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MIPTV: The Channels Talk, and we should listen


- We report on the latest developments at MIPTV, which hosted an event aimed at giving representatives of European channels the opportunity to share their experiences

MIPTV: The Channels Talk, and we should listen
Piv Bernth at The Channels Talk

New trends and the evolution of the TV drama markets were the main focuses of “The Channels Talk”, held yesterday at MIPTV, the global entertainment market in Cannes, where representatives of five European channels exchanged their experiences of developing and producing ambitious and groundbreaking drama shows. 

“Drama adds quality to a brand-new channel,” said Craig Morris, director of Spike UK, the new, free-to-air channel from Channel 5/Viacom (the UK version of the American channel of the same name), which will be launched in the UK next Wednesday. This “drama”, for the moment, consists of the acquisition of some of the American hits, but “we are open to the idea of working with a European content provider”. 

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Nacho Manubens, SVP of drama for Atresmedia, a Spanish media group that runs four channels (Antena 3, La Sexta, Neox and Nova), said it is moving away from the traditional period drama, towards other trends, like the thriller: the crime series Under Suspicion and the revenge drama No Identity both launched successfully, and Vis a vis, a prison drama, is about to air. “Besides, we are focusing more on the storytelling, and we value unique voices: Tell Me a Story, which retells the classic fairy tales from a thriller perspective, is one of those. The important thing is to work with a very solid concept, an example of which is The Refugees, a co-production that we co-developed and co-produced with BBC Worldwide.”

Writer centrality is key to the success of the Danish drama, explained Piv Bernth, head of drama at DR Fiction. “That’s why we went to the USA to see how they worked, and we reproduced it in our own way.” This led to hits such as The Killing and The Bridge, but “Danish drama production is much more than Nordic noir”, said Bernth. The Legacy is not a crime series, and Follow the Money, which has just premiered at MIPTV, “is not a classic ‘whodunit’; it’s a thriller about what the financial crisis has done to us”.

Regarding co-productions, Bernth said, “We just boarded a co-production with England and the US for The Night Manager, to be directed by Oscar winner Susanne Bier, but in general, the majority of our budget goes on Danish-language series, as we are a public broadcaster. And it’s important to keep in mind why you entered a co-production” – as happened with The Team, a “natural” co-production between Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, France and Switzerland. “It was aired successfully, and we hope to do a second season. When you find a story that fits different countries, it’s interesting to co-produce,” added Susanne Müller, executive director feature films for ZDF in Germany.  ZDF is the biggest commissioner for fiction in Germany, with €400 million invested per year. “We are looking for a mix between serialised programmes and procedural dramas, which is hard to get, but I think we just started to produce series that could interest the international market,” remarked Müller, citing Generation War – which won an International Emmy Award last year – Shades of Guilt and the new thriller Blochin – The Living and the Dead.

Local drama, especially crime and comedy, is the core business of Swedish channel TV4, the biggest commercial channel in the country, which is also moving away from its model structured around 90-minute episodes (which applies to Wallander and Beck, for example) towards serialised drama production. The first big step will be the production of the crime series Modus, based on the Anne Holt novel Fear Not, which will premiere this autumn.

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