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Cannes Get No Satisfaction

by Dana J. Parker

March 10, 2021 | Nobody feels much compassion for someone who gripes about a trip to the Cote d'Azur in the dead of winter, so let me just say right up front that I don't expect to get any sympathy. Never mind the unwanted souvenir chest cold, or the unforgettable experience of sharing a seemingly interminable Paris-to-Chicago flight with 30-some hyperactive French teenagers on a field trip, or spending 15 hours of a 22-hour travel day crammed into 27 square inches of legroom. Those weren't the worst of it. The worst of it was that I finally had an opportunity and a compelling reason to go to a conference I've always wanted to see, and I came home without having accomplished my goal. I would have been eager to go to this conference even if it had been in Rochester rather than Cannes, so it wasn't the venue that attracted me. It was what I expected to learn and didn't.

The attraction was Milia, a conference and exhibition sponsored by the Reed Midem organization. Milia, the little sister of the Midem international music industry conference, has been taking place in Cannes since 1993. Those with long memories will recall another Reed conference, intermedia, the CD-ROM trade show that thrived under Microsoft's guidance in the late '80s, only to die under Reed's direction in the mid '90s. Milia is what intermedia would have become had it survived.

According to the Milia promotional literature, "The 3 main themes of this unique series of conference events are Broadband Internet & Interactive Television, Online Advertising & E-Commerce, and Interactive Entertainment." Hmmm, interactive entertainment, I thought-sure sounds like DVD to me. Also, the DVD Forum was a sponsor for the 6th annual Milia d'Or Awards and the first ever global DVD Awards. Naturally, I thought this would be a great opportunity to network and soak up the European DVD scene.

I could hardly have been more mistaken. Granted, the Milia show appears to be thriving, with 7,000 attendees, 900-some exhibitors, and numerous social events. The "Think.Tank Summit," billed as "an exclusive two-day cross-industry conference program and networking event," was well attended. The press room was packed, and the mailboxes set up for every registered media attendee were stuffed to overflowing with press releases, company backgrounders, sample discs, and invitations to cocktail receptions on the exhibit floor. The press office was helpful, and the hospitality of the organizers to this non-French-speaking first-timer was impeccable.

There just wasn't any DVD-none in the conference program and very little in the exhibits. The DVD Forum had a good-size, well-situated booth, but its offerings were comprised of one television set showing a DVD-Video movie. There was no literature, limited signage, and the people staffing the booth seemed determined to ignore the passing throngs who might have been curious to learn about DVD. Every time I walked by, they were sitting at a table within the booth with their backs to the aisles. At the DVD Forum-sponsored evening reception, the liquor flowed, the buffet tables groaned, and the masses milled about as restlessly as cattle in a large pen, but aside from pounding techno-music and swirling DVD logo lights, there was no stimulation, presentation, or information offered. None that I saw, anyway-after waiting in what I thought was a buffet line for over a half hour, I realized the only people actually reaching the food were those who weren't waiting in lines, and I split. I thought it was odd, at the time, that the DVD Forum would throw a party, splurge lavishly on refreshments, invite every warm body in Cannes, and then not show up themselves. Now, of course, I realize that would have been the smart thing to do.

What there was at Milia was a lot of talk about Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), broadband, ecommerce, and games. The conference was all Internet, Web, interactive television, and a lot of the old standby CD-ROM, but no DVD. I came away with the distinct impression that while the DVD industry considers the Internet and interactive television important complementary technologies, the Internet and interactive television industries do not return the regard for DVD. Perhaps this was intentional on Reed Midem's part, perhaps not-but it was very odd to be at a "new media" conference at which the issue of digital video delivery was a key topic, and not hear word one about DVD. While the Milia attendees wait and wish for WAP and broadband, DVD is delivering broadband on a disc, right here and right now.

It's interesting to note that I'm not the only one who found Milia lacking in relevance this year. Richard Brandt, writing for Upside Magazine, faulted Milia for, of all things, not enough Internet coverage, and too much CD-ROM and game coverage. So that makes two of us who didn't get what we wanted in Cannes--even though we see what we did get differently. Milia calls itself the "World's Interactive Content Marketplace"-a great idea, if only it were true. Despite the wealth of culture and creativity in Europe, and a global audience hungry for an antidote to Hollywood formula flicks, there seems to be a reluctance on the part of Europeans to invest in new technology.

So even if you didn't get to go to Cannes and can't muster any sympathy for me, I don't deserve to be envied, either. After all, the one and only valuable piece of knowledge I came away with is that I've got no good reason to go to Cannes in February 2001.

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