MIP for beginners – participation cannot be missed

When and why go to MIPCOM (MIP)? – One fine morning every owner of a production, drinking a cup of coffee or not, who has a slightly above average level of ambition, will ask himself this question. So, the company’s development strategy has got a new point – to capture the world! Sun-Tzu’s advice will certainly help in achieving the goal, but for the media business there is another no less effective tool that must be included in its tactics – attending the MIPCOM television market.

So, you have the desire to establish business internationally but lack in knowledge and experience in communication of global scale. How to start, how to get to the epicenter of necessary events and how to behave at the event so that you are not only noticed, but remembered as a potential partner for further cooperation? This is just a small number of the questions that occur to the top management.

In order to restore balance to your mind and calm down the growing emotional chaos, we will tell you how the “art of war” (read Sun-Tzu) is created at the international media market and tactical and strategic skills are honed. Let’s consider the way of the beginner participating in MIPCOM 2016 on the example of the company MK Media Group, which was told to us by the head of the sales and acquisitions department of the company – Artem Zapolskyi.

When does it make sense for a new production to go to MIP?

When you are mentally prepared to declare yourself publicly, not afraid of criticism, open to unpopular decisions and have at least a few completed TV products in your portfolio.

Many colleagues call this market “final”, because it is here that companies which have passed all kinds of development circles come, and MIP for them is the point of transition to the highest level of doing business. MK Media Group took part in MIP after eight years of work in the international market. The market became for us the “Final” on the way to the top of success and the “Start” in a sustainable establishment on the top and strengthening the created image.

Before going to Cannes, we visited almost all the world’s TV-markets, including the market in Budapest, Prague, Istanbul, Singapore, Johannesburg, Rio. As you can see, we choose the tactics of gradual and qualitative coverage of the global media market. We had to be confident in ourselves, in our product, in the correctness of the standards of doing business, and in the quality of building partnerships. Each market is not only an opportunity to declare that you exist, but also another factor of development and improvement for the company.

At the end of 2015, we were convinced that we were already fully prepared for the world’s largest TV market and included attending it into the company’s development tools list for 2016. Going forward, I will say that the decision proved to be correct. The results of the autumn MIPCOM 2016 pleased us.

Today, we are engaged in large-scale projects: we produce cartoons, docudramas and documentaries. Our content is watched in more than 150 countries, but it was not always so.

Having analyzed the international market and assessed its capabilities, including financial ones, we decided to start with the production of short-format TV programs or, as they are also called, fillers. After a while, we were successfully selling this product and became entrenched in the segment of entertainment content of short format in many countries. The first were China, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Turkey. As it turned out, on foreign TV channels this kind of content is often used as inserts between the main programs in the broadcasting grid, or instead of commercials. With the growing popularity of digital platforms and mobile phones, our content has become even more in demand.

As practice shows, content still tends to be shortened nowadays. We all see that the web series 15-25 minutes long are popular now. Living in the era of globalization and having an incredibly large information flow, the user spends less and less time watching one resource or video, and the term “Internet surfing” has become a household word. The producers should consider this factor of influence. For example, content 1 to 12 minutes long is perceived by the viewer better than, for example, half-hour content. And the viewer will watch what is shorter, what takes less time, while providing all the necessary information. Now many people use a digital platform or on-line resources to create their own program grid and control it – they choose to view what they like or are interested in, click through and fast-forward everything that does not hook.

Having caught wind of the situation eventually, we produced more than twenty projects – TV programs whose running time varies from 2 to 13 minutes per episode, while the number of episodes is from 20 to 350. The programs cover absolutely various subjects: cooking, history, culture, art, geography. One of the indicative projects, which we are proud of, is “Infotoy”. It shows how much digital popularity has affected the perception of the content by the viewer: maximum of information in short time. The program has been selling for over a year, and the number of downloads of it on Amazom.com is only increasing. Also, our successful projects include FunFood and FoodLab – cookery fillers 2-3 minutes long, which we created in co-production. Now they are shown on every continent, and if we talk about paid platforms, for example about the same Amazon, then, probably, in every country in the world. We receive a lot of positive reviews of our programs from customers – many viewers write about the programs on the sites of our partners, where the product is presented. The audience is interested in different nuances, shares their achievements in cooking, etc. All this evokes positive emotions and a desire to work harder for our consumer.

If you sum up the results, you can draw the following conclusions: determining the trends in time and following them are much more important than how pretentious, pompous and expensive your product is. Before going to the most global TV market, your portfolio had better include at least five products. Be sure to show them to at least one international distributor. The distributor will provide you with an invaluable service in the form of a consultation. They will tell you what needs to be corrected in your product, depending on which regions you view as potential consumers and which type of buyer you are targeting. You should be aware that your opportunities are not confined to TV channels and there are at least OTT-platforms and such concept as outdoor rights.

Of course, you can go to the market even if you have three products in the portfolio, and you have not yet sold them abroad. So you can find out from the horse’s mouth how much in demand you product is, what you need to improve and why. Anyway, you need to determine your own development tactics yourself, but even at the initial stage of global plans, attending MIP is a great opportunity to test-drive your potential.

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How to prepare for the market?

Analyze an incredibly huge amount of information, drink a hundred cups of coffee and prepare comfortable shoes.

In fact, the preparation for MIP is a big piece of work for several months involving all the company staff, from the office manager to the CEO. Participation in the market obliges you to perfect preparation. And although you probably cannot manage everything from the first time, you should always try to think everything over, determine the expediency of your actions and expenses, and organize everything in the best possible way – from developing presentation materials to effective meeting appointments.

If you produce something and go to the market, you will certainly be there as a seller. The very first thing you need for successful sales is to understand the market. In this case the international one. So the very first and important thing that you have to do is to study the market trends, at least in territorial terms: the CIS, Central and Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Latin America, the Arab states, Asia, Australia. You should be aware of what is currently at the peak of popularity, what you can interest the viewer with in the near future and in the long term. And, of course, you should know the companies that will be interested in your content.

For the beginner, first of all, the main tools in studying these issues will be online magazines about the media industry and various professional groups in Facebook and Linkedin, where you can initially get free and important information to learn the situation in this or that market in detail. As for prospective customers, the MIP Participants Database will help you. Organizers will give you access to all contact information, and you will have a guide to companies. By learning them you will be able to identify prospective partners for yourself. For the beginners, I would advise you to cooperate with experienced distributors, as they are a guarantee of your success by more than fifty percent.

As for MK Media Group, we have quite a lot of experience in the international distribution of content. We attend markets around the world and at the same time work a lot with other distributors, our partners, who represent our content in different countries and the markets where we are not present. We are sure that, being in these regions, our partners know and understand the peculiarities of the markets even better than we do. Of course, it is another way we can better study the specifics of the media business in the context of individual countries. Knowing the market of each country and all its nuances is your main advantage to close a deal. Therefore, having no experience in the content distribution, the right solution can be just working with distributors – a team of professionals who will help you to achieve your goal.

The beginner can fail not only because of ignorance about what content is in trend, and inability or lack of experience in finding a common language in a cross-cultural society, but also due to:

• the lack of knowledge about the pricing policy – you do not want to eventually learn that you sold your product 50% cheaper than the market price;

• ignorance about which channels and platforms are currently buying what – it influences the effectiveness of the meetings. The distributor who is in the game will immediately tell you with whom to appoint a meeting, and who you can still meet online or just catch up with at a party that takes place during the market;

• an incorrect presentation of the content. Even if you have analyzed everything and seem to have figured out the market, the lack of knowledge how to present your product properly to a prospective buyer can undermine all your efforts.

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Let’s take a closer look at the content presentation at the market.

First, select 2 or 3 main products that you will present.

Second, think over your presentation thoroughly: choose the most important things and set it out in 15 minutes. Normally, at the market a meeting with one partner lasts 30 minutes and 15 minutes of them are allocated to the product presentation. You must tell about the product the most important for the client, so that on arriving home he/she does not have any open questions or unclear points.

Third, pay attention to the one who you communicate with. It is very important to take into account intercultural differences and subtleties of national character, as well as to know the standards of doing business in different countries.
Americans, Europeans, Asians, Arabs – absolutely everyone has their own unwritten rules in forging partnerships. And you had better learn about them before going to the market.

Fourth, decide how and where you will show your content. Prepare product trailers that will accurately show the essence of your program. Take with you a tablet in case there is no TV on your stand.

Fifth, think about what material you will leave to your client after the meeting – a large three-volume catalogue of 250 titles or a catalogue prepared individually for everyone, a memory stick with the trailers or a leaflet. Here, every company decides individually how to do best.

What happens during the market itself?

Introductions – networking – deals – inspiration.

Cannes is a truly French Provence, imbued with the spirit of the media industry, which historically seeps literally on every ten square metres. Such an authentic atmosphere of the media epicenter cannot be found at any other global media market. The number of market participants is about 15,000, and this is the fifth part of the entire population of Cannes. Throughout the city there are posters of major world producers of content and TV channels, the branded buses run around, and all the cafes of the town are occupied from 8 am to 9 pm. In the centre of Cannes, right on the promenade of the Azure Sea, there is a huge Palais des Festivals – a building that hosts Cannes Lions festivals, MIPCOM, MIPTV, and next to it, in five hundred metres there is MIPJunior – no less significant event in the world of content for children.

Those who come to Cannes for the first time should go for a sightseeing tour by bus or mini-train. There are tremendous views, and even all these advertising banners inspire.

On the first day of the autumn market in 2016, the MIP organizers gave an introductory tour of the Palais des Festivals, where the market was held and told the history of the Cannes events, for which we were especially thankful. Then they did what only the best professionals of their business are capable of – they invited everyone to a comfortable auditorium, conducted a master class on NETWORKING and gave a keynote speech before the start of the market! The organizers advised once again to remember why everyone had come to MIP and said the amazing words, “Here everyone networks! That is, absolutely all participants, like you, have come for networking, making contacts and doing business. What, if not this, should inspire you, or help you completely forget about shyness, worries, fears, etc.? Where, if not at MIP, can you prove yourself and tell the world about your content, your ideas and your country?”

If you have arrived at the market, you should know that MIP is considered the pinnacle of success also because the buyers come here for a specific purpose – to purchase content! That is, you as a manufacturer have high guarantees that there will be successful sales. Despite its bohemianism, this is an event where people work from morning till night, without a break for rest and food. At the MIPCOM 2016, meetings that took place during breakfast, lunch or dinner in the cafes nearest to the market were considered absolutely normal and no one was surprised. The only thing that surprised me – in one of the most popular for such meetings cafe, there was no Wi-Fi. It caused communication problems for the market participants.

I remember the words of one of the speakers – Paul Boross on the first day, “Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes.” Indeed, we had to run a lot: 30 minutes is given for one meeting, but in fact you have time to hold two meetings during this time. However, you need to get from the sixth floor of the Palais to the Participants Club, which is located outside in the pavilion. So prepare comfortable shoes in advance. And if you go to this market, try to hold the maximum possible number of meetings, use the obtained opportunities for one hundred percent! After all, despite the fact that now the majority of international agreements are concluded online and often without personal acquaintance, face-to-face communication is still in high demand. In fact, people start trusting you after making sure of your real existence, seeing your face and shaking hands. After you are introduced personally, the loyalty of partners immediately increases several times, and it guarantees strengthening your positions in foreign markets. It is such markets as MIP that provide an opportunity not only to establish new contacts, but also to get acquainted with your old partners and establish closer cooperation.

As for making deals during the market, you should understand that there are different types of deals: someone arrives with completed content, someone is looking for a partner for joint production, and someone is in search for an investor ready to fully fund the project.

Concerning the finished content, here the process of signing the contract is faster. You meet with a company, talk about your content, show it, discuss the price and terms. This kind of a deal you can also conclude during the market, it all depends on the interest in your content. I am sure that it will not take long to consider the purchase, for example, of such a popular cartoon as “Tom and Jerry”, because everyone knows what kind of content it is, where to apply it, what audience it is aimed at, etc.

Those who come in search for co-production or funding for their projects certainly know that after all the discussions in the market there is often a long period of considering your project. If it is a TV channel or a platform, they decide relying on many factors: they will take into account their audience, analyze what ratings your product can give, whether this content will fit into their program grid and many other nuances. If this is a production company or a distributor, they will first look at the project/content having in mind certain TV channels, most likely those they already work with. The procedure can take from two to eight months.

Trends of the last market

At the heart of the stories are, as always, profound human values – love, family, friendship, the search for self, the meaning of life, etc. And a bit of technology.

Considering the trends in the content production in the national context, we can single out the following: drama series with a deep love and relationship stories are in demand in Turkey, cartoons are at the peak of the popularity in China. This country has an incredible number of animation studios, perhaps the largest in the world. Japan stands out for its rather peculiar and unique shows. This year, the Japanese surprised everyone with 8K resolution, a technology expensive for both the production and the end user – the viewer, although it’s too early to talk about the ubiquitous use of 8K technology. Korea holds its position with its famous doramas with a trend of 4K. Germany can be proud of its high-quality documentaries. The United States and Britain remain at the tops of high-quality documentaries and cartoons. Interesting and original content was presented by Australia. Australians are seriously focused on European buyers. Little by little, the Arab states are opening up to cooperation, despite the fact that they still continue to filter the content that gets to the screens in their regions. As for the post-Soviet countries, the production and sale of content is most often concentrated in the domestic market, but some studios are beginning to switch to the content that everyone will understand. For example, “95th Quarter” successfully proves this with the TV series “The Servant of Nation”. The format of the series is sold to Netflix. “Film.ua” with “The Sniffer”.

And, of course, MK Media Group, which initially makes products for the international market.

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How realistic today is it to sell abroad content made in the CIS?

It is real. It is important only to stick to the basic rules of production and take into account the current trends.

If you want to sell your finished content in a foreign market, you should pay attention to the quality of the picture, including the physical state of the location where you film the storyline; novelty of the story – writing a deep script, without superficial information from the Internet and without rewriting existing stories by changing only the names of the characters; features a director’s vision, capable of retaining the viewer. If your product contains dialogues or voice acting, the original language of the product should be English; you should avoid specific humor and consider intercultural issues that can prevent your sales. You had better give the script for the adaptation to the studio that is engaged in this kind of activity. It is important to pay attention to sound, editing and colour correction – all these should be done properly, as they emphasize on the story with additional effects. An important point – the advertising slots in the finished program. Many producers do not understand how important commercial-free content is.

In post-Soviet states there are still few production companies that make content, adhering to all these basic rules.

How much does the product cost?

Factors affecting the price of content.

The most interesting question for everybody: how expensively can I sell my product?

It will depend on many factors – on what product you offer and to whom: different content is popular in different countries, so you should realize that different countries are ready to pay dramatically different amounts for the same product; the important point is what rights do you sell: are they television or digital rights, or maybe outdoor ones. An important role is played by the economic situation in a particular country. The content can be relevant, but there is a limit that you “cannot jump over”. Prices for content cannot be considered static or regulated by someone. To understand them you need several year experience and knowledge of the situation in the market. Negotiation skills are of particular importance. Besides, the amount that the buyer is willing to pay for your product is affected by the way the content is delivered to the end user (viewer). In each country, there are two or three different ways of development: in India, for example, it is cable TV and DTH, in the UAE – FTA (free-to-air), pay-TV, IPTV, in Nigeria there are various mobile platforms, in Europe – cable TV, OTT, IPTV.

In a while, you will be able to navigate in the situation and, considering all the above factors, you will be aware that the USA pay between $5,000 and $50,000 or more for animation, Japan – from $4,000 to $25,000 or more, the UK – from $6,000 to $25,000 and above. And Japan will pay from $1,000 to $3,000 for the telenovela, the US – from $4,000 to $16,000, the UK – from $6,000 to $25,000.

At the stage of “novice player”, you should, first of all, clearly define the goals in order to avoid “drowning” in your ambitions. The second is to be able to extract from the large flow of information the one that is truthful and important particularly for you. The third – DO NOT BE AFRAID OF OBSTACLES ARISING ON YOUR WAY. They are the steps that lead you up.

And of course – tell the world about yourself! Be sure to come to MIP to present your ideas and finished products, establish international relations, ride the crest of modern trends, discover new opportunities and draw inspiration for new achievements.

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