Special Report MIPCOM: The market that grew

Fran Barlow, head of marketing at London-based EVA Entertainment, is a pro when it comes to navigating the halls of MIPCOM. She should beÑshe's been at it since the market began, watching it change from both sides of the booth...
October 1, 1997

Fran Barlow, head of marketing at London-based EVA Entertainment, is a pro when it comes to navigating the halls of MIPCOM. She should beÑshe’s been at it since the market began, watching it change from both sides of the booth

With the rapid expansion of new broadcast outlets around the world, the demand for television product continues to increase, as evidenced by the growth of markets such as MIPCOM and MIPCOM Junior. With this special report, we continue to follow the evolution of children’s television programming through a series of co-production diaries, as well as a snapshot view of the children’s television industry.

Also, for the second time, we present the KidScreen ‘Dream Block,’ the best two-hour block of children’s programs, according to a poll of senior programming executives. To find out which shows came out on top and why, turn to page 74.

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Industry stalwarts will remember the first MIPCOM only 13 years ago. Media market visionary Bernard Chevry saw the impending cable and satellite opportunities about to encroach on our careers and decided to merge the then-moribund video trade market into a larger programming market. So MIPCOM was born and VIDCOM was buriedÑblue movies and all.

Our North American friends welcomed the autumn market, but our British companions were less enthusiastic, as they had their very own London Screenings and didn’t believe there was room for two programming markets. . . . But that was then.

From an original 3,000 people attending in 1984 to a staggering 10,000 today, MIPCOM and its older sister MIP-TV have become permanent fixtures in the worldwide diaries and budgets of buyers, sellers, producers, licensees, marketers, stand builders, event organizers, journalists, PR people, celebrities, taxi drivers and hotel concierges. Over the years, the ‘bunker’ has sold out and, slowly but surely, exhibitors have spread across the Palais, filling every crevice available. Advertising embraces you everywhere, from skirting boards in the Palais to local taxi receipts. For five days, eyes are on countless monitors as many hours of television programming from around the globe are watched, hands are shaken, cheeks are kissed and deals are done.

Times have indeed changed. Gone is the MIPCOM when we used to spot the orange buyer’s badge and book a meeting on the spot. Weeks are now spent preparing diaries, squeezing meetings, lunches and dinners into half-hour slots. And it is not as black and white as our old TV sets, with only television and video buyers and sellers attending. Now, it’s all media punters from television, video, cable, satellite, digital, licensing and publishing who are buying, producing, selling, convincing, cajoling, sharing, talking, talking and talking.

My MIPCOM experience has been from both sides of the proverbial Palais wallsÑas an employee, as a PSB (participant sans bureauÑthat’s without a stand!) and as an exhibitor.

In 1986 when I was the U.K. administrator of the MIDEM Organization, the London office consisted of three of us and a telex machine. Everything, from registration to hotel bookings, was done manually. As delegator of Cannes accommodation, I painfully watched hotels being pulled down and prayed for the day new hotels would open. At least then all my U.K. participants actually slept in Cannes. Today in the London office, there are 11 people, two fax machines, all administration is computerized and people sleep from Nice to La Napoule. I used to joke about tents on the Croisette, and now my ex-colleagues live in them for the week.

Then in 1989, as the marketing executive for one of the larger exhibitors, I had the responsibility of designing and (almost) building the stand, plugging in the headphones, hanging graphics and booking restaurants. I was the queen of crates and brochures and was on the stand at 8:30 a.m. to ensure plenty of liquid refreshments for the tired and emotional sales team. If I may be so bold, one claim to fame was to convince a trade magazine to accept advertising on their front coverÑthe rest is history. I remember when T-shirts were a unique and sought-after promotional giveaway. Over the years, even the waiters in Cannes have been there, seen it, got the T-shirt, sports bag, pin, umbrella, mini-fan or fluffy dinosaur. In those days, securing a venue for a launch party was easyÑthe Majestic or Carlton, of course. One would always find a suitable time and intentionally not clash with other social events, so as to maximize attendance of your buyers. Today, there are so many launches and parties that the saying ‘Life is just one big party’ actually comes to life.

After a three-year escape to Australia, like a boomerang, I returned to Cannes and attended as a PSB in my role as director of the sponsored Cardiff Animation Festival. With a miniscule budget, I managed to barter for my pass, live on peanuts at parties, and ironically, get a room at the Carlton Hotel for the first time ever (it was shared with a friend). My total expenses for that particular MIPCOM were a return flight and 10 francs, which was a tip to the porter!

I now find myself backÑhaving come full circleÑat the thirteenth MIPCOM as an exhibitor, working in the incredibly diverse world of animation, a genre of programming that is tremendously creative, has evolved into a giant business and now sits comfortably alongside drama, documentaries, natural history, music and sports. The demand for animation is greater than at any time in the history of MIPCOM. Dealing one minute with animated cats and the next minute with plasticine dogs, my days are filled with a wonderful variety of challenging, interesting and occasionally downright ludicrous tasks.

Do we need MIPCOM? Is business actually done? I’m sure most of you in our constantly changing and dynamic industry would agree our professional lives revolve around TV markets. However, many would argue that the way to achieve maximum business is to focus on international trips, where contracts do actually get signed. Essentially, the deep-rooted philosophy of the program sales markets still exists, and I think we should ensure it continues this way. I also believe it’s about sharing creative ideas, forging relationships and enriching our business with positive values.

It will be exciting to see what happens over the next 10 years, but one thing is for certainÑwe’ll continue to reminisce about the old days when we could stay all night in the Martinez Bar and still be on the stand at nine in the morning.

Fran Barlow is head of marketing at EVA Entertainment in London, England, and a member of the management committee of the British Animation Awards.

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