TV industry slowly lighting up again

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The Independent Culture
(AFP)

Brisk business at the TV industry's annual Riviera rendez-vous has raised hopes of an end to entertainment recession, but caution underpinned deals struck at this week's MIPCOM trade fair.

"It seems the economic climate for broadcasting is picking up," said Christina Willoughby, who heads sales for Britain's leading independent audiovisual distributor, DRG, or Digital Rights Group.

"The mood is buoyant and people are positive and more upbeat compared with the Spring show," she told AFP.

There was also a higher turnout of participants and programme buyers at the four-day show that ended Thursday, said Laurine Garaude, of Reed MIDEM.

But the mood remained cautious, with buyers making conservative choices and often opting for feel-good shows to cheer up viewers in tough times, such as formats, family entertainment and comedy.

Remakes of successful classics such as "The Prisoner" and proven dramas such as Agatha Christie's "Marple" or "The Doc Martin" series also proved popular.

"Sometimes you don't need to reinvent the wheel, there are a lot of iconic shows about," said Tobias de Graff, who heads distribution at ITV Studios Global Entertainment, one of Europe's largest commercial TVs.

"Everything is ratings driven," DRG's Willoughby said. "Everyone wants to see if it's worked, and where, before committing."

Risk aversion combined with a taste for low-cost productions meant formats were specially popular -- with even children's shows starting to be designed as formats that can be adapted locally around the world.

Format productions in the 2006-2008 period generated a whopping 9.3 billion euros, a 45 percent increase over 2002-2004, according to the Format Recognition and Protection Association (FRAPA).

But a new trend is for formats that address daily life rather than offer dream situations.

"Reality TV no longer promises the moon and the stars. Instead, it addresses issues people are really concerned about and tries to come up with solutions," Bernard Villegas, director of consultantcy The WIT, told AFP.

And with the need to smile specially strong in belt-tightening times, a slew of new comedy shows proved big hits with international buyers.

Britain's Aardman Animations duo Wallace and Gromit notably are set to star in their first live-action TV show, "A World Of Invention".

And US stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld's new comedy-reality panel show -- "The Marriage Ref" -- secured its first deals that will see it aired in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi as well as in Australia.

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