Websites are big players at world's largest TV trade show

Kristen Schweizer / Bloomberg News /

Published Oct 9, 2012 at 05:00AM

CANNES, France — Zombies and secret agents will join actor Kevin Spacey on the French Riviera this week for a TV trade show that will pit content-hungry Websites such as Netflix and Hulu against traditional broadcasters.

The success of companies streaming videos over the Internet are a blessing for production companies behind shows such as “American Idol” and “MasterChef” that are offering dramas, reality series and comedies at the Cannes Mipcom fair, the world’s biggest market for TV programs. Those sites as well as Amazon.com Inc.’s Lovefilm are willing to pay top dollar for rights to lure viewers from TV to the Web.

“Netflix and Hulu are competing aggressively and they are going to the source for rights — the producers,” said Jack Davison, a consultant at London-based TV adviser 3Vision, who has worked for broadcasters such as BBC Worldwide and MTV Networks. “It’s new money for the production companies, and a new person to pitch to.”

The streaming sites, which allow consumers to watch movies and films anytime, are challenging established broadcasters and are increasingly commissioning exclusive content. With spending on digital platforms set to more than double to $6.7 billion in 2015 according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, they are changing the TV landscape — evident at Mipcom, where Hulu Chief Executive Officer Jason Kilar will give a keynote.

Netflix, which has more than 27 million subscribers in the United States, Britain, Ireland, Canada and Latin America, aims to expand in Scandinavia this year. Hulu operates in the U.S. and Japan.

“We’re seeing a shift of audience from TV to online,” said Claire Tavernier, head of new media division FMX at FremantleMedia, the production arm of Europe’s biggest broadcaster RTL Group. The company has been “knocking on the doors” of companies such as Hulu, Netflix and Google’s YouTube site and has sold about 115 hours of content to Netflix.

Producers coming to Cannes this year include the makers of zombie series “The Walking Dead” and “The Voice” producer Mark Burnett, who will promote his latest series, “The Bible,” a 10-hour drama from Genesis to Revelation. Producer Harvey Weinstein, who is behind films including “Inglourious Basterds,” will pitch his latest TV endeavors, such as “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.”

FremantleMedia, with shows such as “America’s Got Talent” and “The Farmer Wants a Wife,” has a deal with Hulu to distribute its shows internationally, including “A Day in the Life,” a documentary series by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock chronicling a day in the life of someone notable, such as businessman Richard Branson or chef Mario Batali.

“Netflix, Hulu and others have disrupted the whole chain by coming to the market and competing and paying serious money for TV rights,” said Stewart Clarke, an editorial director at researcher Informa Telecoms & Media.

YouTube said it’s adding new video channels from France, Germany, Britain and the United States to the 100 it has introduced in the last year to show exclusive content backed by “some of the biggest producers, well-known celebrities and emerging media companies.”

Hulu, based in Los Angeles, is attending Mipcom as a buyer and seller, said Andy Forssel, senior vice president of content.

“We represent a new set of buyers,” he said. “The upside for all these production companies is a new buyer and new money to make, or getting a green light for something they couldn’t make in the past.”

Hulu and Netflix also have started commissioning original content. Netflix won the rights for “House of Cards,” a political drama with actor Kevin Spacey based on a series of the same name by the BBC, over competitors including pay-TV operator HBO. Spacey is in Cannes to promote the show.