What a difference three years makes.

International television market MIPTV returns this week —the Cannes-based TV confab runs April 4-6 —for an in-person event for the first time since 2019.

The last time small-screen executives made the spring trip to the Cote d’Azur, there were major questions if MIPTV would survive. The annual market had seen attendance decline, especially among major US companies, which preferred to focus their global sales efforts on the bigger MIPCOM market in the fall. There was also a sense that MIPTV’s focus on traditional broadcast networks and sales operations was out of touch with an industry increasingly tuned into streaming services and the discovery of new talent.

For its in-person return, MIPTV has tried to address those issues and, according to MIPTV director Lucy Smith make MIP “a three-day business efficiency market” with a greater focus on global drama series. MIPDoc and MIPFormats, formerly stand-alone one-day markets for documentary and reality-TV/entertainment content, respectively, have been folded into the main event. “MIPTV needed to improve the return on investments for clients, which meant allowing people to scale their presence, according to their needs,” says Smith.

Organizer RX France expects close to 5,000 executives from 150 companies to make the trip to Cannes this year, around half the 9,500 registered in 2019. Smith notes that COVID-19 concerns are continuing to impact companies’ decisions to let executives travel,pointed to the return of the major studios (Sony, Disney, Parmount, Warner Bros., Fox Entertainment, Lionsgate) as well as global streamers Amazon and HBO Max as a sign the market is bouncing back.

What is clear is that two years of coronavirus lockdowns and pandemic protocols haven’t slowed the international boom in TV drama. The volume of new drama series continues to skyrocket as global studios and streamers pump money into non-US productions and regional powerhouses such as France’s Canal+, Germany’s RTL and Viaplay in Scandinavia, shift budgets away from U.S. series acquisitions towards investment in home-grown originals.

A recent white paper, carried out by Whip Media in partnership with MIPTV and released ahead of this year’s market, showed how U.S. content , while still dominant across Europe, is declining and international programming is gaining ground. Over the past three years, overall viewership for U.S. content in key European territories (France, Germany, U.K., Spain and Italy) across all platforms has declined an average of 10 percent, while non-English-language programming, from neighboring countries but also from further abroad, has made up the slack.

“We saw gains from Spanish programming in France, from Canadian programming in Germany,” says Eric Steinberg, media research and insights lead for Whip Media. “Of course the success of individual shows has an impact, so Spain’s increase in share has a lot to do with the success of [Netflix’s Spanish thriller] Money Heist, the boost in Korean viewership has a lot to do with Squid Game. But there is a sense that new shows will get a hearing no matter where they come from.”

Steinberg also sees a major impact in Europe from recent government policy requiring streaming services to maintain a quota of least 30 percent European-made shows on their platforms.

Those quotas, and the increasing popularity of non-US shows, in Europe and worldwide, has help drive a feeding frenzy for international talent and resulted in high-profile buyouts and corporate consolidation. Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs’ Candle Media deal to buy kids TV producer Moonbug Entertainment (CoComelon, Blippi), valued at $3 billion, and Sony Pictures Television’s recent acquisition of Welsh shingle Bad Wolf (His Dark Marterials), a $80 million deal that adds the company to Sony’s growing portfolio of British production companies, joining The Crown producer Left Bank Pictures and Sex Education banner Eleven, are two of the high-profile acquisitions that will be in focus at MIPTV’s conference sessions this year, with Mayer and Moonbug CEO René Rechtman, Sony Pictures Television’s international production president Wayne Garvie and Bad Wolf Founder Jane Tranter all taking the Cannes stage.

“The opportunities for international producers and creators has never been greater but the competition for talent has never been fiercer,” said Nico Hofmann, head of Berlin-based production group UFA (Deuschland 89). “How to find and holding on to the best talent and not lose them to a global streamer, that’s what keeps me up at night.”

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