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MIPCOM, Cannes – From ‘Clone My Dog’ to ‘Celebrity Shark Kitchen’ everyone wants the next big thing.

12.10.14 Posted in MIPCOM, News, TV contract law by


mipcom cannes

The Palais des Festival, on the Croisette, in Cannes.

Success in show business is unlike success in any other field, you could almost say there’s no business like it if you’d never heard the song. Nowhere is that more apparent than at Cannes during the MIPCOM event – known as the equivalent of the Film Festival for TV.

It’s a three day exhibition held each October last week next to the Mediterranean in the famous Palais des Festivals on the Croisette, the same building in which the Film Festival is also held. MIPCOM is the largest and most respected event in the world for buying and selling TV programmes. I have never attended an event like this before, and the one thing everyone tells you in advance is how enormous it is but nothing prepares you for how big it really is- with representatives from 112 countries present, almost the entire world is here trying to buy or sell TV.

Recently it expanded to include formats, which are sold and exported to TV markets around the world. When you see foreign versions of shows like the X-factor, Masterchef and The Voice, they all originated after their formats were sold here at MIPCOM. The format sector of the TV business is now so important that it’s the format that is developed and secured first, before the content.

The format business is huge. It has grown rapidly over the last few years and while the shows mentioned above are obvious candidates for local remakes, nearly all content has the potential to be reformatted in order to be sold and remade in a different TV jurisdictions. Shows as diverse as Ugly Betty, Homeland and In treatment are all based on original formats from other (non-English language) countries. There is no doubt that the most successful programmes often come from the most unlikely sources, often with original versions where it wasn’t obvious that they could have such enormous international success.

I am here representing Mrs Browns Boys. It is a privilege to be involved in a project that is not just well liked but of interest to people. Despite being a runaway success on TV, a live show phenomenon and a movie box office smash, the format of Mrs Browns Boys is still one of the hottest formats here.

As creator, and the ultimate deal maker, Brendan O’Carroll retained rights to his format and, as we sell it into various countries around the world, he retains creative control should he want to exercise it. We’ve sold the format into many countries and ostensibly that’s why I’m here at MIPCOM; as a watching brief to see how best we can develop the sale of the format of Mrs Brown’s Boys throughout the world. Sssh but we might also have an animated version of the series too.

I have a meeting with a Senior Vice President at NBC, responsible for alternative programming. He tells me he wants to see as much new content as he can at MIPCOM, as his job is to find the ‘next big thing’. NBC has had huge success with The Voice and they want, or rather need, to find the next one and that in a nutshell is what MIPCOM is all about.

Those with the content and the formats are the ‘sellers’; they try to get meetings to pitch their ideas and sell their shows to the broadcasters and the networks i.e. the ‘buyers’. The buyers want to meet the creatives and hammer out how the formats work, or could work in their country. But the creatives are uncomfortable with the buyers and the sellers are also unhappy with the creatives getting involved in the selling process. Ironically to ‘simplify’ this process everybody employs third party agents as professional buyers and sellers.

A senior executive of the successful UK production company 12 Yard Productions (creators of The Weakest Link and Eggheads) kindly hosts me at the ITV stand, which is massive and luxurious. She explains to me that the professional buyers and sellers are the ones dressed shark-like in Hugo Boss. Though some do actually dress as sharks “hi, any interest in Celebrity Shark Kitchen?”

Clearly, for me, the shark sellers have to be avoided, as time is precious and there is much to see and many people to meet. But, if your job depends on finding the next big thing, can you afford to not meet with the sellers of Clone My Dog? This show began to take on legendary status at MIPCOM, but as the worst idea ever. Although I think I would watch it. It’s a Korean format where contestants with dying dogs enter to win the prize of getting their dog cloned by Korea’s leading cloning company. Each week five contestants have to stand with models of their dogs. The winner is the contestant that can hold their model dog the longest, with the contestants who drop their model dog being eliminated and reunited with their dying dog.

The ‘Person of the Year’ feted in a special ceremony hosted by Piers Morgan was, of course, Simon Cowell. In his keynote speech were told that the only countries on Earth where Got Talent doesn’t air are Mongolia and Papua New Guinea. This event alone would have publicised the sale of his formats just as much as the guys dressed as the shark or on the stand hawking ‘Television For Dogs’, which was actually television for dogs. In no business is success and failure as far apart as in show business, but unlike any other business anyone can make it in show business and fundamentally it comes down to selling and buying.

The Irish contingent were well represented. RTE and the Irish Film Board had a great presence, open to any Irish producer who wished to avail of their services. Naoise Barry of the Irish Film Board was ably supported by Enterprise Ireland in publicising not just the country’s brilliant tax regime for co-productions, but its wonderful locations and unsurpassed crews.

At dinner on the last night and I was seated next to a hugely entertaining and charming American executive who has had a huge success throughout his long career with the development, production and sale of reality and game show formats. He’s a little hyper tonight as he seems to have had huge success with his latest format which maybe the ‘next big thing’. Everyone seems to want what he has to sell and it’s got a catchy title that perfectly explains the show -Dating Naked – maybe this is the one!

Simon Carty is a practicing solicitor and producer on Mrs Brown’s Boys


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