MIPCOM, the television programmes market in Cannes, is turning out to be more memorable for its publicity stunts than its high-profile deals. But behind the hoopla is a new-found emphasis on getting value for money.
The opening night party was topped by a performance by dance troupe La Cirque Du Soleil, which was turned into a product promo by sponsor Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. UK broadcaster Granada has built an ice rink on the beach to promote its wares, while beauty queen Agbani Darego has been looking bored on the stand of the Miss World Group.
Disney and Universal have announced numerous output and package deals, giving the lie to notions that the bottom has completely fallen out of television as a market for feature films. Although it's not clear whether prices are going up, sellers say deals are taking longer to close as channels seek greater information on likely performance and scheduling before committing to the purchase of feature films and made-for-TV material.
"Gone are the days when buyers would buy from a trailer," said Stephen J Davis, president and CEO of Carlton America. "Although they are here to do business, people don't buy from a poster or a flyer like they used to," echoed John Alexander of American Video Film.
Unlike MIPCOM last year, which took place in the shadow of September 11, all the studios groups are here. However, the threat of another Gulf War and straining finances appear to have been reflected in slightly lower numbers of attendees. "There are more companies here than I was expecting, some maybe with less people," said Jens Richter managing director of Germany's Beta group.
Meanwhile, the world-wide slowdown in advertising growth has put a new emphasis on seeking other sources of finance. Interactive programming is seen as a growing revenue source for broadcasters and producers when trying to put together production budgets.
There seems little novelty in terms of genres, but the craze for formats and reality shows at last seems to be waning. There also appears to be ever greater emphasis on library material - films and programmes - reflecting the growing emphasis on measurable risk and predictable performance as well as the growth in value of DVD as a medium in its own right.
Leon Forde also contributed to this article.