Collaboration and transmedia ideas were the hot topics at MIPTV; this year’s event may also be remembered for all the attendees stranded in Cannes by flight disruptions.

If there was a key theme to this year’s MIPTV conference in Cannes, it was that no man, or project, is an island. International partnerships and cross-platform collaboration will be the key to a successful future in the content business, many speakers echoed throughout the week.

Of course, the other theme this year’s conference might be remembered for is volcanic ash — as hundreds (or thousands) of attendees who were to leave France on Thursday or Friday have now been stranded in Cannes for several extra days, due to closed European airspace following Iceland‘s volcanic eruption. Whether stranded delegates will use that time sunbathing or for more networking at the Majestic bar remains to be seen.

But back to business — Hot topics for panel discussions and dealsincluded social media, connected TV, branded content, next-generation mobile engagement, and MIP’s Content 360 pitches for digital content — even though this is a TV conference, most of those ideas can be directly applied in the film world.

One of MIP’s most anticipated keynotes came from former NBC executive Ben Silverman who spoke about the founding principles of his new company Electus.

Silverman said: “[Electus] is a company about planning digital extensions to storytelling from the start and ensuring conversations with brands also happened at the earliest stage.”

Silverman said the future will be combining Hollywood studios, Madison Avenue advertisers and Silicon Valley’s digital developers. Illustrating that, One of Electus’initial projects will be interactive telenovela Pedro & Maria with MTV and Proctor & Gamble.

Silverman also spoke about the importance of getting partners on board from the earliest stages, encouraging co-producers to come on board very early and even offering an ownership stake if they do.

Collaboration is at the very heart of Transmedia — which garnered a lot of attention at MIPTV, in Heroes creator Tim Kring’s keynote as well as during a dedicated panel.

For the uninitiated, transmedia refers to a project that exists in a number of formats — for example, a film or TV show that is also integrated with a video game, social media environment, app, mobile platform, comic book, live events or other forms. (In the film world, transmedia pioneers include Lance Weiler and MIP speaker Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, who helped lobby for the new Producers Guild of America Transmedia Producer credit.)

Transmedia shouldn’t just be making a TV show or a film and deciding to launch a game to market it. “Transmedia storytelling is not about games per se,”Gomez said. “It’s like different colours on a palette,”he said of multiple-platform planning from the earliest stages. “Transmedia is about a return on investment because you are leveraging platforms traditionally not used in film and TV.”

That could mean one initiating producer partnering with a publishing company, a mobile platform, a social media partner and a games company — and possibly a brand to help pay for all of it.

Gomez added “In past years [transmedia] was seen as something paid for by studios’marketing departments, now its studios’development departments starting to pick it up, so that the transmedia strategy is in place before the project starts.”

Orange France has started its Transmedia Lab and is offering seminars on transmedia storytelling, audience interaction, economy, and branding. “You need partners,”Orange’s Olivier Godest told Screen. “It’s not the traditional model. We have to learn to work in teams.”

Of the more traditional co-productions announced at MIP, perhaps the most novel was Spain’s Televisa and China’s CITVC pact to produce the first Chinese/Mexican telenovela. Other cross-media collaborations include YouTube and Lagarde Active signing a strategic partnership and Zodiak’s Marathon Media is working with games publisher OUAT to launch a Totally Spies Facebook game.

And of course, the emphasis on co-productions and partners underline the growing importance of international markets.

“It’s about spreading costs in a time when the economy requires it,”MIPTV Director Laurine Garaude said. “But its more than that, it’s about creating content with an international reach. Global is more important than ever, at every stage not just the distribution level.”

Chris Albrecht, President/CEO of Starz, said in his keynote: “Whether you’re producing a high concept drama, a star-studded mini-series or even an of-the-moment reality series, it’s simply impossible to make real money producing for your domestic market alone. Where once the domestic market could be thought of as the major profit centre for studios and networks, now there are very few shows that don’t reach into foreign territories, one way or another, in order to become the profit engines they need to be.”

There were a number of “Event TV”co-productions launched here in Cannes, including Sony, Tandem, Peace Out and Scott Free’s four-hour miniseries Pompeii; Going Postal, based on the Terry Pratchett book and starring Charles Dance for ALL3Media/Sky; Sky Italia partnering with the BBC on its first international co-production The Medici (with Kudos Film and TV and Wildside); Japan’s NHK working with Discovery’s Science Channel on the documentary Squid: Last Mystery of the Deep; Starz continued to sell Spartacus: Blood and Sand; and Silverman’s Electus is planning two major mini-series, William the Conqueror (with Starz) and Peacekeeper. Also, Cinema Management Group has done a number of further international deals on Darwin’s Darkest Hourstarring Henry Ian Cusick.

MIPTV 2010 saw the number of attending buyers this year rise 5% to 4,000. Overall, there were 11,500 delegates from 106 countries.

Asian delegations were on the rise to increase their co-production potential, as Singapore was MIPTV’s Country of Focus, and there were special co-production panels on Japan, China and Malaysia. (Singapore’s MDA and Fremantle announced a new international animation fund.)

MIPFORMATS had 665 delegates from 57 countries, more than anticipated. AndMIPDOC welcomed 723 participants, including 412 buyers, an increase of 17% over last year. The MIPDOC Co-Production Challenge Prize went to Miriam Chandy Menacherry for her pitch of The Rat Race, a documentary about rat catchers in Mumbai.