Cannes, France -- Subtle yet significant differences marked
this year's MIPCOM international program market, held here earlier this month.
Long gone are the days when program distributors would take
part in a land rush of channel deals in major markets. This time around, small "hot
spots" were noted by those aiming for new channel development.
Panregional services such as wanna-be European
direct-to-home European DigiTV and pay TV operator United Pan-Europe Communications N.V.
(UPC) made their presence felt, and they were joined by single-market players from
countries such as Spain and Israel.
And if the pleasant Cannes weather wasn't enough to put
people in a good mood, the significant turnout of Asian buyers did.
"We're feeling the continued return of the Asian
networks," said Jon Helmrich, senior vice president of international development at
E! Entertainment Television.
"In Asia, there are still some economic
difficulties," added Jack Waterman, president of worldwide pay TV for Viacom Inc.'s
Paramount Pictures. "But by the same token, there are a lot of people there with a
lot of money. Over the next five years, Asia will be one of the most lucrative markets in
Waterman and Paramount senior vice president of
international channels Reed Manville have other markets in mind, as well. They said they
are "talking about" launching a second network in Spain in the coming months,
although they weren't specific about its genre.
Among the suspects in Spain with which Paramount and others
are negotiating channel deals is upstart digital-terrestrial platform Onda Digital, due to
launch in the first half of 2000.
Onda Digital head of programming, content and interactive
services Gino Natalicchio noted that there are not too many channel slots to fill. The
platform has a total lineup of 14 channels, with three to four of them dedicated to
"Everyone is very eager to see how they can do [a
deal] with us," he said, adding that he hopes to have the lineup together by year's
end, and that he is aiming for exclusive channel agreements.
Exclusivity is also key for Israeli direct-to-home platform
Yes, according to one U.S.-based network executive. It is "paying extraordinary rates
for exclusive licenses," the executive said. That is another indication of the heated
competition between the fledgling platform and Israel's entrenched cable operators.
Tom Grams, head of worldwide sales at tech-oriented channel
ZDTV, noted, "Last market, I would have said that Israel was the hot market by far,
but now, the frenzy has died down." Instead, he was among those who saw panregional
European platforms UPC and DigiTV among the more visible players looking for new
programming and carriage deals.
Shoppers and buyers certainly weren't the only news at
MIPCOM. BBC Worldwide CEO Rupert Gavin predicted, "By 2006, we will be contributing
[more than] $300 million to the BBC's [British Broadcasting Corp.'s] commercial
Hallmark Entertainment Network dropped word of a channel
launch in the United Kingdom -- a market it has long sought to conquer. Hallmark is
getting a slot on British Sky Broadcasting Group plc's "family" package of
Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and Nickelodeon also
followed up on news about new launches. Nick is launching a channel in India through an
alliance with Zee Network. And Cable News Network has launched a Turkish channel with
local print heavyweight Gogan Media Holdings.
With terrestrial and cable distribution, CNN Turk currently
reaches 7 million households. Turner Broadcasting senior vice president for business
development Jeff Kupsky said gaining the large base from the get-go was a key element of
the business plan. "The ability to switch on a signal overnight and reach 7 million
people is very important," he added.