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About new shows ... when can I buy them?

A broadcaster is leaving the city of Katowice in Poland for a 90-minute flight to Nice for MI PCOM On the opposite end of the world, a TV executive is leaving Rangoon in Burma for a 12-hour trip to the Cote d'Azur. Both individuals have read the trades about a flood of new shows to be introduced at MIPCOM. They also have heard international colleagues bragging about a great Los Angeles Screening last June, where an incredible number of new series were put on sale. Both can't wait to get to MIPCOM. But come MIPCOM. these broadcasters find themselves negotiating for shows that they heard about as mid-season replacements from people attending Monte Carlo earlier this year.

What's going on here? The fact is that there are two sets of rules: one is for the big buyers from large markets (about 10 countries) that have to face intensive domestic competition. They can usually pay the price of quick action for fast results. Smaller markets (some 70 territories) are regulated by another set of rules: "You'll buy it when the distributors are ready."

At markets like MIPCOM, studio executives tend to laugh at reporters who inquire about the number of countries a new TV show was sold to, Unfortunately, these same studio executives cannot take the time to explain that, for technical reasons they cannot deal with smaller territories for the new shows until at least next MIP-TV. Why? Because by MI PCOM-time, the studios will have just finished editing its first few commissioned episodes.

Subsequently, the studios' international TV division will extract a script from each episode's final version. Since too many changes are made to the original script during shooting, the distributor cannot use it. After that, programs that are shot on film are transferred on tape and sent for PAL, PAL-M and various SECAM standard conversion.

To the chagrin of some international buyers such as the Germans, the studios tend to transfer the filmed shows on NTSC tape for editing purposes and again, re-transfer the final product on film. To these buyers, the inferior NTSC quality, 525-line resolution, compared to PAL's 625-line resolution, further reduces the quality of the final product. Why, they ask, can't the studios do their editing on PAL before converting to NTSC for U.S. networks to air? The answer is that U.S. facilities use NTSC equipment and that PAL pictures tend to show a visible (25 frames) flickering to an NTSC trained eye (30 frames).

At this point, the new shows are sent to be dubbed or subtitled in groups of six or more episodes. What works against small territories is that before a distributor can sell a show for let's say, $200 per episode, it has to build-up a large number of buyers to justify the cost of tape, traffic and residuals.

More importantly, the distributor will only go to the added expense if the show has a good number of episodes commissioned. In addition, the shows have to be sold first to a sufficient number of large markets. All of the above factors for the new shows will be clearly established at the Monte Carlo TV Market '94 so that come MIP-TV, they are in a condition to begin selling the shows.

One may ask, what about MIPCOM?

This market is considered valuable to big buyers who can finalize the new season's purchases. Smaller buyers go to MIPCOM to negotiate for studios' programs produced as mid-season replacements. This frantic activity is also evident among small producers and distributors that have to show recent acquisitions. And finally, MIPCOM is valuable to home video buyers and sellers who use the market as a prelude to MIFED's theatrical fare.
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Title Annotation:international sales of television programs
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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