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MIPCOM: Takeaways, tips and trends

MIPCOM 2016 attendees from the Australian screen industry reveal the trends, the takeaways from the marketplace and more.

Randy & Sammy J in Ricketts Lane

WHO FROM YOUR TEAM WENT?

Graeme Mason, CEO of Screen Australia: “From Screen Australia, there was me, Sally Caplan, who is Head of Production, Andrew Dillon, who’s Investment/Development Manager in the Indigenous department, and Harry Avramidis, the International Markets Manager from the Business & Audience department.”

Kristen Souvlis, Director at Like a Photon Creative: “I attended with creative director Nadine Bates and associate producer Ryan Greaves. Nadine and I both go to all our meetings because it's important for us to do initial pitching together.”

Les Sampson, Head of Acquisitions at Stan: “There were three of us – me, Stan CEO Mike Sneesby, and Nick Forward, Chief Content Officer.”

Sharon Ramsay-Luck, Head of Sales & Business Development, ABC Commercial: “From the ABC sales team specifically there was me, Anne McGrath, the ABC Sales Manager for Europe, and Tony Iffland, the ABC Content Sales General Manager.”

Donna Andrews, CEO of Sticky Pictures: “Just me.”

DO YOU HAVE A DEFINED ‘GAME PLAN’ WHEN YOU HEAD INTO A MARKET?

Graeme Mason: Harry and I were on the Screen Australia stand. But also between me, Sally and Andrew the plan was to just try to cover all the key people. We’re trying to promote the Australian content and people who make it, find trends and work out what the opportunities are. And there’s a lot of flying the flag – just letting people know what the agency does as a whole.”

Kristen Souvlis: “Yes and no. We have outcomes we want to achieve, and then there's the reality of the market. We try to go in with few expectations, but then just be in the moment and hustle as much as we can. In saying that, we do a lot of prep, research all of our meetings and other delegates we'd like to meet, make sure our materials are prepped and we know what projects we're pitching where. We also make sure we’re ready to pivot in the middle of a meeting in case a broadcaster is after something different.”

Les Sampson: “Because we had so many meetings, we couldn’t attend all of them together. So to cover as many bases and as many distributors, we had to delegate among the three of us.”

Sharon Ramsay-Luck: “We tend to allocate meetings based on territories.  Our focus is based on a particular region and we’ll split according to that – for example, our European manager will meet with clients from that area. It’s really based on what territory you are responsible for. Then the meetings themselves were very much to showcase our new content, awareness of the catalogue and to highlight the ABC brand and all that stands for.”

Donna Andrews: “Absolutely. I have meetings pre-booked and know what I will pitch to whom. I set goals as well though, as it always depends a lot on the follow up.”

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN TO MIPCOM? and HOW USEFUL WAS IT FOR YOU THIS TIME?

Kristen Souvlis: “This was the first time for our company. Very useful. That kind of face-to-face time in meetings is very important for us being in Australia.”

Les Sampson: “It was actually probably one of the better markets to be quite honest. We had back to back meetings the entire time for new content and the meetings were very, very positive. A lot of great new dramas and scripted content and some great kids content as well that we were looking at.”

Sharon Ramsay-Luck: “For ABC it’s a regular thing. We have stands at MIPTV and MIPCOM. And it was absolutely useful – and very busy. We had a lot of meetings with existing clients, and a lot of new introductions. For the first time we had a comprehensive formats brochure rather than just a formats flyer, so that was great. We think it was very worthwhile.”

Donna Andrews: “I’ve attended as a broadcaster (buyer) and as a producer, so including MIPTV as well as MIPCOM, probably 30 plus times.”

IF YOU HAVE BEEN BEFORE, HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY SHIFTS IN THE WAYS DEALS ARE DONE AT MIPCOM?

Graeme Mason: “Everybody’s looking for shorter runs. In the past you couldn’t sell a drama series with only eight episodes. You needed to get two series and then with 16 or 20 episodes you could then sell it. But now there’s a demand for those shorter run series, even in children’s television. It’s also been interesting to see how companies such as Netflix and Amazon have been causing disruption in the marketplace. There was also a keynote from Susanne Daniels at YouTube Red about their strategy, which could lead to exciting opportunities for Australian YouTube stars and content makers. All these new playersincluding local subscription services like Stan, have dramatically changed the business models people relied on in the past. The opportunities for content have changed, but also how to finance a project with them in play.”

Kristen Souvlis: “Yes, I’ve been before in my other roles. And I’ve noticed there slower commitment and more caution when undertaking development.”

Les Sampson: “I think with the new SVOD services growing and developing around the world, that has certainly been a big change over the last couple of years and I think formats have certainly been of interest to a lot of the players as well. Not the SVOD players but particularly the free to air players, formats and creating your own local content has been very, very important.”

Sharon Ramsay-Luck: “I think there’s more deliberation over deal terms. I don’t think as many deals are announced at the market - it’s more that people use it to gather information and consider. The meetings are as much about research and relationships as they are sales.”

Donna Andrews: “The new online/streaming platforms have certainly shaken up the industry.”

WHAT WERE YOUR MOST INTERESTING ‘TAKEAWAYS’ AND BIG TRENDS YOU NOTICED AT THIS YEAR’S MIPCOM?

Graeme Mason: “Three things:

  1. People are very interested in the talent coming out of Australia. FremantleMedia, Sony, everyone was really excited. So if you’re in drama, there is a spotlight on us. Now is a good opportunity to go for it. But think big, which leads me to…
  2. If people want to make money beyond their fees, they have to be thinking about reaching an international audience. And that means co-productions. But done properly. Not developing a show and making last minute changes to the ethnicity or background of a character depending on who you are meeting. Look at who Australia has treaties with and start the conversations during the development process.
  3. If you’re not making a co-pro, make sure your project can travel. Yes, it has to grab the attention of the Australian public, but if you want it to sell abroad, its appeal needs to go even further. What sells overseas? At the moment, you need to make sure it’s has an uniquely Australian setting, with the sweeping landscapes of Flying Doctors or Wolf Creek, or it has an excellent concept, such as The Kettering Incident or Top of the Lake. It needs to be different to the type of show being made out of Los Angeles.”

Kristen Souvlis: “in children's television, everyone's looking for six to nine episodes of live action and animation comedy.”

Les Sampson: “I think the trend is new premium, high-end scripted drama. I think probably three to five years ago there were certainly no network dramas, but now you have premium content from cable, from the Scandi countries… it’s just nice to see so much great scripted content out there.”

Sharon Ramsay-Luck: “On the format front, increasingly it’s big and shiny that people are looking for. But apart from that, they’re just looking for quality content that will bring back a returning audience for them.”

DID YOU HEAR ANY COMMENTS FROM INTERNATIONALS ABOUT WHAT THEY THINK AUSTRALIA IS DOING WELL IN AT THE MOMENT?

Sharon Ramsay-Luck: “Quality, reliability, great storytelling. There’s fantastic recognition for the quality output from Australia, particularly in the fiction space. For us, we’ve got some kids programs that resonate globally as well, but just generally speaking, the quality and broad appeal of content from Australia is really increasingly recognised internationally.”

Donna Andrews: “There is usually strong interest in Australia’s children’s content. The Australian producers and community of kids’ content punch above their weight and many companies including Sticky Pictures are better known overseas than at home. Comedy is also drawing interest.”

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PRODUCERS ATTENDING MIPCOM FOR THE FIRST TIME?

Kristen Souvlis: “1. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that will take you from day to night; 2. Don't pitch at networking functions, unless someone specifically asks you to. Just be a human having a beverage; 3. It's important to go to functions and; 4. Don't hand out cumbersome materials - just have small examples of your work and offer to send it through after the market.”

Les Sampson: “Understand that it’s a very competitive landscape so don’t take no for an answer and enjoy yourself and the fact that you’re working for a business that’s growing and progressive.”

Sharon Ramsay-Luck: “For producers, it depends whether they’re seeking distributors to represent the program or they want to go directly to the broadcast platform. In either instance, research and understand who the players are and what they are looking for, because no one has time for a discussion that’s not relevant to their needs and interests. And if you’ve got a program, you need to understand what its unique attributes are. Why will it work for an audience? Why will it appeal? Really ensure that when you’re approaching the market, you have a great definition and keen understanding of the point of difference and the tone of what it is that you’re presenting and how that varies to what else is in the market. So basically the USP (unique selling proposition) of the program.”

Donna Andrews: " 1. Pre-book your meetings; 2. Know who you are meeting, what their company does. If it’s a broadcaster or platform study their schedule and content, or if it’s a distributor, look at their catalogue and; 3. Rehearse your pitch. You are one of a zillion meetings so you need to be clear, succinct and dazzling!”