CANNES -- The global boom of upscale cast-driven drama has injected some glamour and timeliness into the Cannes-set Mipcom confab, turning it into a one-stop-launchpad for top sales companies.

The looming airstrike, which was eventually cancelled on Saturday, hasn't kept market-goers from travelling to the French Riviera. Mipcom welcomes more than 13,000 participants, including 4,500 buyers -- a 6% year-on rise through Thursday. Partly due to its focus on Argentina, the market will have a strong Latin American presence, said Laurine Garaude, head of Reed Midem's TV division. Africa and Russia are the other two emerging markets with participation numbers on the rise.

The sheer number of bigscreen talent and creatives who have made the trip to Cannes to promote their shows reflects the convergence of film and TV, and the bigger emphasis placed on international.

"Last year Harvey Weinstein said in his keynote that TV had hit its golden age and was an important part of the future; and this Mipcom edition reflects that theme," noted Garaude. "We're seeing further connections between film and TV: these two worlds have grown closer together."

Mipcom aims at having a more pronounced international flavor, with such new events as the panorama of fresh TV fiction screenings. "We're launching Fresh TV fiction to help buyers get a global overview of the top fiction drama around the world," said the topper.

While U.S. drama are still ahead of the game in creative and commercial terms, a crop of sophisticated foreign shows are also gaining some traction on the international market.

The world-preem of Shine Intl.-repped "The Tunnel" kicks off the market today with thesps Clemence Poesy and Stephen Dillane in attendance. It will be followed by a Q&A with the production team and key cast, and a party hosted at the Carlton Hotel.

Helmed by critically-acclaimed helmer Dominik Moll and lensed in French and English, the 10-part gripping drama -- a Shine Film France/Kudos production backed by Canal Plus and Sky Atlantic -- underscores this upward trend for cinematic, internationally-driven drama and ambitious co-productions.

U.S. players are also increasingly looking abroad for compelling drama material. The Weinstein Co., for instance, has just boarded "War and Peace," a six-part epic drama penned by Andrew Davis, adapted from Leo Tolstoy's classic novel. TWC will be collaborating with BBC Worldwide and Look Out Point.

A sign of the times, Mipcom is luring this year a number of first-timers, including U.S. film distributors like Cohen Media Group and Music Box Films, along with returning heavyweights, like MGM, TWC and Relativity, which are ramping up their TV biz. Relativity's CEO Ryan Kavanaugh will be delivering an anticipated Media Mastermind keynote to discuss the company's big plans in the TV field on Tuesday.

Music Box recently acquired U.S. home entertainment rights Canal Plus' supernatural skein "The Returned," and it previously picked up all rights to Beta Film's "Generation War," among other TV titles.

"European television is upping its game and is producing compelling, innovative drama series that are appealing to U.S. audiences," said Ed Arentz, Music Box's managing director, adding that he's attending Mipcom to find more gems.

Moll is one of the many contempo European filmmakers who have recently leapt into TV drama. Gaumont Intl. TV is developing three drama skeins helmed by movie directors making their TV debuts: Nicolas Winding Refn with "Barbarella," Tony Gilroy with "Monsieur de Paris" and Wolfgang Petersen "King David." Eli Roth also made his smallscreen debut with "Hemlock Grove."

"The TV market is both dynamic and full of opportunities at the moment, and that's allowing producers, showrunners and directors much more creative freedom than they can get in the film arena," said Gaumont vice CEO Christophe Riandee.

"The fact that we're able to finance our shows with multiple international partners also puts less pressure on networks or platforms to renew them, which is why our first two series, 'Hannibal' and 'Hemlock Grove,' have been reupped by NBC and Netflix, respectively."

Among the buzzed-about shows to be screened or presented at Mipcom: Beta Film-repped "Cedar Cove," with Andie MacDowell ("Groundhog Day") and Dylan Neal ("Dawson's Creek"), who will be in attendance.

The other Beta Film-sold skein, Sky Italia's "Gomorrah," based on Matteo Garrone's film, was presented by its scribe Roberto Saviano on Sunday evening and was just snatched up by Sky Germany, HBO Nordic in Scandinavia and HBO Latin America. Arrow Film has U.K. and Lumiere has the Netherlands.

The U.S. are also well-repped on the drama front, notably with "Under the Dome" the supernatural drama based on Stephen King's novel and exec produced by Steven Spielberg and King. Rachelle Lefevre and Dean Norris will promote the show during a presser on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Starz Worldwide will roll out the pirate adventure "Black Sails" with key cast, including Toby Stephens and Hannah New, and showrunner and exec producer Jonathan Steinberg.

Other thesps expected to hit Mipcom: Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells, who will present their semi-improvised comedy series, "Doll & Em," which is sold by Sky Vision.

From Gaul, well-known actor Pierre Arditi will be in Cannes to present the premiere screening of crime drama "The Blood of the Vine," produced by Telecip and sold by Newen Distribution.

British actor Jack Davenport ("Pirates of the Caribbean)" will present ITV Studios' new six-part series "Breathless" with co-star Zoe Boyle ("Downton Abbey") and show creator and writer Paul Unwin.

Other shows that will be promoted at the mart include "Call Me Fitz," werewolf drama "Bitten," offbeat comedy "Welcome To Sweden," period drama "Klondike" with Abbie Cornish; and the BBC's WWI-set skein "The Ark," presented by Chaplin's granddaughter, Oona Chaplin.

As digital buyers' presence continues to climb, Mipcom is upping the number of digital-centric events, including more targeted networking sessions, keynotes by top-level execs, notably Facebook's Dan Rose and Amazon's Roy Price, as well panels dealing with practical issues.

One of the new initiatives bowed by Mipcom is a roundtable with experts and lawyers addressing the changing legal landscape, notably VOD, second screens and multiplatform license issues.

"We're going through a digital coming of age and our goal is to help industry players and execs from around the world make the best out of it," said Garaude, adding that the confab will be attended by approximately 800 digital buyers.


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