The MIPCOM internationaltelevision programmes market in Cannes has been a relatively lively affair. It saw theunveiling of few mega-deals, but it was distinctly more buoyant than recentevents.

Corridor traffic was widely felt to have been busier andboth buyers and sellers reported that the time for transactions had replacedinterminable talks. "This is more vibrant and more business is actuallybeing done than anything we have seen in the last twoyears," said Marie-Claude Dufour, head ofdistribution at Canadian producer and distributor Cinegroupe.

"Things turned out not to be so bad after all,"said Walt Disney TV head David Hulbert, who has long analysedthe market in terms of business cycles. "Advertising revenues are onceagain rising [in the free-TV sector] and subscriptions are on the up [inpay-TV]."

"It has been a very steady, down-to-earth market sofar," said Jens Richter, head of sales at Germany's Beta Film yesterday (Oct 12), the market's thirdday. "On one hand there is less hype from sellers and on the other thebuyers are less afraid than they were in the recent past. People are againtalking about building their businesses, rather than just surviving."

Recent TV markets, and particularly last April's MIP-TV,had been hard hit by declining advertising revenues in the US and Europe, the SARS epidemic, war in Iraq and massive corporate restructurings that affectedEuropean and US studios, broadcasters and cable groups.

Pure film players were also enjoying their share of therising tide. "The difference between this market and MIPCOM last year isthe difference between night and day," said Liz Mackiewicz,senior vice president, worldwide sales and distribution at Overseas Filmgroup. "We have been selling strongly in placesthat a few months ago were much more hesitant," said Esther Bannenberg ofFortissimo Film Sales.

In addition to a sense that the economic andpsychological gloom was lifting, players pointed to two other factors spurringthe recovery for film sellers. Those broadcaster buyers, which over-boughtfeatures in 2001 in anticipation of the SAG actors strike, may now be runningshort of stock.

The other factor - which is also turning into a valuableancillary market for sellers of made-for-TV programming - is the growing impact of DVD."DVD is the difference," said Mackiewicz."There are new players in the market and thank goodness we have backcatalogue." BBC director of video Stuart Snaithreported that BBC Worldwide had enjoyed DVD revenues of more than $33m (GBP20m)on its top TV titles in the last year, with sitcom The Office selling a massive 613,000 units.

DVD and high definition programming, which is expected tohave a particular impact in the US where TV image quality has long beeninferior to the rest of the world, were the buzz themes of the market,replacing the by now humdrum business of selling programmeformats for local customisation in export markets.

Warren Lieberfarb, the formerhome entertainment head of Warner Bros who is widely credited with pioneeringthe introduction of DVD, received a lifetime achievement award from the market organisers. In the market's keynote speech he urged broadcastersand programme makers to embrace technological change,rather than to fear it and to work together, without waiting for regulation, toadopt new industry standards. Jean-Paul Commin,responsible for home entertainment at France Televisions and head of theInternational Video Federation said: "growing demand means the cost ofacquiring content for DVD is now rising."

Several executives, however, also pointed out the growingneed to combat piracy at different levels of the industry, be it pay-TVplatform piracy which is rampant in Asia (and untilrecently Italy), downloading over broadband networks or illegal DVDcopying. The MPA's Chris Marcichsaid that some 20 million DVDs a year are being produced in Russia, compared with the country's annual consumption ofabout two million. He also said that approximately 600,000 feature films a dayare being illegally downloaded in the US alone.

News Corp deputy chairman Peter Chernin,who received the market's "man of the year award", sounded a bluntwarning about how piracy could damage the film business. "If movies startlosing money, less money will be invested in them. Of course our concerns areself-serving, but the implications for the public concerning film are verydifferent to music. A man and his guitar will always exist, but making films isvery much more costly - the average MPA studio film costs $85m includingproduction and p&a - movies will simplydisappear."