Monte-Carlo Bets on Crowd-Pleasers

Running from June 17-21, the Monte-Carlo Television Festival will mark both its 61st edition this year and its 10th under the watch of Laurent Puons. When the onetime boxer took over in 2012, he looked to reposition the august showcase created in 1961 by Prince Rainier III of Monaco, reorganizing the competition and streamlining the juries. He also made the event a lot more public friendly.

“Appealing to the public is one of the best ways to promote a festival,” Puons says. “From my point of view, the public is the key. The public is the consumer, and the consumer decides whether a show will get a new season. No matter in streaming or broadcast or any other format, the audience decides a show’s future.” Working from the principle that if you build it they will come, Monte-Carlo keeps screenings easy to access and free; boasts a busy social calendar full of nightly receptions; and programs nearly two dozen events with artists and producers who reflect popular taste. It’s all to bolster a reliable and returning roster of local attendees the festival can use to attract fresh international series and to lure big name guests looking to make a promotional coup.

On the programming side, that means landing splashy new offerings, including the MGM-produced, Matthew Fox led thriller “Last Light,” which will make its world premiere as the festival’s opening screening. There is also a sneak peek of series “The Reunion’’ (also from MGM), an adaptation of a best-selling French novel with an English-speaking cast led by Ioan Gruffudd, set on the Riviera.

“It encapsulates everything about us,” Puons says. Overall the festival will host six world premieres.

But it also means celebrating the reliable workhorses that dominate broadcast ratings and keep the TV business turning — and have done so for decades.

Alongside the Spanish, German and Italian series world premiering in the fiction competition, the Monte-Carlo festival also celebrates the 35th anniversary of “The Bold and the Beautiful,” hosts meet-ups with talent from “The Young and the Restless” and offers a behind-the-scenes look into the world of “Law & Order” megaproducer Dick Wolf. It features a similar berth to French-language series and daytime dramas.

“We need a mix between soaps and premium series,” Puons says. “We need to celebrate these shows; we need to show those that they have a place here. We always think of the audience above all, and soaps are very popular with the public. Some of these shows have run for 50 years!” To cap that public focus, MonteCarlo will unveil the Betaseries Public Prize, in order to give local attendees a say in the competition.

Representing eight countries, this year’s drama competition will have a particularly international flavor, reflecting the growing diversity of the television production landscape. And when the international mix of producers and creative teams competing for the festival’s Golden Nymph award end up in Monte-Carlo, the festival hopes to offer them a beefed-up industry program.

With MipTV in April and Cannes in May, launching a market component is simply not in the cards, so Monte-Carlo has put together three days (June 18-20) of keynotes and one-on-ones after the day’s screenings and before the nightly cocktail. And even the nightly receptions push that work side forward.

“Business always gets done here,” Puons says. “In Los Angeles one time, an actor told me that he met the right directors and producers in Monte-Carlo, and got his latest job at our festival. So we’re not a market, but we do give our guests the opportunity to do business and land jobs.”

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