Trade fair to show if TV industry emerging from crisis

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(AFP) -

Some 12,000 TV executives trek to the French Riviera next week to eyeball new programmes up for grabs at the MIPCOM market, signalling whether the entertainment industry is easing out of recession.

With advertising revenues down worldwide, the annual four-day spending spree kicking off Monday in Cannes will test the economic waters, said Mathieu Bejot, the head of TV France International, which has 800 programmes up for sale.

"2009 was a difficult year," he told AFP. "All world networks have trimmed their budgets. MIPCOM will test whether the industry is taking off again."

The scheduled Asia contingent is strong, with higher numbers from China, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, said Laurine Garaude of organisers Reed MIDEM.

But with caution in the air, the accent is expected to be on low-budget, light entertainment rather than sumptuous costume dramas and fiction.

Some countries, such as the United States, are pinning their hopes on comedy and family-oriented shows to woo audiences. Others will hedge their bets by looking for shows with a proven track record.

Data released ahead of the show by media specialist Eurodata TV Worldwide said a trend towards light low-cost entertainment formats and reality shows will continue to grow.

But some countries are less affected than others.

China and India have seen the market downturn as an opportunity to do more business as other countries hesitate. And nations accustomed to economic strain, such as parts of Latin America, are also expected to take a robust approach, industry experts said.

The Indian TV industry for one is on a roll after the government approved a slew of new foreign and domestic TV channels. This could see India on a buying spree to fuel the new channels, with the likely spotlight on long-running Latin American-inspired telenovelas as well as talent and reality shows.

The appetite for TV talent shows, from America's "Got Talent" to Britain's "X Factor" and New Zealand's "So You Think You Can Dance," remains strong, dominating Saturday primetime slots across the world.

Japan will unveil its unique take on this worldwide phenomenon at the MIPCOM opening party when its hit all-girl group AKB48 performs.

Set up by successful songwriter Yasushi Akimoto, the 66-strong all-female pop group aged from 14 to 26 now with their own TV show have become a commercially lucrative "brand."

Also due at MIPCOM to hand out words of wisdom and pick up an award is Matt Groening, creator of the "Simpsons," the longest running TV comedy in history.

On the glamour and glitz front, flying in are comedy icon Joan Rivers, and Lisa Kudrow of sitcom "Friends" as well as British actor John Nettles, star of police drama "Midsummer Murders" and Swedish actor Jakob Eklund, of new crime series "Johan Falk."

But the biggest event will be US stand-up comic legend Jerry Seinfeld promoting his new comedy-reality format "The Marriage Ref," in which celebs, sports stars and comedians give advice to bickering married couples.

Asia will be well represented at MIPCOM, led by digital media powerhouse Japan, which will send 95 companies to the event. China will be out in force with 163 participants and 64 companies, up 18.5 percent from 2008.

New countries participating for the first time this year are Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Libya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic and Suriname.