Mipcom highlights that small-screen drama is back with a bang

The Cannes Film Festival may outshine Mip and Mipcom in the glamour stakes, but the TV industry will experience some Hollywood magic this month as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and fellow Oscar-winners Jane Campion and Kevin Spacey hit town.

Not only do high-end TV dramas now share finance arrangements with film, they are increasingly attracting film talent; hence the big-hitters are largely on stage to promote their TV epics. And judging by the content of this week’s Dealmakers supplement, event drama appears to be back with a bang after falling out of favour with buyers.

At Mipcom, Weinstein will be revealing his upcoming slate in his keynote speech, including more detail on his character-driven, martial arts epic Marco Polo for US cable network Starz – a project he has billed as “one of the most expensive shows ever done for pay- TV”. With elements of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Weinstein promises the kind of visual epic not seen before in scripted TV.

He’s not the only one refusing to limit his ambitions just because this is the ‘small screen’, as delegates will also hear from Campion.

Top Of The Lake, which she has written and directed, is a truly stunning-looking TV crime drama (as it should be with its $2m per episode budget), set in remote, mountainous New Zealand, with haunting performances from Holly Hunter and Elisabeth Moss.

Its film links also extend to the producers – including Iain Canning (The King’s Speech/ Shame), who suggested in an interview with sister title Screen International that the barriers between the two industries are finally being eroded: “The story fi nds the medium,” he says.

At least some of the demand is being driven by new players such as Netflix, with Spacey and co-star Robin Wright promoting $100m blockbuster House Of Cards, exec produced by David Fincher.

Meanwhile, one of our Dealmakers, Michael Comish of Blinkbox, says his team will be on the hunt for premium TV series at Mipcom to help boost its already 3 million-strong subscription base. They might want to talk to Stewart Till of Sonar Entertainment), best known for his role at the forefront of the British film industry, who is “very aggressively” launching a slate of miniseries at Mipcom, costing $10m a pop. Not to mention the eight-hour, $35m King Tut epic.

And, as we show on page 6 of Dealmakers, even reality guru Mark Burnett is getting in on the act, making a 10-part mini-series about The Bible for History in the US.

For buyers who can’t afford to splash out for the kind of SFX that brings Genesis to life, there’s a new ‘drama format’ at the opposite end of the budget range. SPT’s Dutch outfit Tuvalu Media is bringing to market a scripted-reality series based on Lifetime drama Strong Medicine.

Stories From The Hospital features tales from the US drama scripts, played out by participants whose real-life experiences mirror those of the drama’s characters.

Low-budget scripted reality has been a hit in Germany for several years, but failed to successfully export. Is now its time? Is this show a pioneering post-modern twist or just cheap TV? Plenty for buyers to think about.

Lisa Campbell is editor of Broadcast