Organizers of the 20th Monte Carlo Television Market expect approximately 500 European buyers to attend the February 23 to 26 market.
That figure is double last year’s total and an impressive return to form for a market that looked to be on its last legs during the mid-’90s.
At that time, NATPE’s increasing appeal to Europeans coupled with MIP-TV’s proximity in the calendar threatened to squeeze Monte Carlo out of existence.
Organizer David Tomatis admits in retrospect that, ‘we were late to react when the figures started to decline. But we are definitely back on the rails now. The level of participation is up, and we are confident about the health of the market.’
Intensive marketing efforts on the part of its organizers have had a dramatic impact on the appeal of the market. Incentives have been put in place to attract buyers and efforts have been made to provide a better service to exhibitors, says Tomatis. This year, for the first time, there will be a tape library service that will allow buyers to privately view programs supplied by distributors.
The marketing drive appears to have paid off with the return, after an absence, of exhibitors such as NBC, Alfred Haber and Toei Animation of Japan.
For some players, however, the marketing efforts of the Monte Carlo organizers are less important than the opportunity to close off business commenced at NATPE, or meet the people that you didn’t get time to hook up with.
‘Even if you count the first day of the NATPE market, when the exhibition floor is not open and you are working from hotel rooms, it is impossilbe to see everybody who is requesting a meeting,’ says Saban’s Stan Golden, president of international services. ‘At Monte Carlo, where the pace is slower, you can sit down and spend as much time as is needed with the buyers.’
Gaumont Multimedia’s head of international TV distribution, Mickie Steinmann, shares Golden’s sentiments. ‘Monte Carlo is not in the same league as MIP, MIPCOM and NATPE. But we couldn’t do without it. We tend to use it as a runoff market from NATPE, which is too short for us to do everything.’
Some distributors choose to focus on different business at different markets. They will use NATPE to concentrate on U.S. and Latin American business, saving the likes of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Benelux buyers for the Monte Carlo market.
Anne Magnol, head of sales at Cinar Europe, says there is currently a clear distinction between the company’s priorities at NATPE and Monte Carlo. Increasingly, however, the lines between the markets are becoming blurred. Magnol sees the potential to run business across both markets. ‘More and more Europeans are going to NATPE,’ she says, ‘so in the future, I can see the opportunity for us to start negotiations at NATPE and continue at Monte Carlo.’
For many buyers, an added appeal of Monte Carlo is its relaxed atmosphere. Unlike MIP, where the emphasis is on continuous selling, Monte Carlo allows time for strategic planning.
‘It’s a market that works for reconnaissance purposes,’ says Tom Devlin, Hearst Entertainment’s senior vice president of international sales. ‘It provides a relaxed environment in which you can have heartfelt chats with buyers and competitors about trends in schedules.’
Hearst has an animation catalogue that it will bring to market, says Devlin, but is not active in financing at the moment. ‘It is a very tough market for U.S. companies,’ he says. His key children’s offering is the FCC-friendly Popular Mechanics for Kids, a live-action show that he believes can perform well on the international stage.
In addition to the atmosphere at Monte Carlo, another plus point has always been the cost. Hotels are no more expensive than Cannes during MIP and the cost of exhibiting is widely acknowledged to be cheap. Tomatis is adamant that it is very easy to ‘make back the dollars at Monte Carlo.