Distributors draw up ‘virtual’ strategies after MIPTV Axe

Broadcast, John Elmes 5th March 2020

Broadcast, John Elmes, 5th March 2020

Distributors are pulling together “virtual markets” for buyers via videoconferencing in the wake of Mip TV’s cancellation.

In light of last night’s confirmation that concerns over coronavirus had led organisers to scrap the annual event and its subsidiaries Mip Doc and Mip Formats, sales houses are ensuring that the one-to-one meetings they normally arrange with acquisitions execs over the course of the five-day period can go ahead.

ITV Studios-owned Armoza Formats swiftly announced ‘ArmozaFest’, a two-week long virtual event beginning on 23 March, in which buyers will be able to will be able to “meet” the sales teams “screen-to-screen” to hear about new format launches and discuss business opportunities.

“We have always strived to provide unique and innovative solutions to the challenges that we face in our industry and we believe that ArmozaFest will prove to be just that,” said chief executive Avi Armoza. “By using the platform of a virtual market, we will ensure that we not only maintain our relationships but continue to build them.”

Former Channel 5 commissioner Bethan Corney, founder of financing and distribution company Silverlining, told Broadcast she had been anticipating a cancellation of the event for a while and had put in place alternative arrangements a fortnight ago.

“We got ahead of the game and switched all our meetings that were booked in for the market to hour-long video conference calls where we’ll literally be flicking through the catalogue on the screen with the buyers and those calls start on Monday,” she said.

“For the next six days, we’ve basically got back-to-back video conference calls with every buyer we would’ve been meeting.”

UK distributor Magnify Media is “switching all meetings to video calls”, according to chief executive Andrea Jackson.

“It’s obviously a worrying time, but I am pleased that we have clarity on the situation as that means we can plan properly and best mitigate negative impact on our business,” she said. “We can keep the same schedule, just change the mode of communication. It’s not the same as a face to face interaction, but it’s the next best thing.”

Safety first

Another distributor added that the one-to-one nature of Mip meetings meant that there were “lots of other ways to connect with clients” such as “virtual meetings”.

Karen Young, chief executive of Brighton-based Orange Smarty, said although “international travel was not out of the window”, it was a “sensible response given the market is held in an enclosed space”.

Elsewhere, Monaco-based Daro Film Distribution, said it would “still be present in Cannes”, because some of their clients had non-refundable flights and hotel bookings.

“Our team is currently looking into alternative locations on the Croisette to host our meetings and we will update you all in due course once a suitable location has been confirmed,” a Daro statement read.

Future thoughts

Many distributors argued that this could result in positive outcomes for the international TV industry, placing more value on October’s Mipcom while enhancing other smaller markets, but also helping companies think about sustainability.

“April’s always had a question mark by it, as a market, and I think this is a positive thing because it gets people to think differently – to think more about their carbon footprint, ask whether it’s really necessary to go to two Mip markets a year with all the other events going on,” added Corney.

“Any distributor worth their salt will have all the connections with the necessary parties they want to do business with, so it forces you to stay connected by picking up the phone or doing what we’re doing with video conference.”

Cineflix Rights said the increasing importance of its London showcase screenings in February, together with screenings and launches at Berlin and Series Mania and the growth in the use of its online marketing and sales platform” would offset any adverse affects of the cancellation.

Orange Smarty’s Young said it was a “positive moment” for festivals such as Sunnyside, Sheffield and Edinburgh, which can build on an even bigger international strategy.

“The industry is in a sea of change,” she said.

“Historically, we have built marketing around two tentpoles. This should never replace the need to be in constant communication with your clients, no one broadcaster has budgets deadlines that finish on the same day, no one says you have to buy in April and October the opportunities are there annually. Our job is to sell and market throughout the year.”