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Euro AIM: another Euro waste?

You have seen it on the fourth floor of the Palais on your way to visit the New World or ITC stand during MIP-TV. but what was it? You might have even glimpsed at its promotion in the official MIP-TV catalog wondering what it was selling. Undoubtedly, you overhead someone talking about it, without fully understanding what it was.

Well, its the European Association for the Audiovisual Independent Market, aka, Euro Aim, the first one of MEDIA's 17 programs sponsored by the European Community aimed at developing a European audiovisual industry.

Very nice, you say, and promptly dismiss it as another bureaucratic Europudding. But some Europeans proclaim simply not so. Since its inception in 1988, Euro Aim has assisted 1,094 European independent production and distribution companies to participate in 17 markets like MIP-TV, MIPCOM, etc. So far, for the four year period, an estimated total of $76 million (64 ml ECUs) of sales and financing in the independent sector reportedly has been made possible by Euro Aim's marketing strategies.

So, is Euro-Aim useful, necessary, effective? The verdict is not yet out, but its self prophesy is that Euro Aim, and its parent MEDIA, will have to bow down when its mission is accomplished. And, what exactly is its mission? In the words of Jean Dondelinger, the ECs culture czar, the program is designed to develop the economic aspects of cinema and television. "The aim of MEDIA is both cultural and economic," Dondelinger has been quoted as saying.

And cultural it is. According to official figures, 52.8 per cent of the type of production sold by Euro Aim participants were documentaries. Similarly, 44 per cent of the type of projects which found financing/co-production through Euro-Aim were also documentaries. Drama represented only 17 per cent of both sales and financing. If this represents the good side of Euro Aim, the critical one can only be imagined ! Said Paul Styles, media analyst at KPMG Peat Marwick: "Although I think they do well by helping indies to sell their product in Europe, Euro Aim has had management rows from the start. The question is whether it is wise to encou rage hundreds of independents to chase elusive funds overseas. But I am more critical of what happens to those helped by Euro Aim after the basic help in the first year. It has yet to prove that its methods work in the second or third year."

Judging from official reports, one can ascertain that only 200 companies have shown a repeated interest in Euro Aim activities. For each market, the costs to the independents for joining the Euro Aim market umbrella is $900 for one delegate and $1,400 for two. The small exhibition stand within the umbrella costs $3,600. This compares to a regular cost of $5,644 (in 1992) for a small stand with unlimited badges. Therefore, Euro Aim provides a 12 per cent savings. In effect, a small European indie, comprising no more than two people, can end up spending a total of $8,000 for a five day market. The possibility of selling a documentary and thus recouping their market costs is slim, and when sold, documentaries can fetch at the most an average of $1,000 per territory. Michael Darlow, former chairman of IPPA (PACT predecessor) and managing director of PCP (an umbrella group for U.K indie program makers), is even more critical: "We have never used Euro Aim. It is bureaucratic and costs a lot of money with little results. As an independent producer running a small company, I find it a waste of time."

Indeed if simply explaining Euro Aim and its MEDIA program is a difficult task. one has to imagine how difficult it is to navigate into one of its 17 programs. Even the Euro Aim Screenings do not seem to catch up: Wrong place and definitely wrong time. Last year in June only a few buyers attended the event which conflicted with the LA Screenings. Documentary users such as the BBC and Channel 4 were absent. On the positive side, during the 1991-92 period, indie participation across the major Euro-Aim events has increased in 10 countries (out of its 15 nation membership), over the previous period. In 1991-92, a total of 617 individual European production and distribution companies joined Euro Aim activities. According to a recent Euro Aim survey, 57 per cent of respondents reported that they had made a sale via Euro Aim participation. To achieve this goal, Euro Aim spent a total of $22 million ($7.2 million alone in 1992). Thus, since 1988, it invested an average of $20,000 per each indie it helped. Looking at the official survey, we also found that during its four years, Euro Aim was responsible for total sales of $29 million. Considering that Euro Aim has been responsible for 1,774 presences in the marketplace in four years, European indies spent at least $10 mil]ion of their own money to be part of Euro Aim. Excluding production costs, indies' return on investment in Euro Aim can be estimated at 65 per cent. If one discounts it 50 per cent, for good measures, the results for Euro Aim are still impressive. However, adding indies' own expenditures with Euro Aim budgets, the program has reached $32 million total expenditures for $29 million worth of sales, without yet creating a Europeans audiovisual industry.

The no-win situation for Euro Aim reaches its paradox when one considers that the continued success of Euro Aim can be counter-productive in the long run, by developing an audiovisual industry sustained artificially with companies fully dependent on the government, instead of fully dependent on the marketplace.
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Title Annotation:European Association for the Audiovisual Independent Market
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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