Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

'Jersey Shore' Meets the South of France

By Kate Bulkley

Hollywood Reporter

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For MIPTV March 31, 2012

Julian Fellowes' "Titanic" miniseries and co-productions are among the topics at the annual gathering that ends April 4.

Jersey Shore

The success and influence of MTV's reality blockbuster Jersey Shore is spreading across continents and the buzz on the Cote D’Azur as the MIPTV market opens is that a major European market is rumored to be next up -- a nice fillip as Deena Nicole Cortese and Vincenzo "Vinny" Guadagnino are bringing some of the Jersey magic to France.

More countries are looking closely at the structured reality format especially after U.K.'s Geordie Shore has become a massive hit.

A sixth season of the low-cost -- critics say low-class -- Jersey Shore has been announced and MIP visitors will be given a master class on how localization can build audiences by MTV execs.

The popular format that has wowed younger audiences and also made a splash in social media has its own problems. Jersey Shore cast members have had run-ins with legal authorities and some Italian Americans dislike the caricatures on the reality series, even as some TV broadcasters are attracted to the economics of a show that builds its own talent.

Jersey Shore stars may be "high maintenance," but the structured reality phenomenon comes at a time when live TV viewing audiences are at record highs around the world, despite the proliferation of alternative home entertainment options from gaming to archive video services like Netflix.

That doesn’t mean budgets aren’t tight and production companies attending MIPTV are becoming increasingly skilled at creating partnerships to develop and fund programming ideas. The latest example is Titanic, a four-parter from the pen of Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, which premiered in the U.K. to 7 million viewers on ITV1 last week and is having an international MIPTV premiere. The screening and Fellowes' presence in Cannes will be talking points as broadcasters rethink their appetite for big dramas in the wake of Downton’s international success.

A key topic in regards to co-production is where the best place financially to make programming, based on tax breaks and IP rights regimes on offer. Sky 1’s Mad Dogs, starring U.K.'s John Simm, Max Beesley, Phil Glenister and Marc Warren, is a case in point. Made with a long list of co-producers led by Left Bank Pictures, the latest series wrapped shooting Friday in South Africa, chosen because of its tax breaks.

On the subject of money as producers prepare to travel to Cannes, the co-founder and chairman of independent U.K. production company Hartswood Films, Beryl Vertue (Men Behaving Badly: Jekyll, Sherlock), speaking at the Broadcasting Press Guild awards in London where she received a lifetime achievement award, welcomed the U.K. government’s announcement that it will offer tax breaks to high-end dramas shot in the region. Vertue said that it is important for U.K. producers to “take advantage of the tax breaks because, if we don't, the Americans will do it first."

Beyond the money to make the programs is the increasingly complex subject of how new distributors from Google TV, Netflix and YouTube, to Amazon and Internet-connected TVs, are changing the way programming is consumed and the impact this is having on how TV programming may be financed as well as the role of more traditional broadcasters and pay TV platforms.

Head of global video for Amazon Anthony Bay’s keynote about how the online retailer is “open for business” as it prepares to roll out its new Kindle Fire video-capable tablets outside the U.S. sometime soon, is attracting as much attention as the announcement that YouTube is rolling out “hundreds” of channels of programming and offering producers financial guarantees to create them. On the Croisette, the face of Sopranos star Steven Van Zandt beams down on the gathering attendees as he promotes his new Norwegian drama Lillyhammer, with lead funding by Netflix, and now on sale to international buyers.

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