Many network programmers are now eschewing their MipTV ticket in favour of Showcase, events such as December’s Content London, and higher profile television-focused festivals such as Series Mania, Berlinale, the Roma Fiction Fest and the Monte Carlo Television Festival.
The emergence of Showcase has also pushed the once low-key London “screenings” week to a level of prominence which almost rivals the annual Los Angeles screenings in May. Other studios, such as Fremantle, ITV Studios, ViacomCBS, All3Media, NBC Universal and eOne now schedule their own London screening days around the Showcase calendar.
The knock-on effect has mostly impacted April’s MipTV, which has lost key studios from its exhibitor drawcard. The BBC, Fremantle, ITV Studios, eOne and and Banijay, which recently acquired Endemol Shine in a US$2.2 billion deal, are among those companies who will be absent from MipTV in April.
The mood at Showcase was upbeat, even as the extratropical cyclone Storm Ciara and the Coronavirus outbreak conspired to disrupt travel to the event. Storms and fierce winds in the UK caused severe plane and train delays for some buyers, and the Chinese delegation were mostly absent from Liverpool.
A spokesperson for BBC Studios said their Beijing-based staff had “elected not to travel to Showcase; [and] we have recommended clients based in China do not undertake non-essential travel. The welfare of our staff and clients is our priority.”
Among the louder conversations at the market: the value of international co-production, particularly where expensive, blue-chip content is concerned. A Perfect Planet, for example, which once might have been produced entirely by the BBC’s own natural history unit, now has production investment from companies such as Discovery, Germany’s ZDF and China’s CCTV9.
Such programs are “an expensive undertaking and that money is vital in order to create what we set out to achieve,” series producer Huw Cordey said. “They enable us to film these big productions.” A Perfect Planet was filmed over three and a half years, in locations such as India, Russia, Canada, the Hawaiian islands, the Bahamas and the Arctic.
BBC Studios, the production and distribution arm of the BBC, which hosts the market, also unveiled a raft of new content including a new series of the popular natural history series Spy in the Wild, and a series about naturally-occurring phenomena titled The Greatest Show on Earth.
In the scripted genre, buyers were given a first look at new dramas, including an adaptation of the Man Booker Prize-longlisted Ian McGuire novel The North Water, a new high-concept crime drama titled The Watch and a new adaptation of A Suitable Boy, by Pride and Prejudice screenwriter Andrew Davies.
Not discounting the value of star power, the BBC also wheeled out the poster girl of its long-running Doctor Who franchise, actress Jodie Whittaker, the hosts of its long-running and revenue rich motoring franchise Top Gear, Freddie Flintoff, Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris and its natural history superstar David Attenborough.
Michael Idato is the culture editor-at-large of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.