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MIP Asia soldiers on despite local economic woes

MIP Asia, the runt of the MIP family of exhibitions, has been dealt an unfortunate blow this year by the imploding Asian economy. But while almost everyone agrees that Asian buying will be down, mainly due to the devaluation of Eastern...
December 1, 1998

MIP Asia, the runt of the MIP family of exhibitions, has been dealt an unfortunate blow this year by the imploding Asian economy. But while almost everyone agrees that Asian buying will be down, mainly due to the devaluation of Eastern currencies next to the U.S. dollar, many Western companies will still have reps in Singapore from December 10 to 12 for the fifth annual exhibition. The reason? Because they hope that by sticking with their Asian partners now, they will grow profitable relationships to be harvested when the economy rebounds. Some kid-focused companies can also tag business with animation suppliers onto their trip agenda.

‘It’s a tough market right now,’ says Eric Karp, manager of Saban Enterprises International, ‘but it’s just an Asian flu. We’re really looking at the long term, and we want to be the kind of partners who visit friends when they have the flu.’

Even event organizer René Pérès, director of Reed Midem’s TV division, agrees that Asia’s dampened economy won’t be good for business. So, like Karp, he stresses the need to look at the long term. ‘Even though this is not a profitable region on the short-term basis,’ he says, ‘it is definitely a region [to which] the exhibitors from the Western countries are committed. They know that the key to success in the future is to support [the region] when times are difficult.’

Pérès says that he still expects about 2,300 individual participants in total, about the same size as last year. But not all of this year’s participants will be familiar faces: of the total of about 500 buyers Pérès says will be present, about 200 will be there for the first time. This is due to a low turnout from the countries hit hardest by the recession, such as Indonesia and Thailand, and increased participation from countries less affected, such as China, Taiwan and those in the Middle East. Even with the high turnover, Pérès expects the approximately 50-50 split between Asian and Western participants to continue.

Despite the region’s economic woes, it’s not all bad news for this year’s exhibition. This will be the third appearance of MIP Asia’s small but growing licensing component, and with the recent death of the World Licensing Exposition, it is now the only international licensing market in the region. As in previous years, Western companies will be on the exhibition floor to license their properties into Asia, and Asian agents, merchandise distributors and manufacturers will be circulating among the booths to help them do it.

For instance, Munich’s EM.TV & Merchandising will bring along Tabaluga, Blinky Bill and Sauerkraut with an eye on licensing, and Saban is hoping to pick up distributors for toys based on live-action program Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, and the two animated series Diabolik and Princess Sissi.

However, the licensing side of MIP Asia is a questionable proposition for many companies. Former marketing and licensing head Fran Barlow (who became festival director for the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival late last month), says that London-based EVA Entertainment isn’t attending MIP Asia this year, despite going last year, because the trip isn’t worth the expense for a company only just starting to think about Asian licensing opportunities. Barlow adds that for EVA, it’s more productive to arrange independent sales trips to Asia than attend the market.

Louis Fournier, VP of distribution and marketing for Montreal-based Cinar Films, questions the usefulness of the licensing fair to a company such as Cinar, which is still working on licensing in Europe, let alone in Asia. He points out that the players from Asia are present at the New York Licensing show and at Toy Fair. ‘So what’s the point? Why should I go all the way to Asia? I’d rather go to a specific market to get a sense myself of what I’m dealing with.’

While MIP Asia may not be everyone’s cup of tea, with assurances that the core exhibitors are sticking it out despite the faltering economy, if the exhibition manages to keep attendance up this year, it seems poised to survive in the developing marketplace of the East.

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