'Speed Dating' for Hits
April 17, 2007 1:10 PM
CANNES. Monday. MIP TV is underway. Buyers, sellers, and other well-dressed enablers are streaming into the Palais on another flawless weather day about to begin a series of meetings and drive-by inquiries in search of the next hit program – or at least something to fill that tough slot on the schedule.
At its essence, MIP TV is the digital equivalent of a Turkish rug bazaar where buyers go shopping for programming and once satisfied begin the intricate negotiation of price and terms.
This isn’t a market that Google is likely to automate anytime soon. Every piece of television is "special". In fact, due to the balkanization of rights attached to most programming projects – territorial holdbacks, music clearances, etc. – selling content can actually be quite difficult. Most transactions usually find their way to a lawyer’s inbox for execution.
All this "special-ness" makes shopping at MIP quite "high touch." And the basis of good relations is to have done your homework and established a calendar of appointments well before the market begins. That diary is your guide for the next four days while you go "speed dating" for hits.
My Monday consisted of 9 meetings across 10 hours including one working lunch. That’s a solid, but sane schedule. I’ve tried meetings on the half-hour and you spend so much time moving between appointments that you barely get passed the air kisses and ceremonial exchanging of the business cards with the Japanese. The trick is to balance the need to see content from potentially hundreds of vendors and to have enough time to remember anything about what is being pitched.
At 11am, I took a meeting set weeks ago with a Korean company new to me. A young woman with fluency in English introduced me to her boss who spoke only Korean. For the next 30 minutes, she was the bridge between us. They pitched four documentary series, one of which might be right for our world cultures channel, Equator HD. We screened a DVD with highlights and discussed plans for additional productions and the sales history of the programs. The ball is now in my court to screen a completed program and render a verdict.
That’s the basic drill to be repeated hour after hour, day after day. Since the Reed Midem organization, organizers of MIP TV, banned smoking in the airless Palais, it is not a bad gig at all.
At Voom HD Networks, we use MIP TV to buy programs, to sell programs, to co-produce programming and to meet with potential distributors of our Voom HD Global channel, now on the air in Europe.
That gives the meeting schedule some variety as I slip into different roles for different conversations.
But at its heart, this is about meeting in one week most of the people you need to do business with for the entire year.
The cardinal rule is that you respect your appointments – no matter how late you caroused along the Croisette the night before. Your reputation depends on getting business done efficiently. No one has time to waste.
As one top female sales executive who has are reputation as a world-class party animal put it so delicately, "You always show up for that first appointment, even if you’ve lost the keys to the handcuffs."
Tomorrow: Is this television or did I join the United Nations?