Deals for toons, docs at MIPCOM

Torrential rain may have washed away the MTV booth, but not the spirits of Canadian producers and broadcasters who, by most accounts, did brisk business at last month’s MIPCOM in Cannes, France.

The theme of the 21st annual TV market was mobile content, but, as usual, what dealmakers cared most about was what was happening on the floor. The dry spots, at least.

Rain took a heavy toll on the Palais des Festivals on day three of the conference, when leaking ceilings and power failures forced a dozen companies, including MTV and Hallmark, to relocate their booths.

But the sun shone on toon- and doc-makers throughout MIPCOM. Nonfiction and animation were in high demand again this year, with Nelvana, Decode Entertainment and the National Film Board all doing major business.

Nelvana found homes for Backyardigans (20 x 30) with Discovery Kids Latin America, and sold Magic School Bus (52 x 30) and Studio B’s Being Ian (52 x 30) to that region’s Cartoon Network. The Toronto toon giant also announced a deal with Discovery Kids in the U.S. for Grossology (26 x 30), followed by a coproduction deal with Singapore’s ST Electronics for a series of direct-to-DVD animated features and three animated series. The first project will be The Future is Wild, a 26 x 30 3D series about time-traveling teens.

Scott Dyer, Nelvana’s EVP of production and development, says it was a positive market for most and that he noticed a lot of activity from one territory in particular.

‘The German side seems to have come back in a big way,’ says Dyer. ‘There was a lot more activity from the German broadcasters… it has been quiet in previous years.’

Rink Rat Productions’ Mary Sexton met with potential German broadcasting partners for a feature doc she is producing called Accordion Voice, a look at the history of the instrument beyond polka.

‘Most people glaze over when you say ‘accordion,’ except for the Germans,’ she says. Sexton was also pleased to see more dramas at the market, and fewer reality programs.

The NFB sold a whack of product as well, signing the 4 x 60 doc series Shining Mountains over to Italy’s RAI and Spain’s TV3, the feature doc The Peacekeepers to Sweden’s SDT, and They Chose China, another doc, to History UK and HBO Europe.

Decode sold its Radio Free Roscoe and Planet Sketch – a new 13 x 30 copro with Aardman Entertainment – to ABC Australia and, according to president Steven DeNure, other deals initiated at the market should close soon.

Other highlights include YTV/Treehouse inking a five-year output deal with MTV, giving the Corus-owned youth specialties regional syndication rights to current and new Nickelodeon programs, and a deal with Sesame Workshops for preschoolers Play with Me Sesame, Elmo’s World and Global Grover.

CHUM Television sold HD one-offs of its 2005 MuchMusic Video Music Awards and The Essence of Haute Couture to CCTV in China. Frantic Films president Jamie Brown found the market ‘busy but not booming,’ adding there was ‘a buoyancy’ among the Canadian contingent, many of whom were showing new programs, not just new cycles of older shows. He says there was also considerable buzz around the repurposing of content for mobile technologies and for distribution via video-on-demand, mail-order video rental and other streams.

‘Things like that are making people feel optimistic,’ says Brown. ‘A few years ago, as AAC was stepping out of content and Fireworks was closing down, there was a sense that this was not the business to be in.’

Brown says he received strong interest in his grandchildren-of-war doc series Bomber Boys (4 x 60) and lifestyle/reno program Kitchen Crimes (13 x 30).

Susan Boshcoff, partner at distributor re:think Entertainment, agrees that there was a sense of excitement about new technological advancements, but adds that mobile wasn’t an overwhelming feature – despite having its own dedicated day and awards at the market. She feels that some companies are reluctant to get caught up in the hype of mobile because of other new waves that have crashed in recent years.

‘Convergence was a word being tossed around a few years ago that no one ever really clearly defined,’ says Boshcoff, ‘but the deals people are making for mobile seem to be pretty straightforward. It looks a lot more clear than other [heavily hyped] things that have popped up.’

The Toronto company finalized the sales of three series at MIPCOM: the hands-on renovation show Real Renos (60 x 30) to the How-To Channel in Australia, teen travel series Get Outta Town! (13 x 30) to TVB in Hong Kong, and the Netherlander magic performance series Magic Unlimited (13 x 30) to the Al Jazeera Children’s Channel.

Evangelia Ozek, director of international sales for Ciné Télé Action, says she couldn’t get into some mobile conferences because they were full. Meanwhile, she says she generated international interest in her company’s new one-hour gambling-addiction doc Addicted to the Game and the CTA back-catalog. Ozek admits a tougher sell was its yet-to-air CBC miniseries René Lévesque, about the late separatist Quebec premier.

‘The topic is pretty limited as far as international interest is concerned,’ says Ozek. ‘We’re exporting programs that we produce for CBC, so there is always that challenge of placing Canadian programming internationally.’

Even so, broadcasters from France and other European countries, as well as the Middle East, expressed interest in the 3 x 90 mini, she says.

MIPCOM organizers did not have official numbers at Playback’s press time, but by Oct. 19, the market’s midway point, attendance had hit a healthy 11,600, up 7% over last year.

The place was jumping, says Lauren Millar, director of development at Omni Film Productions, which received interest for stunt insider show Stuntdawgs.

‘It was tremendously busy, and the time frame I’ve given myself in the past for booking meetings was woefully inadequate,’ she says. ‘We had to follow up on a daily basis with the people we wanted to meet with… It was really buzzing this year.’