This year’s Mipcom TV market, held in Cannes from 14-17 October, is the main event in the international TV calendar for buying and selling TV and online video programme rights. With Apple and Walt Disney poised to launch their online subscription offerings next month (backed by an unprecedented volume of original production), a great deal of attention was focused on the online video part of the Mipcom proposition. While this has been the case the last few editions of the market, the rise of online is really starting to reshape the business.
Mipcom’s organisers said that 1,800 of the 4,800 registered buyers at the market were digital, and of those, 450 were streaming platforms. While some of the big streaming players like Apple, Netflix and Quibi (the mobile digital platform launching next year) were low profile at this year’s market, Amazon, Tubi and Warner Media were among the speakers at Mipcom's conferences.
Whatever their level of visibility at Mipcom, these giant global platforms pose some fundamental questions for the world’s TV industry. How do local linear channels and producers compete with the deep pockets and worldwide availability of these services? What will their direct-to-consumer move mean for the distribution of their content to third parties? If they retain all international rights to their original programming, what rights are left for producers?
So far, the new money from Amazon and Netflix has in fact been good news for the TV business. Reed Hastings, head of Netflix, revealed in September that it has already invested more than $500 million in UK original productions. For producers, a deal with Amazon or Netflix has the upside of a guaranteed international sale as well as a good budget. For smaller producers with no international ambitions, this model works perfectly well. For producers which are part of a larger corporate structure which does operate internationally, the model does not work so well.
Andy Harries, head of Left Bank Pictures, which makes The Crown for Netflix, warned before Mipcom that companies like his would get ‘a lot less money’ and could become ‘producers for hire, producers on the lot’. However, he also acknowledged that the budget for the series was too high for the BBC and ITV.
Newen, the production company owned by France’s TF1, has done three original productions for Netflix and one for Amazon (the e-retailer’s first French production). Newen did not retain any rights but does other productions – mainly with local broadcasters – where it does retain rights to exploit through its international distribution arm. Bibiane Godfroid, the CEO of Newen, noted that traditional broadcasters are still its main source of revenues.
Amazon also said at the conference that it was prepared to be ‘pragmatic’ about co-production deals. Georgia Brown, Amazon’s head of European productions, said that it does not have a set model for co-productions. The company also said its main focus for original productions are the 20 countries where it has launched Amazon Prime, and that its original production policy is quality not quantity, with four or five major productions a year.
Co-productions continue to be one way that international players can make up the considerable budgets called for these days. Sky Studios (now focusing on production, with parent NBC Universal handling distribution) unveiled a €25 million co-production with Italy’s Lux Vide, while Spain’s Telefonica and Atresmedia announced the creation of a new studio where they will jointly produce new series. The telco is investing €70 million a year in producing original programming for its Movistar services in Spain and Latin America.
Meanwhile, European buyers wait to see what direction the majors will take. ProSiebenSat 1 CEO Max Conze was doubtful that Disney would pull all of its content from lucrative output deals and said that the group has a continuing output deal with Warner Bros for film and TV. The economic model for the streaming giants would be difficult if they forgo ‘very, very profitable’ distribution deals.
The German group is one of many local players looking to match their powerful position in linear television in online – in the case of ProsiebenSat1, via its Joyn partnership with Discovery. Mipcom also saw ad-funded streaming platform Tubi announce its expansion into the UK next year, as well as the launch of a Tubi Kids ad-funded platform in the US later this month. Rakuten announced its first foray into advertising-funded video on demand with a new service run in parallel with its current, predominantly transactional, online video services. The launch serves all Rakuten’s European markets and the service is set to host ten linear channels by the end of the year. Combined with Viacom’s takeover of Pluto TV and next year’s launch of the mainly ad-funded Peacock, the future will be about more than subscription streaming.