Special Report on Monte Carlo Television Festival and Market: Gambling on Monte Carlo

Rumors of the Monte Carlo Television Festival and Market's demise may have proved premature. The baby of the international program market has begun to hold its own, but for how long?...
February 1, 1997

Rumors of the Monte Carlo Television Festival and Market’s demise may have proved premature. The baby of the international program market has begun to hold its own, but for how long?

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This year, the Monte Carlo Television Festival and Market expect to play host to 107 exhibitors and 310 program buyers. After a prolonged period during which attendance has fallen dramatically, the latest turnout suggests that the organizers have halted the downward trend.

Market general manager David Tomatis says increased effort has been put into meeting the needs of exhibitors for example, ensuring lower hotel prices for participants to guarantee a healthy turnout.

This year’s market will witness an increase in the number of buyers from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and U.S. cable networks, as well as buyers from Cuba, Egypt, Israel and Kenya.

The market’s efforts have also been welcomed by North American distributors, who make up approximately half of the exhibitors. In addition, France’s Gaumont and Canada’s Alliance have returned as exhibitors after a brief absence.

The greatest problems facing Monte Carlo, it seems, have been the growing international presence at NATPE, which comes only a few weeks beforehand, and the might of MIP-TV, which follows not long afterwards. These two markets are the main focus for the launch of new programming. For Saban International’s president, Stan Golden, Monte Carlo serves primarily as an opportunity to finish NATPE’s uncompleted business.

And while companies such as Alliance (Canada), CTE (U.K.), Gaumont (France) and Saban (U.S.) are attending, there is a dearth of children’s specialists present. Undoubtedly, NATPE and MIP-TV are much greater draws for companies active in kids programming. In its turn, Monte Carlo’s priorities are evident through its festival program awards, which recognize only TV films, miniseries and news programming but not children’s programming or animation.

Likewise, licensing and merchandising specialists, who have designated events such as MIPCOM as must-attends, are as rare as white rhinos at Monte Carlo. CPL new business director Gary Sh’efield says that in the face of competition from television markets, toy fairs and the American film market, Monte Carlo just is one market too many.

Notwithstanding this state of affairs, those who attend Monte Carlo welcome its relaxed pace. Nelvana Enterprises director of co-productions David Ferguson says that ‘for a company our size, it’s a good meeting place. We don’t take a stand, but it works fine. We can make efficient use of our time by getting a number of appointments in one place.’ That said, he regards MIPCOM in October as a better point in the program cycle for launching new product, while MIP-TV offers an early chance to discuss presales. Others consider Monte Carlo a good place to initiate co-production conversations.

This shouldn’t be overstated, however, says Ferguson. ‘Nothing replaces the targeted business trip. You don’t co-produce with partners you don’t know well.’

Monte Carlo is also the first official outing for the recently merged CLT-UFA and is regarded by head of international acquisitions and sales Heinz Thym as a key opportunity to launch the company before an audience of predominately European buyers. Children’s programming featured by CLT-UFA will include animation co-productions such as The Untouchables of Elliot Mouse (B.R.B. Internacional, CLT Multi Media, Antena 3 and Panini), Nanook’s Great Hunt (Elma Animation, TF1, Mediatoon) and a new batch of live-action Enid Blyton adventures (CLT and Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment).

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