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Pleasures and displeasures at MIPCOM '92.

On the surface, the outlook for MIPCOM fairly brims with optimism and enthusiasm, a high spirit carried by the expectation of a continuing lively demand for the American product all around the world.

And, superficially, the statistics bear this out. According to Barney Bernard, the MIPCOM representative in New York, a very respectable crowd of 8,500 is expected to attend the market on its various levels.

Booths at the sprawling Palais are sold out, and there is even a waiting list of about nine companies which are hoping to find a place under the MIPCOM sun.

Just in terms of the Americans, the number of U.S. exhibitors is larger than in any previous year.

Those are the pre-MIPCOM facts. However, underneath all this, and emerging from the comments of a wide sample of American MIPCOM sellers, the image shapes slightly differently.

Yes, they say, the low dollar certainly helped us and resulted in larger remittance volumes to the U.S., particularly since some of the deals are concluded on the basis of local currency which, with the mostly devalued dollar, then buys an average of some l2 per cent more dollars when it comes to conversion,

The bad news is--and it's bad news for just about anyone doing business in Europe and attending markets like MIPCOM--that inflation has also sharply driven up the cost of doing business on the Continent, and just about everywhere else for that matter.

Paying with dollar equivalent for the facilities at MIPCOM, for hotels, food, restaurants, local help., etc., is a burden, particularly for the smaller companies which do less volume business. Everything becomes that much more expensive, and--just a couple of months ago--MIPCOM became quite worried about the pronounced American reluctance to shell out all that money.

Costs differ, of course, but mediumsize companies spend anywhere from $90,000 to $130,000 to come to MIPCOM, and they don't always sell enough at the market to meet that expense.

The MIPCOM "theme" this year, in a much more intense way than has been true in the past, is coproduction in its various forms.

Virtually every discussion relating to MIPCOM includes a reference to the desire by the Americans to search for suitable European coproduction partners; and, to find them, the Americans are now willing to make both financial, distribution and content concessions which they have never before been willing to make.

There are those who detect an increasing European hesitancy for pulling the Americans' chestnuts out of the fire by investing in product that may not be ideal and by going for deals which simply help meet the growing budget deficits.

As for the product on display, the mix is varied as ever, though it certainly reflects the American network season.

Drama, which didn't do well during the last U.S. season, predominates this fall, taking up 26.5 primetime hours as opposed to 21.5 hours during 1991-92. A study by the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency shows that there will be just about the same number of new comedy shows as last year, which should come as good news to many European and other buyers, since comedy travels slowly to most countries.

In fact, comedy as network primetime fare is down from 31 per cent last year to only 28 per cent.

Betsy Frank, who wrote the Saatchi & Saatchi report, noted that "since dramas have greater international value . . . we may see this shift [to drama] continue." However, Bill Miller, the new cochairman of Hearst Entertainment's distribution division, wonders whether the onehour dramas will continue to be significant TV fare.

Action and adventure carried by the networks is slightly down, but serials are up quite significantly. In total, 33 new programs will be seen on the four U.S. networks this fall, joining 68 returning ones.

It's also noted that, with the exception of CBS, the other three networks are deliberately skewing their shows to appeal to the young--18-26 year old--audience. It's an admitted gamble since the acceptance levels dividing the young, the middle-aged and old audience groups vary significantly. But most observers feel that, around the world, this emphasis might actually enhance the appeal of the American product.

What encourages the Americans is that the international TV business is still on an upward curve, with the commercial stations buying, and cable expanding. Even the Eastern European countries are spending cash to purchase U.S. programs, and the satellite services, covering wider and wider areas, also are still in a buying mode.

At the same time, very gradually, the Americans are feeling the European competition, which is definitely rising ,in terms of locally-produced programs. It isn't lost on the Americans that, in a great many countries, the top-rated shows are locally produced. If that doesn't necessarily speak to their quality, it does prove that national audiences are basically drawn to nationally produced programs.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Video Age International
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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