Mipcom Interview: Laurine Garaude Reflects On A “Difficult” Year & How Covid Has Accelerated Change For The Cannes Market

EXCLUSIVE: The television industry’s annual jamboree in Cannes has been cruelly, yet inevitably, harpooned by coronavirus. Gone is the rosé, deal-making on lavish yachts, hot slices at La Pizza Cresci, and insanely over-priced bar snacks at The Majestic. In their place, a virtual market. It will be Mipcom, but not as we know it.

Laurine Garaude, director of TV at Mipcom organizer Reed Midem, sat down with Deadline to reflect on what she — somewhat understatedly — describes as a “difficult” year. Festivals on the French Riviera are Reed’s bread and butter, so it’s business model has been completely upended by the pandemic.

As Covid exploded in Europe at the start of the year, Reed was forced to shutter Mip TV, a near-60-year-old television industry institution. The company remained steadfast in its belief that Mipcom would go ahead, right up until September when it eventually pulled the plug and embraced Mipcom Online+. Senior industry insiders were baffled by the late call, telling Deadline that they made decisions months ago not to travel.

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Garaude admits that it was the travel restrictions, rather than coronavirus’ rapacious reemergence in Europe, that was the death knell for the physical market. She says closed borders and company policies are “something we cannot change.” Instead, Reed’s TV director sets out a vision for the virtual event, which she says retains much of the physical market’s keynotes, such as Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, and offers buyers and sellers more sophisticated ways to connect than previously.

Garaude also reveals that Reed is “planning to be back in Cannes in 2021,” though she did hint at some changes to the way the calendar could work, with many fearing that Mip TV’s April slot could be too soon for sophisticated testing and a vaccine. She also discusses how Mipcom has evolved from being a pure deal-making market to more of a grand networking event.

Scroll on to read the full interview, which has been edited for length and clarity.

DEADLINE: At what point did you realize that Mipcom can’t happen in the way that we know it?

LAURINE GARAUDE: Well many of us, or I think most of us, we really didn’t think Covid situation would last. So we were very positive on Mipcom for a long time. And then in June, when we realized that the United States would not be able to travel and there were travel restrictions and travel bans, we said we would do a hybrid edition.

It was very difficult for many, many territories. And that’s when we announced that the exhibition wouldn’t be held in the traditional way and we were replacing it with a more flexible and new different format, much lighter format that we were calling Rendezvous Cannes because many people were expressing, mostly in Europe and other territories, but mostly Europe, were expressing the need and the desire to, to come to Cannes.

So we were trying to really get the business back together as much as we could to support the industry. But as we all see, we weren’t able to do that either because of the Covid situation, which is what it is. So that’s when we switched totally to virtual. So that’s where we are right now. We’re excited now to be in Cannes, we’re sad not to see all our clients and you physically, but at the same time, we’re very excited about what we’re doing online. It’s new, but it’s very exciting and we have a great response.

DEADLINE: Was that actually a reasonably straightforward decision in the end, given that the situation clearly changed with the virus?

GARAUDE: Yes. And I mean, the UK wasn’t able to travel because of the quarantine, Germany, Poland, Belgium. I mean, just too many countries not able to travel. So it’s really the travel restrictions that are the most difficult, because we’ve worked on the health and safety ways to hold the physical event with Covid, but the travel restrictions, that is something we cannot change.

DEADLINE: Tell me about the online market then. Obviously, we’ve seen other events move online with some success.

GARAUDE: Well, we’re hoping to capture the spirit of Mipcom, to bring the community together, the international community together. And it looks like we’re going to do that. And certainly, it’s not the same thing. We can’t say it’s going to be the same thing. It’s not, but we’re doing the best we can to create that community feeling both through the two main parts of the platform, which are the networking platform, so the digital marketplace, and through all the main stage content that we were going to do in Cannes, which we are doing online.

The program is really the same. It is the same. It features the global upfronts, where we have 10 major companies participating like ViacomCBS, ITV, BBC etc. We have market screenings as we always do. We have a really top inspiring keynote. So we have a very full program of content and with both discovery, inspiration, connections, which actually was the theme of Mipcom, that is what this platform is about.

DEADLINE: And what did you learn from Mip TV and how has that informed what you’re doing this time?

GARAUDE: It has informed what we’re doing. Mip TV Online+ was a success. We had over 5,000 participants, over 3,000 hours of video seen and very good engagement.  And so at that time, we had the Mip doc library online and we have the online database and all the major content that we wanted to share.

The thing is we had to do it in very, we’ll say express, very short time for Mip TV. So we were pleased with what we were able to do then. And as I said, it was a success, but we also wanted to do much more for Mipcom so it is more ambitious. So our learnings from Mip TV were that people consume differently online and you need more time online than you do when you’re concentrated physically.

So we need to give more breadth and time, which is what we’re doing on Mipcom, and that the networking functions have to be more because we were not able to do more than what we already had. And this we’re introducing something terribly new in terms of the networking platform.

DEADLINE: So how does the networking platform work? Because with my cynical journalist’s hat on, I just think people can email each other or connect via text or mobile phone. What advantage does the networking platform give people over traditional means of communication?

GARAUDE: It allows for you to search for people that you might be interested to meet, to see if they’re interested in meeting with you, you can chat and then you can set up meetings. So you have the ability to have a conversation without a formal meeting all within the same platform. You can find out all about their profiles. People can put in their LinkedIn profiles if they want, or they put the information that they want to put in. So it is very intuitive in that way and therefore, we hope we’ll create that community feel.

DEADLINE: Can you give me a sense of how many people are signed up already and engaging?

GARAUDE: Well, right now, like I said, we have a great response. We have over 600 exhibiting what we’re calling virtual exhibitor pages and from literally all over the world. And right now we have over 2,000 buyers signed up. We’re having hundreds of registrations every day. So it’s very hard to predict what the total number will be. I will tell you after. But what we can see is that there’s a lot of traction and a lot of enthusiasm.

DEADLINE: And being a virtual exhibitor, what does that allow you to achieve?

GARAUDE: Well, first, all the information you want to put on there in terms of what your company is, what you’re doing, especially who is there from your company, the representatives, the content you want to highlight. So you can put trailers of content, up to 20 product highlights, and you can put a trailer of your company showing new highlights of what you want to show. It’s quite flexible in that way. And if you can link to major events that you are organizing on the platform, for instance, if you’re doing a global upfront, you can link to that, the market screenings, and to your own page and other elements. It’s an environment that allows you to present your company with the new content that you want to introduce.

DEADLINE: And what about some of the bigger players that you’ve got partnering? I see BBC Studios is on board, as well as All3Media.

GARAUDE: Absolutely. With many of them we’ve been working for a long time, as I said before, thinking about what makes sense in the online space and how we can create new types of events together. BBC is launching The Pursuit of Love simultaneously with their own platform.

We’re working with A&E. We’re transposing, we’ll say, the Women in Global Entertainment lunch, to a bigger panel, but in the spirit of that lunch. And Sony is doing the tech and creativity track, and we have Korea as Country of Honor. So it’s really very similar to what we do at Mipcom, but transposed to this ability online.

DEADLINE: And what do you make of some of the bigger studios doing their own thing? We’ve seen ITV Studios and Sony launch their own fall festivals. Do you worry that that’s chipping away at what Mipcom is and those things might continue in the future and detract from Mipcom?

GARAUDE: Everybody has to work differently today and do what they need to do. And so I’m just very delighted that we’re working with many studios in collaboration in new ways. And I think that’s just learning to work together in a way that makes sense. But what all of them are saying to us is that this is what they have to do now. And that makes total sense. And we’ll be working back together in Cannes, as soon as that’s possible. And everybody’s really missing that and looking forward to being back together in Cannes.

DEADLINE: What are you going to miss most about the physical market?

GARAUDE: Well, seeing everybody. Seeing everybody for real and having the moments of connections that… we can try online, but it’s not the same thing. So seeing, exchanging and… that’s what us human beings are about.

The industry is a very social industry. This is one of probably the hardest things for us all is that people have been used to seeing people and working with people in person for the longest time. And though everybody adapts and has adapted super well to working digitally, and that is probably going to remain as well, it just doesn’t replace that thing that is being in real person.

DEADLINE: What’s it been like at Reed over the last few months? I can’t imagine it’s been the easiest period, given that this is your business. You bring people together in physical spaces. Just give me a sense of how it’s been for you, personally and for the company.

GARAUDE: Well, of course, it’s difficult because like you said, that’s what we do. So we are doing the best we can. So yes, it’s been difficult, clearly. At the same time, we’ve always had an online strategy that we were working on and it has made us spur it into action and it’s made us fast track those developments and those were, and are, very important. Clearly now it’s extremely important, but also important going forward. And so we’re making use of this time to move forward in that realm.

DEADLINE: How do you think Mipcom has changed over the years? I’ve been speaking to distributors over the past few days and they talk about Mipcom now as being a fantastic place to see people and catch up, but not necessarily a space where they close deals anymore.

GARAUDE: I think markets evolve all the time. We’ve been in the markets for close to 60 years, going back to Mip TV, and the market has evolved tremendously and will continue to do so. I think it’s true that the ways deals are done today are different. But what is true is that the connections to do those deals are being done at Mipcom at our Mips. And that’s the most important part is the connections, meeting with the people and doing the basics of the deals. And many are actually finalized also at Mipcom. It’s just that what we know as the process is longer than it used to be. And some people do deals as they used to because the distribution continues to exist in the way it was as well. So it’s a whole spectrum of deal-making and that will continue and it will continue to evolve. And that’s fine.

DEADLINE: And if we were sort of to get our crystal balls out for next year, what are your hopes, do you think we’ll see Mip TV and Mipcom next year?

GARAUDE: Well, we are planning to be back in Cannes in 2021.

DEADLINE: Could you tell me any more?

GARAUDE: We are planning, of course, on having digital complements. That goes without saying today. We will be saying more about Mip TV after Mipcom — we’ll be talking to our clients and to the press, but that will happen after Mipcom.

DEADLINE: For the market to return to anything like we’re used to, what has to change with coronavirus? Do you think there has to be a vaccine or do you think that testing has to be significantly more sophisticated than it is at the moment? 

GARAUDE: Well, I’m certainly not an expert. But I think the testing will help because if you can really test in five minutes, that’s going to make a difference. A vaccine, of course.

Just looking further down the line, I think even when all this is over, which we hope the sooner, the better, that I do think things will have changed in some ways. The usage of digital will probably be more, because we’ll have new habits. I think people will probably travel less. People may travel less constantly than they used to anyway. And perhaps making certain choices as to which events they attend.

So our focus is on making our events and continuing to have our events being the most business efficient, being completely international, which we are, federating the different communities together because we strongly believe that having the one-stop-shop all under one roof in terms of all the communities is very, very important and will continue to be even more so in the next few years.

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