Hindi films), Endemol India (CEO Rajesh Kamath), Optimystix Entertainment, Maya Entertainment, Color Chips (the company has sponsored a table for its clients at the first International Interactive Television Emmy Awards being held at Cannes), Graphiti Multimedia, ESP Films (which won the documentary pitch last year at MipDoc), veteran documentary film maker Iqbal Malhotra of AIM Television, among many others.

Sanjeev Sharma of optymistix (extreme right), along with Iqbal Malhotra of Aim Television and Ashutosh Barve of Maverick Productions.

“What makes MipTV significant is the fact that the audiovisual content market is finding new outlets today. First there was just analog TV, now there’s digital and interactive TV and the mobile phone – and they are coming in a big way,” says Johnson. “You have majors such as Intel, Microsoft, AOL, Motorola – they are all coming to content markets such as MipTV and MipCom as buyers. They have learned that while they are leaders in technology there’s a lot they have to do from the creative content front in order to continue to retain their edge.”

The changing paradigm of creative content has provided opportunity for the Indian community, which some players such as Indiagames have grabbed and have been producing games for Hollywood. Some animation studios too have been outsourcing for Hollywood, though a lot more needs to be done here. Large Indian players such as Reliance too are getting into content acquisition directly as is evidenced from its presence at MipCom. Hopefully others will also take advantage of the global opportunity in a business that is probably the world’s largest industry.

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