A Golden Nymph, something to brag about

As final preparations are made for the 52nd edition of the Monte-Carlo Television Festival Patrick Middleton talks to the new man in charge, Laurent Puons

Laurent PuonsLaurent Puons, General Manager of Monaco Mediax, will oversee this year’s Monte-Carlo Television Festival, which takes place at the Grimaldi Forum June 10th-14th. See www.tvfestival.comLaurent Puons will have been in his new job for just a little over six months when this year’s Festival gets under way on June 10th (2012). “It’s a great privilege,” he says, “to be asked to run what is – after over half a century – one of the major institutions in the world of broadcast media. On the other hand, while paying a much deserved tribute to my predecessors, I can’t afford to be intimidated by tradition. There’s been a lot of change in television in recent years and we have to change with it.”

Have to have household names

What are his priorities for the next few years? “First of all, I want to raise the profile of the Golden Nymphs – the awards given in our competition. At the moment there’s certainly an impact in the trade and in most years we have an excellent field but I want our competition to attract much more attention in the general media and among the public. Our model, I’d say, is the Emmies.” So how does he aim to achieve this? “In two ways. First, I want to upgrade our juries. Don’t misunderstand me – we get top professionals as judges but we have to have some real household names. And then we need to reinforce our communication. Absolutely crucial to this is exploiting new media. We’re now on Facebook and this has led to a significant improvement in the penetration of our message.

“What I hope to do is turn the Festival into a media event in itself – rather like the Cannes Film Festival. I want to see crowds – not just a handful of youngsters – hanging out around the Grimaldi Forum waiting to see the stars of the smaller screen coming and going. That’s why we’re getting more actors to come here and we’re arranging signings where the fans will be able to meet them. There’ll also be more screenings open to the public. To increase local interest we’ll have more French actors coming in from top shows on the national networks as well as familiar figures from popular American, UK and other foreign programmes. I’d add to that my aim of drawing on a wider range of sources for our competition. These days there’s a lot of interesting television being made around the world. I’d like the Festival to be recognised as a primary showcase for that product.”

Strengthening business content

I tell Laurent Puons that I’d heard – and, indeed, read in a trade paper – that he intended to restore a market function to the festival for the sale of programmes. “Absolutely not,” he insists. “I’ve heard that story and I wonder where it came from. It would be quite futile to set up a market here, especially so close to MIPTV in Cannes which attracts over 4000 buyers – and where a huge  amount of business is done. On the other hand I do want to strengthen the business content of the Festival. As you say participants have told you, it’s a great opportunity to network with other professionals and that’s something I want to encourage. We’re organising Q&A sessions where there’ll be plenty of opportunity to exchange views. We’re also having themed evening receptions, also ideal for informal contacts. We’ll be kicking off with a party to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bold and the Beautiful.”

Laurent Puons is clearly a man of energy and enthusiasm, full of ideas. How far does he think he will be constrained by the current economic situation, both in general and in the television industry? “Well, I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the wider economy. As to television, it’s true that network and production houses are looking carefully at how they spend but there’s still a lot of money out there. You can see this in the quality of many of the shows that are coming out. Big budgets allow for production values previously only regarded as affordable in the cinema. Just compare the new version of Hawaii Five-0 with the original from back in the Seventies. It’s this upgrading of the television product that attracts so many top actors to the medium.”

We’re moving forward

So how does he set about organising the Festival? “Well, this first time round I only had half a year but to take the Americans as an example, I made two trips to the US to talk to studios and get them to understand that we’re moving forward and that picking up a Golden Nymph will be, more than ever before, something to brag about.”

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