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International Insider: MIPTV Comes To A Close; BBC Blows Hot & Cold On AI; ‘Toxic’ Hot Docs Exodus

Bonjour and hello, Insiders. This was the week in which the end of the historic MIPTV Cannes confab was confirmed after six decades. Jesse Whittock with you. Let’s begin, and sign up for the newsletter here.

London Calling, Cannes Canned

London’s Leicester Square and Cannes’ Palais des Festivals
London’s Leicester Square and Cannes’ Palais des Festivals

So long, MIPTV: Phrases like ‘the end of an era’ and ‘part of the furniture’ are used all too readily, but in the case of MIPTV’s closure, we have found the correct application. On Monday, Stewart — someone who has been attending MIPTV and its larger sister MIPCOM for two decades and knows the market inside out — revealed event organizer RX was indeed closing the confab and planning a new one for 2025 in London. This confirmed his original scoop from February and ended the will-they-won’t-they chatter that dominated executive chat at Berlinale Series, the London TV Screenings and Series Mania. After 61 years, MIPTV will hold its swansong in a couple of weeks in Cannes before calling it a night. MIPCOM Cannes will continue unaffected. Though RX has been at pains to say the new MIP London event won’t be a like-for-like replacement, it’s fair to assume it wouldn’t exist had MIPTV been in a healthier place. MIP London will piggyback on the ultra-successful London TV Screenings, running adjacent, with an event held at the end of February in the famous Savoy Hotel and adjoining IEL London. Smaller in scale than MIPTV, the two venues will be able to house a couple of thousand execs, if interest hits those heights. Think boutique spaces over the industrial units of the Palais des Festivals bunker. RX will target those international sellers who don’t have a presence at the Screenings, which is free for distributors to host events (bar venue and sustenance costs). Scripted fest Canneseries, which runs alongside MIPTV, will return in 2025, reps tell us, though no dates have been set. Sources say organizers would prefer joining it with MIPCOM, though rumors abound regarding a move to the Cannes Film Festival or another time in the year.

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Why it happened: As Stewart noted in his article, distributors have long grumbled about the costs and ROI of MIPTV — often in the very bars and booths of the Cannes event. Once a permanent half of a twice-yearly pilgrimage to the Côte d’Azur for the international TV industry, it has faded from the must-attend list over the past decade. With the transactional nature of the MIPs less important nowadays to many international buyers, who have upped their investment in originals and co-productions, buying has generally become a more bespoke, year-round practice, rendering the smaller MIPTV less useful. The Covid-19 pandemic reinforced this, simultaneously ending live events for a couple of years and changing mindsets about international travel. Then along came Series Mania, Content London and the London TV Screenings, all held in the months leading up to MIPTV and each surging in popularity at similar times. All three pulled more delegates away from Cannes and reduced interest further. I’ve attended MIPTV on and off for 15 years and it has been apparent to me for a long time now that many of the market’s biggest supporters of yesteryear are frustrated and choosing to spend their money elsewhere. Given the huge cost of holding MIPTV each year, RX — and especially Director Lucy Smith — listened to the grumbles and wisely called time at the bar.

Rosé-tinted glasses: Despite MIPTV’s well-documented troubles, my phone has been buzzing non-stop with messages from friends and international contacts reminiscing about great times had at the market. Many were a bit hazy on whether they were recalling MIPTV or MIPCOM memories (and they’re pleased a Cannes trip is still on the calendar, with October’s larger confab still going strong), but there has been a lot of affection. Even some who have long left showbiz behind reached out. Some of those still connected to the market have shown concern for the local businesses who will lose out on the gregarious (and very thirsty) TV set turning up every April. Gary, the owner of Deadline International’s favorite late night hangout, Brown Sugar, posted several social media messages voicing worry over loss of trade. As he wrote in an X message directed at Cannes Mayor David Lisnard, MIPTV represented “one of our best weeks of the year.” Alas, bottles of delicious pale rosé will remain unopened and seafront restaurants will have many more empty tables with the market gone. À bientôt, MIPTV.

BBC Blows Hot & Cold On AI

I’m a tech deployer, twisted tech deployer: Varying stories about the BBC this week perfectly encapsulated the difficulties of embracing AI – a technology that so much of the public appears naturally reticent towards. Late last week, the BBC was forced to say it will never use AI again to promote Doctor Who after an AI-generated marketing push received complaints from audiences. Then, a former Mamma Mia! actress said she had been replaced by AI in a BBC program, forcing the Corporation to reveal that it is using the AI-generated voice of a person who is nearing the end of their life.

AI caramba!: In the midst of this, Director General Tim Davie used his mega set-piece on Tuesday to reveal that the BBC is working to “proactively deploy AI on our terms” and has several pilots in place with the big tech companies. He seemed oblivious to the Doctor Who brouhaha and appeared to be grabbing the AI-generated bull by the horns, attempting to shape the tech before the tech shapes him. Davie also offered the tech companies an olive branch in the landmark speech, positing that the BBC needs to strike “major global partnerships with tech players” in order to generate serious cash for shows and R&D. Yet in an example of doublespeak, he chided those same companies for generating “U.S. and Chinese algorithms” that could be the “potential taste-makers of the future.” It’s no wonder some were left a bit bemused.

Warm reception: All in all though, Davie’s speech, which Max attended, garnered a warm reception from the clutch of luminaries gathered inside Savoy Place and in the resulting press coverage. While touching on a number of themes he has previously explored such as the need for improved commercial revenue and a “reformed” license fee, he faced hot button issues such as declining budgets head on, addressing “the elephant in the room – money.” That was an important point to note, as it was followed two days later by a BBC Annual Plan projecting a whopping deficit of nearly £500M ($631M). In a noticeably more passionate moment during Davie’s Q&A session, he delivered a rousing response to why the nation’s oldest broadcaster needs to prove its worth on a daily basis. “This room may be quite convinced by the public role of the BBC but being ‘valuable’ means you have to do your work to make sure that value is actually delivered in things called programs,” said Davie. Elsewhere, tucked away in his small print was a strategy to end commissioning for the recently-reinstated BBC Three linear channel and focus all efforts for young people on iPlayer. Who knew kids watch things online these days?

Exec Exodus At ‘Toxic’ Hot Docs

Hussain Currimbhoy
Hussain Currimbhoy

Chaos rules: Turmoil came for North America’s largest documentary festival this week. On Monday, it emerged nine programmers were exiting, exactly a month out from its 2024 edition. Among those exiting from the Toronto-based org that runs the fest was Senior International Programmer Myrocia Watamaniuk, whose Facebook post initially revealed the chaos. Without providing detail, she said she was making a “heartbreaking choice” and added she would “continue to fight for films and filmmakers.” Hours later, it emerged Artistic Director Hussain Currimbhoy (pictured) had also departed “due to personal reasons.” He had only taken the post in November last year. Things got murkier still when the 10 exiting programmers released a joint statement saying that a “once welcoming programming environment” had “recently turned into a toxic workplace.” They claimed there was a “lack of respect” shown to staff, that team members’ voices were “not heard” and that contracts had been “breached across various programmes.” In response, the festival said it was “not in a position to comment on internal personnel matters due to a variety of confidentiality concerns.” Recent comments by Hot Docs President Marie Nelson had suggested the org was struggling financially after the pandemic and she called on government support to ensure 2024 would not be the last Hot Docs. This week, Nelson and Director of Programming Heather Haynes also used a press conference to hold the door “open for any programmers who would like to return this year or for future festivals.”

To The Moonbug And Back

Cocomelon
Cocomelon

CoComelon grows in Europe: Moonbug Entertainment is taking its CoComelon and Blippi preschool megabrands to Europe, its EMEA and APAC boss, Nicolas Eglau, told Max this week. After striking deals in the Nordics and MENA region, Eglau and co see opportunities to partner in Western Europe, something he “never thought” Moonbug would achieve. Not only that, but the Candle Media-owned company will for the first time target older children and could look to acquire brands or IP to do so. Moonbug, whose videos divide parents but are undeniably popular, has 760 million combined YouTube subs and programs on Netflix that look to tie in with childrens’ daily routines such as teeth-cleaning and bedtimes. The fight for attention is perhaps the most pronounced in children’s and family programming, and Moonbug wants to be a global player in the game.

Johnny Kitagawa Darkness Deepens

Johnny & Associates press conference
The press conference announcing the dissolution of Johnny & Associates

Nearly 1,000 men: The horror story around deceased J-pop agent Johnny Kitagawa’s abuses of power was laid bare this week. A BBC documentary, Our World: The Shadow of a Predator, revealed that the number of men who have come forward claiming Kitagawa sexually abused them has reached 964. This follows a previous bombshell BBC doc from last year that led to the dissolution of Kitagawa’s agency, Johnny & Associates. Successor company Smile-Up was created in the wake of the first program to process the claims of abuse. Smile-Up’s CEO, Noriyuki Higashiyama, told Our World presenter Mobeen Azhar that his role was to “help to mend” the hearts of abused, “even just a little.” He has also alleged there were another two perpetrators, who he believes to be alive. Kitagawa formed Johnny & Associates in 1962 and went on to become a hugely influential figure in Japanese popular culture. However, he became the subject of claims of improper sexual relations with boys and men signed to his label and four years after his death in 2019, a report revealed the depths of the depravity and years of sexual abuse. Major Japanese news outlets acknowledged they had stayed silent and much of the reporting has been conducted out of the UK by the BBC. Hopefully, out of this this terrible story comes some resolution for the victims.

The Essentials

Jimmy White
Jimmy White

🌶️ Hot One: Snooker legend Jimmy White is to be the subject of a Steve Waddington feature film starring Anuerin Barnard and Ray Winston. Zac with the scoop.

🌶️ Another: Scoop producer Lighthouse and Happy Valley star Sarah Lancashire are working on a “contemporary returning series” in the UK, per Max.

🌶️ Bring the heat: Universal International Studios will adapt Christie Watson’s novel Moral Injuries for TV.

📹 Casting #1: Animal actor Bobby Deol will play the villain in Yash Raj Films’ next Spy Universe film, as per Andreas.

📹 Casting #2: Billie Boullet has joined Luke Evans and Milla Jovovich in sci-fi survival thriller World Breaker.

🇫🇷+📈 France rising: Movie production in France is up 13.6%, according to the country’s National Cinema Centre.

🚦 Greenlight: For the £450M ($568M) UK film and TV studio backed by James Corden’s Fulwell 73.

🛹 Kickflippin’: Skateboard legend Tony Hawk teamed with Canada’s Lauging Dragon Studios to create an animated series, Skatebirds.

🏢 Setting up shop: Boiling Point director Philip Barantini and producer Samantha Beddoe have launched It’s All Made Up Productions.

⚠️ Scam: Detectives in Italy are investigating a $1M scam that successfully targeted Fremantle Southern Europe CEO Jaime Ondarza.

💥 Boardroom battleProSieben rejected restructure proposals from its lead shareholder, the Berlusconi family-owned MFE.

🍿 Int’l box office: Tran Thanh’s romance drama Mai became the first Vietnamese title to score a $1M opening weekend outside its home market.

🎥 Trailer: For debut Bluey special episode ‘The Sign’.

Max Goldbart contributed to this week’s Insider

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