TV's big names sell their shows in Cannes

Ian Thorpe will head a star-studded line-up at the annual MIPCOM television market in Cannes, France, which kicks off later today, Sydney time.

The four-day programming buyer's market is one of the television industry's major calendar events, and draws thousands of program buyers from networks around the world.

Thorpe will make an appearance as part of a promotion by the ABC's sales arm, ABC Commercial, which is selling the documentary The Swimmer.

Produced by Gregor Jordan and Simone Kessell, The Swimmer followed Thorpe's attempted, and ultimately unsuccessful, comeback before the London Olympics.

The event usually attracts a huge lineup of international industry heavyweights, including both television executives and celebrities spruiking new television programs to buyers.

Oscar-winning writer/director Jane Campion will attend the market this year to promote her new television series Top of the Lake and also to give one of a series of "creative talks" masterclass presentations.

Top of the Lake stars Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, Holly Hunter and David Wenham.

It is co-produced by the Australian pay TV channel UKTV, along with other partners including the BBC and the Sundance Channel.

Another highly-anticipated new program launches at the market will be the new US adaptation of the critically acclaimed series House of Cards.

The series is being produced for television by Netflix, a US on-demand content service. It will be sold internationally to traditional TV broadcasters.

Two of the series' marquee names – stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright – will be in Cannes this week, attempting to charm buyers into acquiring the series.

House of Cards is directed by David Fincher. Netflix has ordered two 13-episode seasons and will launch season one in early 2013.

The BBC's sales arm, BBC Worldwide, is spruiking their new period crime drama Ripper Street and will showcase its cast, including Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks) and Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones), to potential buyers.

The Ten Network has invested in Ripper Street.

Nigella Lawson will also attend, to help sell the BBC's new Italian-themed cooking series, Nigellissima.

The former star of The X-Files, Gillian Anderson, will attend the market to launch her new drama, The Fall.

And legendary producer Gale Anne Hurd, who is one of the producers of The Walking Dead, will join one of its stars, actress Sarah Wayne Callies, as part of a showcase of the series by Fox International Channels, who own the international rights.

The convention is best described as the Royal Easter Show of television, with pavilions showcasing new programming, network meetings, screenings, showbags and corporate entertainment on a scale rarely seen outside Hollywood.

A total of around 4400 buyers will attend the 2012 market, to sift through content pushed by more than 1700 production companies, broadcasters and studios.

Most of the action is focused on the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the de-facto "showbag pavilion" of the market, but there are screenings, meetings and presentations held across the tiny tourist town of Cannes and its well-worn main street, the promenade de la Croisette.

Among the Australian production companies attending the market are ABC Commercial, the Australian Children's Television Foundation, Eyeworks Australia, Matchbox Pictures, December Media, Electric Pictures and WTFN, as well as the major producers, including Shine, Fremantle and Granada.

Program buyers from the commercial networks, the ABC and SBS and the Foxtel channels all attend the market.

Among the high-profile keynote speakers attending are Sur-vivor producer Mark Burnett, Sony Pictures Television boss Andrea Wong and Weinstein Company chief Harvey Weinstein.

Campion and Hurd will both hold "creative talk" masterclasses.

The market is one of two major program-sales markets held every year. The other is April's MIPTV.

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