Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Return of the creative urges

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

For Broadcast October 15, 2009

Creativity returned to Mipcom last week, and with it, the money.

With the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Matt Groening strolling along the Croisette during Mipcom last week, it was easy enough to recognise that the importance of creativity has re-emerged in the TV business.

Seinfeld was pushing a comedy panel show, The Marriage Ref, and summed up the feeling in France: you can’t get away with the same old, same old any more.

He’s bored with “constructed reality” shows such as Big Brother as well as new shows where a couple of sitcom stars are put together for yet another sitcom. “Audiences are resistant to shows like that on face value,” he said. “I have a very strong feeling that TV’s success requires new faces. For a real TV hit, the public has to participate in it, they need to find it and make it popular.”

Groening - who can talk about a remarkable 30 million global viewers per week for The Simpsons - was in town picking up a newly minted award as a creative icon. He is aiming for Barack Obama to guest star on his show, which is still able to break new barriers after 20 years. Not only is The Simpsons now in HD, but Homer even appeared at Mipcom as a hologram.

Elsewhere, Fremantle was talking about a UK-German collaboration for new programming ideas; advertising giant Publicis announced a new entertainment division; and Spanish company Zed Worldwide gave details about its first animated movie, Planet 51 (opening in the US next month), which has been created with a complete 360-degree strategy that includes games, internet sites, toys and more.

Even ITV was positive, with head of global content Lee Bartlett telling me about a creative structure for formats that he hopes will come up with more potential worldwide hits like Four Weddings.

If you were in Cannes last week, it was best to have a creative idea to chat about.

Money market

And, with creativity back in the air, the moneymen are getting excited. There was news of UK indie Dangerous being bought by Zodiak Entertainment (owner of Diverse) while Zig Zag Productions was picked up by French television company Banijay. Post-market, Banijay added Nordisk Film TV to its stable as well.

And it’s not about to stop there. The rumour mill about UK deals, so quiet over the past 18 months, has really picked up again and it seems as though producers’ creative stories are starting to sound appealing to potential buyers once more.

But finding the killer creative app is a toughie. Sony flew in the doyen of reality TV, Mark “Survivor” Burnett, to unveil its Big New Idea in Cannes. Burnett plans to re-invent 1970s series Fantasy Island by fulfilling real-life dreams of contestants.

Personally, I was underwhelmed. How many more people do we need to put in front of TV cameras under stress on desert islands? In the who’s-having-the-next-hit stakes, I’m backing Seinfeld.

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