MIPCOM: come to buy shows, stay for the speakers

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Key CBS executives David Stapf (centre) and Armando Nunez (right)

CANNES,  France–Once it ends, MIPCOM gets ripped down faster than a “Ford for Mayor” banner on Queen West.

At the crack of four, workers began dismantling booths and carting away all the hype. The free WiFi got yanked around 16:05 CET. Basically thanks for coming, now get the hell to the airport, touristes.

The four day international television festival does go by in a blur. It’s spread out over so many convention spaces in and out of the main pavilion covering it is like trying to make connecting flights at seven different terminals. For a rookie it’s all pretty overwhelming, although I was grateful to have plenty of Canadian colleagues to rely on. That one tip to “get there real early on the Monday while they’re still setting up, run all over the huge basement section and take in all the madness at the 700 booths, and then NEVER GO BACK DOWN THERE AGAIN” was gold.

Veteran show goers tell me nobody used to attend the keynote and masterclass speaker sessions but now most are packed. Most are held in the very comfortable Grand Auditorium, also the main screening room for the annual Cannes Film Festival. I got to a few but missed some doozies.

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Newby (left) with Shyamalan, Morgan, Moffat and Donald

A good one was the “From Cult to Mainstream” showrunners panel featuring some heavy hitters in the genre category: Doctor Who wizard Steven Moffat, dapper Glen Morgan of X-Files fame, M Night Shyamalan of all those creepy movies and Ben Donald, EP on BBC’s The Refugees.

Moderator Julian Newby did a nice job keeping all four in the spotlight. Moffat was glib and hilarious, at one point chastising Newby for denigrating hub cap-shaped flying saucers in old sci-fi films. He admitted Doctor Who “goes hell for leather on the sci-fi fantasy aspect because the main character lives in a telephone box that is bigger on the inside and can change his face.” He says its the show’s more intimate, emotional moments, however, that keep it grounded.

Morgan was there to promote Intruders, a series that shoots in Vancouver. So does Wayward Pines, the upcoming Fox series which M Night (“Call me Night”) is helming.

Wayward Pines looks to be very Twin Peak-y, with Matt Dillon as a secret service agent lost in a very strange town. Carla (still “The Next Mrs. Brioux”) Gugino, Terrence Howard, Juliette Lewis and Melissa Leo top an intriguing cast.

Night, who directed “The Sixth Sense,” told writer Chad Hodge, “As long as everyone isn’t dead, I’m very interested” in the series.

He also neatly explained the whole rise in sci-fi/fantasy culture. “With the Internet, the geeks were given the keys to the Kingdom,” he told the audience. “They were the fringe, they became the gatekeepers.”

Another panel I made was the “Media Mastermind” keynote featuring CBS Studios president David Stapf and Global distribution president and CEO Armando Nunez. There were too many softballs lobbed at these two by the interviewer for my taste. We were told again that CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is a genius and could do all their jobs better than any of them could, etc. More interesting was the power duo’s take on the world scene, how there are still plenty of countries lining up to buy as many NCIS and CSI spin-offs as the Eye net can churn out.

Too bad they weren’t pressed a little more on the digital front. One day later, CBS dropped the bombshell announcement back home that you can start streaming all their hit shows over the Internet now. (No, not you Canada, settle down.) The cord-cutting shocker came one day after HBO said they would offer a web-only streaming service starting in the new year. Oct. 15, 2014 could be remembered, as Wall Street Journal columnist Dennis K. Berman tweeted immediately following the HBO eye opener, as “The day Cable TV died.”

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Netflix content boss Ted Sarandos (left) turns in a MIPCOM Masterclass

Speaking of which, the man running content over at the Death Star, Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos, headlined Tuesday’s “Medias Mastermind” session. I had to miss this keynote, but an observer who was there said she liked how the moderator, France Televisions’ director of Future Media Eric Scherer, pushed Sarandos on territory ambitions and other topics. Netflix just launched in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg and they’re eyeing Japan and China. Netflix is doing a fourth season of Arrested Development as well as their answer to Game of Thrones, Marco Polo.

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Murdoch Mysteries’ Yannick Bisson (centre) is flanked on the MIPCOM red carpet by wife Chantal Craig and Shaftesbury CEO Christina Jennings

ABC co-chair Anne Sweeney and reality kingpin Morgan Spurlock also headlined sessions I hated to skip. My pals over at Murdoch Mysteries, Yannick Bisson and Shaftesbury CEO Christina Jennings, shared a stage with CBC’s Sally Catto as well as two principals from The Book of Negroes, director Clement Virgo and producer Damon D’Oliveira. Colleague Michael Idato from the Sydney Morning Herald and a guy who makes me look like a stay-at-home did a nimble job moving this “Showrunners Masterclass” between the two dissimilar productions.

The Book of Negroes was somewhat of a sensational at Cannes. A gala, red carpet screening was held. Episodes one-to three were squished into a highlight reel and then episode four ran in its entirety, followed by a shortened look at the final two parts. The buzz following the screening was very positive. The miniseries will air early in the new year on CBC.

MIPCOM chose “Entertainment Creative Icon” Simon Cowell as their “Personality of the Year.” What year–2007? To make this seem even more out of touch, they had Piers Morgan interview him. The pair packed the Grand Auditorium Monday, but it was a no from me.

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