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State of the Market Dating Shows Talpa’s John de Mol FremantleMedia’s Cecile Frot-Coutaz One Three Media’s Mark Burnett www.tvformats.ws
TENTH ANNIVERSARY MIPCOM EDITION THE MAGAZINE FOR THE FORMAT BUSINESS
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P A N O R A M A By Kristin Brzoznowski
Celebrating a Decade of TV Formats This issue marks the tenth anniversary of TV Formats. Looking back over the trends and topics that the magazine has covered in the last decade provides an inspiring reflection of concepts that have thrived in this cutthroat market. One might think that in ten years great seismic shifts would have shaken up and drastically changed the format landscape, but upon closer inspection there’s actually quite a bit that has remained the same. A decade ago, reality TV was already on the rise, with the popularity of Big Brother, which hit U.S. screens in 2000. That same year, Survivor captured the attention of American viewers, ushering in a new style of competition series. American Idol surged onto the airwaves in 2002 and the talent-search genre caught ablaze. All three of these shows are, of course, still on the air and as popular as ever. The reality, competition and talent-search genres continue to be top sellers as well. However, the last ten years have brought about great innovation in the format industry, as producers have breathed new life into these and other entertainment genres by adding fresh twists. Some crossed over into the lifestyle arena, incorporating food, fashion and travel elements to create interesting hybrids. Others went the celebrity route, scoring famous faces to front their shows or sit in the hot seat. This trend even found its way into competition series, which have refreshed their formats by adding star power, upping the danger factor and featuring obstacle-course-style eliminations. Then there’s the scripted-formats business. Hollywood heavyweights the likes of Sony Pictures Television,Warner Bros.,Twentieth Century Fox and CBS Studios have thrown their hats into the ring. Major U.S. studios have been exporting their sitcoms and dramas with much success as of late. Latin American distributors, too, have taken notice of the increasing appetite for scripted formats and are offering their beloved telenovelas for adaptation in diverse markets across the globe. All these new elements added to established genres have kept TV formats doing big business. The value created by the 50 major formats last year was $2.02 billion for 98 channels across 16 European territories, according to the TV Formats in Europe report by Digital TV Research. This figure was 8.4 percent higher than the 2010 total, even with the number of broadcast hours increasing by only 2.4 percent.What this demonstrates is that there’s still potential for expansion in the formats market, despite the tough economic times for European broadcasters. The U.K. has proven itself as the format powerhouse of Europe. The country not only screened the highest number of format hours, it was home to quite a few major format
producers and distributors. The value of formats for British broadcasters amounted to $475 million in 2011. Interestingly, there were five distributors that accounted for three-quarters of all the format hours in 2011. ITV Studios Global Entertainment was the largest distributor by hours, due in part to the massive success of Come Dine with Me. Endemol, however, was the leading distributor when ranked by value created in 2011, bringing in $439 million. FremantleMedia followed with $431 million. Come Dine with Me was the most-screened TV format in Europe for the year. Endemol’s The Money Drop, Sony Pictures Television’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, BBC Worldwide’s Dancing with the Stars and FremantleMedia’s Got Talent rounded out the top five most-screened formats of 2011. This all reinforces the fact that, in large part, the format behemoths are still the dominant powers in the industry. However, there are a number of boutiquestyle distributors that have managed to make a name for themselves in recent years. Whether a big global player or a smaller niche outfit, all companies are in agreement that innovation is the key to success in today’s market. The economic woes of the last few years resulted in broadcasters being riskaverse, looking for tried-and-tested concepts for their networks. This is still true in many parts of the world, but schedules can get stale quickly if they’re filled with nothing but copycat concepts. Looking across the TV dial today, many of the formats airing are the same ones that have been broadcast for several seasons. So what’s next? In this anniversary issue of TV Formats, a number of distributors weigh in on this very topic, sharing their thoughts on what may be the next big thing in formats. The issue contains a spotlight on the state of the industry, looking at the challenges and opportunities facing the formats market. Another feature in this issue shines a light on how producers are cashing in on the lucrative business of love with a new crop of dating formats. There are interviews with John de Mol, who tells us about the innovation occurring at Talpa; Mark Burnett, who shares the concepts behind his latest series; and with Cecile Frot-Coutaz, who talks about her vision for FremantleMedia. As the quest for the elusive next big global format craze continues, TV Formats will be there to cover the action along the way in print and online at TVFormats.ws.
As the quest for the elusive next big global format craze continues, TV Formats will be there to cover the action along the way.
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Argonon International www.argononinternational.com • Let Me Entertain You • Cash in the Attic • Trade Your Way to the USA
Let Me Entertain You
There is a trio of formats on offer from Argonon International that are based on successful BBC shows the company made in the U.K. Let Me Entertain You, which follows on from Tourettes: Let Me Entertain You, allows disabled individuals to showcase their talents onstage in front of an audience. James Burstall, the CEO of Argonon, calls the format “unique and empowering.” Cash in the Attic is a competition format that auctions off items from celebrity homes. A family format, Trade Your Way to the USA follows families as they compete in trading challenges. “Both Cash in the Attic and Trade Your Way to the USA are very appropriate for the current economic climate,” notes Burstall. “Cash and Trade offer much-needed takeaway advice for viewers that they can use to make improvements in their own lives.” He continues,“All the formats have strong emotional elements that make the audience care and keep the viewer interested.They all also have a sense of jeopardy, pulling the audiences in. They are all highly adaptable formats—easy to strip from hour to half hour and make different variations of.”
“ Argonon International aims to maintain and continue to develop strong relationships with broadcasters and content providers.
Armoza Formats www.armozaformats.com • House Call • Exposed • Back to the Date
IN THIS ISSUE Zooming In on Formats A look at the state of the business today Ready for Love Dating shows have proven their staying power Interviews Talpa Media’s John de Mol FremantleMedia’s Cecile Frot-Coutaz One Three Media’s Mark Burnett
46 50 52
One of Armoza Formats’ top titles at MIPCOM this year is House Call, a prime-time factual-entertainment show featuring doctors who visit the homes of different families and evaluate their lifestyles in order to help them make healthier decisions. “If [broadcasters are] searching for high-quality health programming, which also serves as family prime-time entertainment, then House Call would be an excellent format to adapt,” says Avi Armoza, the CEO of Armoza Formats. Other highlights from the company include Exposed, a scripted daily drama following the lives of a pair of husband and wife news anchors who find themselves caught up in a major scandal. Back to the Date is a factual-entertainment series about married couples who are given the opportunity to take a break from their hectic lives and relive a special romantic moment from their past. “There is a lot to look forward to,” says Armoza, citing an overall sense that the market is emerging from the recession.
“ Overall, when we develop and distribute formats, we’re searching for original concepts with broad crossover appeal and scalable budgets.
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Banijay International www.banijayinternational.com • Opposite Worlds • Trust • Art of Survival
Ricardo Seguin Guise
Publisher Anna Carugati
Editor Mansha Daswani
Executive Editor Kristin Brzoznowski
Managing Editor Joanna Padovano
Associate Editor Simon Weaver
Online Director Meredith Miller Chris Carline
Despite the uncertain economy, Banijay International has noticed a demand for local adaptations of formats. “Locally produced content is absolutely vital in order to build a strong channel brand and a loyal viewer base,” says Karoline Spodsberg, the company’s managing director. One of the formats Banijay brings to the market is Opposite Worlds, a reality series with contestants living in a house divided by a glass wall. Half will have modernday conveniences, while the other half will not. “It has all of the classic elements of hit reality formats—grueling competitions, contestants pushed to physical and psychological limits, personality conflicts,” notes Spodsberg. Trust is a new game show that features two strangers working as a team to answer questions for money. Another reality format, Art of Survival, shows artists traveling to different countries and trading their creations for food, shelter, transportation and money.
“ We have concentrated on assembling a catalogue of proven formats that are fresh and bold and lend themselves to adaptation.
Production Directors Phyllis Q. Busell
Art Director Cesar Suero
Sales & Marketing Director Vanessa Brand
Sales & Marketing Manager Terry Acunzo
Business Affairs Manager
Ricardo Seguin Guise
President Anna Carugati
Executive VP & Group Editorial Director Mansha Daswani
Associate Publisher & VP of Strategic Development TV Formats © 2012 WSN INC. 1123 Broadway, #1207 New York, NY 10010 Phone: (212) 924-7620 Fax: (212) 924-6940 Website:
Eccho Rights www.ecchorights.com • Exit • Peking Express • Ezel
This year’s market is the first time Sparks Network’s distribution activities are being presented under the Eccho Rights banner. Eccho Rights is the new distribution arm of Sparks Eccho, a combination of the activities of Sparks Network and Eccholine. “The launch of Eccho Rights is a way to further develop the distribution of independent IP from around the world,” says Fredrik af Malmborg, the managing director of Eccho Rights. One of the titles being presented by the company is a new format called Exit, which requires contestants to go through a three-stage room-escape challenge. “Cleverness, teamwork and an ability to handle pressure are all important factors in Exit, an exciting, nail-biting escape game show,” notes af Malmborg. Peking Express, now launched in a celebrity version and a local version for Asia, has aired in nearly a dozen countries. Ezel is a Turkish drama that is being adapted for broadcasters in Latin America, Armenia and Georgia.
“ The purpose of our work is to empower creativity worldwide.
—Fredrik af Malmborg
Get TV Formats Weekly— delivered to your inbox every Monday. For a free subscription, visit www.worldscreen.com
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FremantleMedia www.fremantlemedia.com • Unzipped • Let’s Get Gold • Final Offer
One of the titles FremantleMedia is particularly proud to have in its catalogue is Let’s Get Gold, which features sports teams competing against one another in front of a panel of judges for a prize. “Let’s Get Gold combines two truly universal interests—sports and entertainment—to spectacular effect, and it also features very strong ties to local communities,” says Rob Clark, FremantleMedia’s director of global entertainment development. Also on the FremantleMedia slate is Final Offer, a factual-entertainment format that follows the buying and selling of antiques and collectibles. Unzipped is a studiobased program that involves audience members responding to survey questions. “Final Offer is the very best of interest, intrigue, drama and negotiation, while Unzipped is really owned by the audience, as their answers build the show, and it’s hilarious fun as we get to know our nation as never before,” says Clark.“We anticipate lots of interest in FremantleMedia shows, particularly in our proven, reliable ratings winners.”
“ Our formats for MIPCOM have strong, universal themes that viewers will love, and the flexibility to sit across schedules.
—Rob Clark Unzipped
Global Agency www.theglobalagency.tv • Blind Taste • Fashion Icon • The Truth Hunter
Three new competition-style formats are headlining the Global Agency slate. Blind Taste is a cooking format in which five contestants rate each other’s dishes while wearing a blindfold. The chef with the highest score wins. “Cooking shows have been popular in many countries, and Blind Taste is a fresh idea with new elements that will appeal to international buyers,” says Izzet Pinto, Global Agency’s CEO. Fashion Icon, which has already enjoyed success in Turkey, is a style format that aims to pinpoint the nation’s next fashion star. The Truth Hunter features celebrities trying to determine whether contestants are lying or telling the truth. “Celebrity-based shows are extremely popular with viewers, and The Truth Hunter combines this with highintensity strategy and a unique structure,” notes Pinto. In addition to selling entertainment formats, films and drama series, Global Agency has decided to dabble in reality, documentaries and lifestyle content with its recent acquisition of the brand rights to World Wide Entertainment, an Australian factual-entertainment distributor.
“We aim to continue our growth toward making Global Agency the leading distributor in the format business.
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Keshet International www.keshetinternational.com • Master Class • Checkout • Marathon
As the format developer and distributor of the Israeli media company Keshet, Keshet International has many proven concepts to offer buyers.The company has a wealth of titles that have been tested on the air on Keshet channels. For MIPCOM, there are brand-new and returning titles the company is showcasing. “Each of these shows touches a chord with audiences, no matter where they live,” says Alon Shtruzman, the managing director of Keshet International. Master Class is a competition show involving 8- to 14year-olds singing classic songs. “There is something about a 10-year-old child standing onstage, singing a song from way before he was born, that produces moments of TV magic,” notes Shtruzman. The game show Checkout asks couples to select a combination of items that amount to a certain price. A prime-time reality format, Marathon, gives five non-athletic people eight months to prepare for a marathon. “We are confident that this will be a powerful series with an underlining universal theme: the triumph of the human spirit,” says Shtruzman.
“There doesn’t seem to be a ‘trend’ at the moment, which I think is a good thing, as people will be open to new ideas.
MNet www.mnetsales.com • Duet Date • Way of the Warrior • The Temple
New to format sales, South Africa’s MNet hopes to close at least one format deal at MIPCOM, says Mandy Roger, the company’s head of sales, acquisitions and business development. MNet also hopes to use the event “to find out what works and doesn’t work,” she says. On the company’s initial format slate is Duet Date, a new studio-based dating format that features contestants performing karaoke, paired by a celebrity guest, and competing against other couples in an attempt to win a luxury date. “It is a lighthearted, fun and engaging show that is low cost to produce,” says Roger. Gathered Moss Productions’ Way of the Warrior teaches 13 lazy contestants the art of Muay Thai. “Way of the Warrior is America’s The Biggest Loser meets The Contender,” says Roger. “The show provides viewers with a ‘feel-good’ experience. As the contenders undergo not only physical but also mental and emotional training, the audience will be captivated by the program’s emotive and competitive nature.” The Temple, a game show featuring a wall in the shape of a Mayan temple, rounds out the slate.
“Our goal is to introduce MNet to the buyers as a serious distributor of both finished content as well as formats.
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Nordic World www.nordicworld.tv • Rockstar Home Invasion • Free Fallin • 4 Star Home Makeover
Good value for money and strong ideas and track records are what broadcasters are after in times of recession, according to Jan Salling, the COO and sales director of Nordic World. He believes that Nordic World has a catalogue that can deliver on those requirements. One of the titles the company is offering is Rockstar Home Invasion, from Finland’s Rabbit Films.The show follows a rock star who moves in with a family and tries to help them resolve a problem. Free Fallin, from Norway’s Tellus Works, features a pair of celebrities who compete in extreme sports challenges. The series 4 Star Home Makeover, from Aito Media in Finland, shows celebrity homes that are being fixed up. “We hope to once again be able to bring down one or more of the most talked about new formats and be part of the MIPCOM buzz,” says Salling. “And then we obviously hope to be able to close some good deals on the back of that buzz.”
“ Nordic and Scandinavian producers are well known for their creativity and for producing high-quality programs for limited budgets.
—Jan Salling Free Fallin
Passion Distribution www.passiondistribution.com • The Great Food Truck Race • Friend or Foe? • Instant Recall
With plans to expand its business in the format arena, Passion Distribution is launching eight new game shows at this year’s event. But, there are more than game shows on the roster. “There is something for everyone and all parts of the schedule,” says Sally Miles, the company’s CEO.“I think 40 percent of our pitch meetings at MIPCOM will be centered on the format business.” One of the formats being highlighted by Passion is The Great Food Truck Race, a food competition show.“Our chefs take to the roads in food trucks and the winner wins their own food truck and a map to success,” says Miles. Friend or Foe? asks teammates to figure out how they should split their prizes.“We love the twist in this show where the winning team of two could go home with nothing if they both get too greedy,” says Miles, who mentions that the show has performed well in the U.S. Instant Recall, a situational hidden-camera game show, tests how much information contestants are able to remember.“We love the humor and element of surprise with the hidden camera,” notes Miles.
“This year we have
The Great Food Truck Race
targeted ourselves with really putting Passion at the forefront of the format business.
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Red Arrow International www.redarrowinternational.tv • The Taste • A League of Their Own • Heroes of the Internet
While Red Arrow International is a multi-genre distributor, formats have proven to be a strong segment of its overall catalogue. “Our production companies and independent producers supply us with fresh new content year-round—our job is to find the right content for our clients and build successful brands together,” says Jens Richter, the managing director of the company. There is diversity among the formats offered by Red Arrow International, yet they have a commonality, according to Richter: “They are all great entertainment!” A brand-new cooking competition show picked up by ABC, The Taste follows culinary celebrities Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Brian Malarkey and Ludo Lefebvre as they hunt for the most talented chef in the U.S. A League of Their Own, which has been on the air for six seasons, is Sky1’s highest-rated entertainment commission. Red Arrow International is also highlighting Heroes of the Internet, a clip show from Tim Van Aelst (Benidorm Bastards).
“ Over the past [few] years, we have had a great run with formats.” —Jens Richter
A League of Their Own
Rive Gauche Television www.rivegauchetelevision.com • Tag Team Cuisine • The Ultimate Proposal • 50
There are several new formats on offer from Rive Gauche Television, which entered the format-selling business not too long ago. “Our goal is to work with the best producers to develop simple, clear and promotable concepts,” says David Auerbach, the president of the company. “I think we’ve really succeeded with our latest efforts, and I am excited about sharing them with our broadcast partners around the world.” Tag Team Cuisine is a cooking format that will feature two teams of amateur chefs in competition to create the best three-course meal. Only one cook is permitted to be in the kitchen at a time, “so if you can’t stand the heat, ‘tag’ out of the kitchen,” says Auerbach. Each episode of The Ultimate Proposal, a romantic competition format, will involve three unique marriage proposals. Then there is 50, “a fun game-show format that everyone can play and anyone can win,” says Auerbach. “Fifty people answer 50-50 questions for the chance to win $50,000.”
The Ultimate Proposal
“It’s been a good year for Rive Gauche, and I expect that we will gain even more momentum at MIPCOM.
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Shine International www.shineinternational.com • Anything Goes • Beauty and the Geek • Golden Goal
Beauty and the Geek
First made famous in the U.S. by Ashton Kutcher, the series Beauty and the Geek is returning to Australian prime time this fall with its “biggest and funniest season to date,” says Nadine Nohr, the CEO of Shine International. The company is highlighting the format alongside Anything Goes on its MIPCOM slate. Commissioned for a Friday night slot on TF1, Anything Goes sees a host of TV’s funniest personalities and comics tasked with performing songs, dancing, improvisation and more, all based on specific challenges. “The format has consistently won its slot on TF1, delivering an incredible 38-percent market share,” says Nohr. Golden Goal, meanwhile, is one of the year’s most popular entertainment shows on Norwegian TV. “The format regularly delivers market shares in excess of 40 percent and has more than doubled broadcaster TV2’s average share,” Nohr points out. Capping off the slate at Shine International, Best Bakery is a format that searches for the best independent bakery in the country.
“ Beauty and the Geek is back...with its biggest and funniest season to date.
Sony Pictures Television www.sonypictures.com/tv • The Dr. Oz Show • Dragons’ Den • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Existing formats that have proven popular around the world are what Sony Pictures Television can offer to broadcast clients, who are always keen to buy titles with a track record. “We anticipate a successful market and expect to see a lot of activity around our fantastic slate,” says Keith LeGoy, the company’s president of international distribution. In addition to the U.S.,The Dr. Oz Show is currently produced in Europe, Latin America and Asia.“Featuring universal themes of health and wellness, The Dr. Oz Show format resonates with international audiences,” says LeGoy. Dragons’ Den—titled Shark Tank in the U.S.—gives entrepreneurs the chance to establish their own businesses. “With its unique charitable component, Dragons’ Den offers broadcasters the opportunity to produce compelling television while also making a difference in people’s lives,” notes LeGoy. One of the most successful game-show formats in the world, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, has been sold into India, Latin America, Europe and Asia. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? remains in high demand,” says LeGoy.
continue to look to SPT for adaptable formats that will work well locally.
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Strix Television www.strix.tv • Double Wedding • Botox or Broccoli
MTG Studios recently acquired a majority stake in Paprika Latino, a Central and Eastern European production group. “We are delighted to be representing their formats as part of our catalogue,” says Peter Holmström, the COO of Strix Television and MTG Studios. “With our new slate of formats and Paprika’s portfolio we hope to continue to impress programmers with our quality shows and in turn reach out to global audiences with exciting and new cutting-edge scripted and non-scripted entertainment.” Double Wedding follows two couples working together to plan one wedding that will make both parties happy. “Double Wedding is not only an entertaining and emotional format, it’s also a game of strategy,” notes Holmström. Botox or Broccoli features two people who want to look younger— one tries diet, exercise and alternative treatments, while the other uses botox and surgery. A panel of judges will then try to determine their age and which appearance-improving method was used. “These formats are highly entertaining, innovative, and at the same time branded, which appeals to a broad audience,” says Holmström.
“ We are offering a great mix of innovative formats at MIPCOM this year.” —Peter Holmström
Talpa Distribution www.talpa.tv • The Voice • The Winner Is... • I Love My Country
Undoubtedly one of the biggest format successes in the last few years, The Voice has conquered numerous major markets, including the U.K. and the U.S. Now,Talpa Distribution is looking to close deals in the few territories that don’t already have local productions. “It is, of course, our objective to also see the format on air in India and Japan, for instance,” says Maarten Meijs, the managing director of Talpa Distribution. “Above all we focus on recurring deals for this show since there is so much creative potential over the life of the series.” The company has continued its focus on talent formats, rolling out the new title The Winner Is… to the market. In the show, dueling singers are judged by an in-studio panel. Before they hear how they did, the contestants must decide to negotiate a cash prize and step out of the competition or continue the game. Other top titles the company is offering include I Love My Country, in which two celebrity teams compete to display their knowledge of the country.
“There are only a few countries remaining that are still awaiting a local adaptation of The Voice.
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Televisa Internacional www.televisainternacional.tv • Little Giants • Crown of Tears • Hollywood Heights
Produced by Rubén and Santiago Galindo, Little Giants, also known as Pequeños Gigantes, is one of several formats that Televisa Internacional is highlighting.The competitive reality show features children between the ages of 4 and 12 showing off their singing, dancing, acting and comedic skills. Crown of Tears (Corona de lágrimas) is a telenovela that focuses on a loving mother named Refugio who endures harassment and humiliation for the sake of her children. The format of the show is available. Hollywood Heights is about a musically talented teenage girl who begins a romantic relationship with a popular musician.This, too, is available for international adaptation. “One of the priorities at Televisa is the development of formats and products created to reach [a wider] audience,” says José Luis Romero, the company’s director of formats and new content. “Our production experience gives us the tools to create amusing and appealing formats.... The main goal is to create content that the whole family will be able to enjoy.”
“ The main creative task for Televisa is to reinforce our product catalogue with pure entertainment formats for everyone.
—José Luis Romero Little Giants
TV Asahi www.tv-asahi.co.jp • Stuck Till You’re Done • Fake Dad • The Blocks
TV Asahi, which is celebrating its 55th birthday, is still looking to increase its international profile.“I would like to make our channel and content more well known,” says Hedwig Schreck, the head of format sales. “Our archives are packed with creativity, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to call more attention to it during the market.” To further this effort,TV Asahi is bringing to MIPCOM the format Stuck TillYou’re Done, one of the best-rated shows in Japan. The series asks contestants to guess the ten bestselling items on a menu for a cash prize. Schreck mentions that the format doesn’t always have to be food-related. “It can be designed around other challenges, such as bowling or karaoke, as long as you keep the challenge as exciting and tense as possible,” she says. Fake Dad is a reality format that follows a boyfriend as he meets a man who is pretending to be his girlfriend’s father in order to prepare him for the real thing. Schreck describes the show as “emotionally engaging and extremely fun to watch.” The Blocks is a physical game and quiz show.
Stuck Till You’re Done
“The advent of digital broadcasting has opened up so many new channels and the networks are constantly looking for new content and ideas. —Hedwig Schreck
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format show, like Big Brother or American Idol, never pretends to be anything other than entertainment. Whether scripted or non-scripted, factual or fictional, studio-based or location-based, prime time or daytime, if the audience does not come back for more, its existence is academic. Format productions might be cheaper than epic mini-series, period dramas or evergreen sitcoms, but they never survive on critical acclaim alone. It is either a ratings blockbuster or busted. “To produce them properly, you need resources and the capacity to create high-standard work, because they are absolute beasts,” says Rob Clark, FremantleMedia’s director of global entertainment development. “Producing them is not like walking a dog, it’s more like walking a bull.” Lateral and diagonal thinking are required for inspired format ideas. “It’s important not just to think about where the historic format hits have hailed from, but to think outside the box as to where they might come from next,” says Karoline Spodsberg, the managing director of Banijay International, the Banijay Group’s distribution arm. New in Banijay’s portfolio are the morality-themed reality series Tempted, which debuted on Denmark’s TV3 last fall; the game show Trust, which originated in France and has sold to the Turkish network ATV; and Opposite Worlds, a competitive reality format that originated in Chile. “Ours is a ‘need to know’ rather than a ‘nice to know’ culture,” Spodsberg continues. “With production companies this busy, you can only entice people to work on a new project if they can see the idea’s potential in their market.” Endemol, Big Brother’s original creator, continues to be a major force with new titles such as Your Face Sounds Familiar, a mixture of shiny-floor games, celebrities, music and humor. It was conceived for the Spanish network Antena 3 and is now in some ten countries, including China on Hunan TV. Iris Boelhouwer, the Amsterdam-based managing director of Endemol’s creative operations, notes, “Every Endemol operating company creates its own ideas, sells them in its local market and, from there on, the formats travel. When you are on the ground in a territory like Germany, for instance, you are best placed to know your market and to know your clients.” CREATIVE NETWORKS
Centralizing one idea for international distribution does not work. “But we do bring our teams from around the world together to share their local ideas, best practices and so on,” Boelhouwer says. “We also recognize that we don’t have a monopoly on creativity and our acquisitions team, headed by Grant Ross, is always on the lookout for third-party ideas to add to our portfolio.” Developing a virtuoso idea is where the real work begins. “The group has a strong culture of intra-group creativity, and we like to put together development teams, which consist of format developers from across the entire group who come together to work on a single project,” Banijay’s Spodsberg says. 10/12
Similarly, Sony Pictures Television’s (SPT) 16 production companies and joint ventures worldwide develop original ideas locally before exchanging opinions on how to extend them to new territories. The Dr. Oz Show originated in the U.S. and has been adapted in a number of markets, including Russia, India, the Middle East and China. New SPT titles include Cover Me, produced by SPT’s Dutch subsidiary, Tuvalu Media, for the local TROS network. It is now in its third season, with adaptations in Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal and Germany. “All our companies start with ideas developed for their local markets,” says Wayne Garvie, SPT’s London-based chief creative officer for international production. “Our job is to work out how to create something that can work globally as well.” Armoza Formats set up the Armoza Format Lab less than two years ago to create a separate space to nurture ideas and beef them up before giving the go-ahead for production.The lab “is based on our experiences in the market and our understanding of the latest trends,” says Avi Armoza, the CEO and founder of Armoza Formats. “So we only develop a show when we’ve seen a need in the market.” Armoza Formats’ slate includes the family game show Still Standing, which has sold to seven countries. It has also come out with Connected, a new reality format that melds the fly-on-thewall approach to documentaries with social-media users’ need to bare all to their “friends” and “followers” online. Connected is in a fouth season on HOT3 in Israel, and has also been licensed into Finland, the Netherlands and Romania, among others. Armoza has gone one step further by launching a pitching contest called Formagination to find and develop ideas by aspiring professional and amateur format makers for multiplatform distribution. It has generated several new ideas for Armoza. “We hope at least two will go into production. Each will take at least one year to complete. The winners keep the copyright and we have the distribution rights. If they want to raise funds for production, we offer the option to acquire a stake.” Heavy investment during the development phase matters at Talpa, which thrives commercially by working closely with its international clients. World Screen
Getting connected: In addition to tapping into the output of the Sparks Network member companies around the world, Eccho Rights takes on third-party titles like Exit from NTV in Japan.
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with the people who produced the original ideas. I don’t lie awake at night worrying about piracy, but I am keen for ideas that are transformational.” Seeking the next big hit prompts producers to chase innovation even if broadcasters remain risk-averse and demand only safe formulas. The key, says FremantleMedia’s Clark, is finding a concept that will not only travel globally but will also secure repeat business. “Nothing has managed to stay huge apart from formats that have been around a long time,” he says. “Revenue generation is not from the initial sales. It’s from knowing you’ve sold a format in 50 countries and that in 45 of them you got a fifth season on air.” SPARKING NEW IDEAS
On a quest: Nordic World has found strong demand for Scandinavian formats like Missing on the international market.
“Talpa can afford to spend a lot of money on creative development,” says Maarten Meijs, the managing director of Talpa Distribution. “Many format creators [can’t]. In addition, our consultants give extensive format documentation as well as hands-on guidance in the production of a Talpa format in the different markets.This contributes to us being successful.” HOME RUN
Proof of potential success must be offered to the client before the rollout takes place, he adds. “It helps if a format creator is able to show results, such as ratings and audience demographics. As Holland is our test market, Talpa is able to do this. We only distribute formats after first testing and tweaking them in our home market.” The advent of digital terrestrial, satellite and cable networks, innovative cross-platform websites and social media’s accelerating penetration into people’s lives have stimulated demand for formats. But broadcasters, the key customers, are getting fussy about what airs during prime time and what is stripped daily. “Time slots determine budgets, which are under pressure,” Endemol’s Boelhouwer says. “But the size of a budget doesn’t determine the level of creativity. Look at Israel or Denmark, for instance; they are not markets with the biggest budgets, but in recent years, some internationally acclaimed scripted and non-scripted ideas have come from these territories.” Mike Beale, ITV Studios’ director of international formats, notes that “there used to be a frenzied rush when ‘the next big thing’ was announced, but we are now seeing a more cautious approach, with broadcasters looking for success before jumping on board.” To continue selling established repertoire to clients while producing edgy new material they might reject is a gamble for any enterprise in these recessionary times. Some format producers resolved that issue by consolidating assets via mergers and acquisitions to create global corporate specialists—Endemol and FremantleMedia, among others, are the result of such alliances. But whether they are multinational or independent, format creators do not need clients who don’t respect a format’s integrity or who pay for stolen ideas. “I’ve never seen one that was stolen and worked,” SPT’s Garvie states. “If it is a smart concept, the broadcaster is going to work 400
A format cannot afford to look tired anywhere, especially at Sparks Eccho.The firm was originally set up as Sparks Network, which tapped into a pool of production companies worldwide to widen its access to new ideas. “We do the research for them, organize the co-development and co-production and the first-look deals with buyers,” says Fredrik af Malmborg, the managing director of Sparks Eccho’s new distribution division, Eccho Rights. In addition to the non-scripted formats it has specialized in so far, Eccho Rights is expanding into scripted formats, too. “The demand for drama is so strong,” af Malmborg says. “Now you can sell Turkish drama to 45 countries and it will be dubbed in most languages. As long as the production quality is high, the audience doesn’t care whether the drama comes from Hollywood, Bollywood or Istanbul.” To encourage the development of ground-breaking ideas, Sparks Eccho is setting up a development fund this fall. “It will be used to invest in pilots or take an early concept to the next level,” af Malmborg says. “There are still broadcasters in a few countries, such as the U.S., the U.K., the Benelux states, Japan and South Korea, that are willing to take risks.” Benefiting from Sparks’s new setup are three new formats: Exit, a show from Nippon Television in Japan, and The End and Dangerous Beauty, two Turkish dramas. An optimistic formats sector is always forward looking, says Jan Salling, the COO and sales director at Nordic World. “Israel and Scandinavia are the hottest territories right now but, slowly, we’re also seeing export from Eastern Europe and Asia picking up,” he says. “As we mainly source our formats from Scandinavia and Finland, we are on a roll right now. We see the broadcasters slowly getting brave in commissioning original and tailor-made Nordic ideas.” Babes on the Bus, the change-of-lifestyle format on Nordic World’s books, has caught international broadcasters’ imaginations. FremantleMedia’s Clark is predicting a demand for heritage formats, such as Family Feud, PlayYour Cards Right and Blockbusters. “These are from decades ago but they are being reinvented.There is security in them because they worked before.” Beale at ITV Studios says his company is investing heavily in “the creative pipeline and focusing on development of pilots” to feed future growth. At the end of the day, format producers want loyal viewers, Armoza says.“No one has the formula for a great format, so you need to find a way of working that enables you to come up with concepts that spark and inspire broadcasters. They are looking for the spark in our ideas, and we’re looking for the sparkle in their eyes.” 10/12
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Dating shows have proven to be cost-effective buys for broadcasters, drawing in younger audience demographics and generating a great deal of buzz. By Kristin Brzoznowski
Love The business of love is a lucrative one. In the U.S., annual revenue from the online dating industry has topped the $1 billion mark. In the U.K., the volume of business is so significant that last year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) began including dating-agency fees in its “basket” of household goods and services used to calculate British inflation. And the story is similar all across the globe. It’s no wonder, then, that TV shows centered on dating and marriage have proven to be moneymakers as well. With a theme that touches a universal nerve, these programs are popular with broadcasters and viewers everywhere. “Culturally we all respond well to a love story,” says Vasha Wallace, the senior VP of global acquisitions and development at FremantleMedia. “Think about all those big Hollywood films and going back to Shakespeare with Romeo and Juliet; we all love a love story.That’s the reason our audiences keep tuning in to these shows week after week.” FremantleMedia’s catalogue contains two of the top-selling global dating formats, The Farmer Wants a Wife and Take Me Out. The first of the two titles tracks the lives of hard-working single farmers looking to meet their perfect partner. “It’s been phenomenally Televisa’s successful for us,” says Wallace, who notes that the for-
mat has traveled to 28 countries. “When we did some audience research a few years ago, one of the things that we found was that our viewers responded to the show because they felt it was very authentic.You’re watching a real love story unfold; they are all actually looking for love. In Holland—where it’s been a huge success, consistently rating as a number one show, even beating football—we have had 35 weddings now and 26 babies!” Take Me Out, which has traveled to 22 countries so far, is popular for a different set of reasons, Wallace says. The studiobased series tells a “very modern story. It’s much more fun and lighthearted entertainment. It’s about looking for a date, very much like what happens in real life in a bar.” Another wildly successful dating format is The Bachelor, part of the catalogue at Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITVP).The series has been sold as a format into more than 25 territories, with recent deals in Chile, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. “The Bachelor is such a hugely successful international show because, at its heart, it is a real-life fairy tale of romance and love,” said Andrew Zein, the senior VP of creative and format development and sales at WBITVP, regarding the recent round of commissions. “Beautiful and entertaining, it is television for anyone in love or looking for love.”
Singing for a Dream. 402
Global Agency’s Match Me If You Can.
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tial wives for their sons,” Beale explains. “As the boys have been so useless in finding that perfect partner, all the decisions are left with their mothers.This proved a really warm format, with all parties going on a journey about what they are really looking for in their partners, and real bonds were formed.” MOM KNOWS BEST
All in the family: Meet the Parents has been in the ALL3MEDIA International catalogue for a few years now and continues to perform well for the company.
Red Arrow International (formerly SevenOne International) delivered one of its first dating hits back in 2007 with Love Bites, which aired daily in Germany and has made its home in eight territories. “Love Bites is a bit older, but it’s still sexy and fresh; broadcasters are looking for formats they can strip over the week, and that is easily done with this show,” says Henrik Pabst, a regional sales director at Red Arrow International who also heads up international format acquisitions. “We felt that within the Red Arrow group dating is [a genre] we should concentrate on more,” Pabst says.The company has a trio of brand-new dating formats to launch at MIPCOM: Eye Contact, Dream Date and Game of Love. “What we’ve done is take established and successful genres and mix them together to make something completely new,” says Pabst. “Our formats combine hidden camera, dating, comedy and more. In Dream Date, for example, there are scripted parts mixed with hidden-camera and reality parts.” ITV Studios Global Entertainment (ITVS GE) launched two brand-new dating shows earlier this year: Come Date with Me and Please Marry My Boy. “Come Date with Me proved very successful at MIPTV and is in production in five territories,” says Mike Beale, the director of international formats at ITV Studios. “The show follows a man or woman as they visit the homes of four suitors who try to wow them with their quirky dates and dinnerparty entertainment.The neat twist is that all the suitors attend each dinner party, so there is great opportunity for strong rivalry and some dirty tricks.” Please Marry My Boy, which debuted on Seven Network in Australia, also features a twist on the traditional dating concept. “This format follows four mothers who are trying to find poten404
Bringing parents into the process of selecting a suitor is a concept that has also been popular for Global Agency. The company’s flagship program is Perfect Bride, in which 12 potential brides meet up with six potential grooms, who happen to be accompanied by their mothers. “Perfect Bride first started in Turkey on Show TV in 2004 and then went to Kanal D for the second season, with runaway success,” says Catherine Stryker, the head of sales for the U.S. and Central and Eastern Europe at Global Agency. “Perfect Bride has been produced in Hungary, India, Italy, South Korea, Turkey, Romania and Lebanon for the Middle East. It has been sold to 32 territories, including the U.S. and China.” ALL3MEDIA International’s Meet the Parents has taken the idea of overthe-top in-laws and turned it on its head. “Meet the Parents is a very humorous look at established couples who are about to get serious, suffering the new inlaws in outrageous fashion,” says Stephanie Hartog, the executive VP of formats at ALL3MEDIA International. The parents are actually played by actors, who are there to pull off the prank and dish out embarrassment. The show’s “cheeky humor” has helped make it a hit in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, according to Hartog. At MIPCOM, ALL3MEDIA is launching World Series of Dating (WSOD), which was broadcast earlier this year on BBC Three. The series, from Lion Television, is a hybrid game show, “where dating, sports and comedy collide in the studio as guys compete to become the country’s best dater,” explains Hartog. “WSOD is the very definition of a 21st-century format; it’s a hybrid genre clash never seen before!” LOVE ON THE ROAD
While WSOD crosses over into the game-show genre, there are other formats, including Zodiak Rights’ Love at First Flight, that incorporate travel elements. “We are very proud of Love at First Flight, which aired on Net 5 in the Netherlands,” says Barnaby Shingleton, the head of entertainment at Zodiak Rights. “In this format a group of women come to the realization that the men of their country are simply not good enough, so they go on a tour of the globe looking for love in far-flung destinations. Part dating show, part travelogue, this really is a voyage of discovery for the girls involved.” Love at First Flight is one of four new formats in the dating and marriage arena that Zodiak will be bringing to MIPCOM. “The factor that sets Zodiak Rights apart from the rest of the 10/12
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Farming for fresh ideas: FremantleMedia’s The Farmer Wants a Wife has sold into more than 20 territories, including Australia, where it’s been a long-running success.
market is our ability to launch shows that have a new and fresh twist,” says Shingleton. “In this way, we provide buyers with exciting formats that really resonate.” Alongside shows centered on singles finding love, there is a whole subgenre of programming dedicated to nurturing established relationships. One such title is I Still Do, distributed by MNet Sales. “This is a dating show that makes a difference,” says Mandy Roger, MNet’s head of sales, acquisitions and business development. “Married couples who have lost their spark are made over inside and out. In front of their families and friends they are surprised with a ceremony to renew their vows. There is a double reveal as they see their new glam spouse and have a chance to remember that ‘they still do.’” MNet only recently made its foray into format sales and has been very selective in pulling together its initial slate. Along with I Still Do, MNet is offering buyers the shiny-floor studio shows Duet Date and Pants on Fire as well as the reality dance competition Dancing with the Enemy. Roger says that the great thing about these formats is that they are adaptable to any territory. “There are no cultures, religions or traditions that would make producing these formats a challenge anywhere,” she notes. TEMPERATURE CONTROL
Differences in religion and culture also haven’t been much of an issue for WBITVP with its dating formats, according to Zein. “In our experience with The Bachelor, it can be locally adapted anywhere—cultural and religious differences have not caused problems for international versions, as the show can represent any specific ‘love culture’ in each territory.” Zein adds that occasionally it is necessary to “tailor how much emotion is displayed on-screen.” Global Agency’s Stryker says that Perfect Bride adapts brilliantly to most traditions because both the men and women are chaperoned by their mothers. “The degrees of romance are totally regulated by the production company and can be turned on and off like a hot tap to suit the audience.” Indeed, a good format is built in such a way that these challenges can be easily dealt with by making a few minor adjust406
ments, leaving the core concept fully intact. This was the case for FremantleMedia when it brought Take Me Out into Indonesia, Wallace says, explaining, “There’s a large Muslim population there, and the way they do dating is slightly different. The [contestants] still go on a date at the end of the show, but both of them are chaperoned by their parents. It’s culturally respectful and relevant, but the structure of the format is the same as what you see in Europe. It’s the same idea of 30 girls with their lights on, but you have the ability to culturally adapt it while keeping the format structure the same.” Take Me Out plays mainly in prime time around the world, as does FremantleMedia’s other dating format, The Farmer Wants a Wife. Wallace says that while both are perfectly suited for prime time, they do have the ability to be scheduled in different ways. “In some countries we do daily versions with a big prime-time weekly catch-up show.” At ITVS GE, Please Marry My Boy and Four Weddings are both primarily considered for prime time, says Beale.“Four Weddings has also been adapted to a very successful daily access-prime strip in France,” he notes. “Come Date with Me is very flexible and plays both in prime time or daily as either a half-hour or hour strip.” Beale says that the company is quite fortunate in that these formats “appeal to a broad range of broadcasters as they can be adapted to various slots.We have seen these formats in daytime stripped and weekly in prime, on free-to-air channels and cable and digital channels.” FLEX APPEAL
Red Arrow’s Pabst says that dating formats also offer the benefit of appealing to broadcasters that have a slightly younger audience. “But, subject to the cast and stories, they can for sure be for broader commercial broadcasters. As we all know, the public channels need to attract younger viewers.These formats would be a way to do so. In the territories I look after, I would definitely speak to the public broadcasters because if they want to get the young viewers in the long run, they need to start somewhere.” Also enthused by the genre’s ability to sit on different types of broadcasters and in different slots is Zodiak’s Shingleton. He says, “Many terrestrial broadcasters wanting to attract younger 10/12
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Parental advisory: Please Marry My Boy, from ITV Studios Global Entertainment, launched on Seven in Australia earlier this year to much success.
female audiences can use dating in early-evening or lateprime-time slots, depending on the tone of the show. Cable networks with a female target are particularly keen on dating, as are youth-skewed channels, which can play them as a strip or in prime time depending on the format. “Even broadcasters which don’t traditionally ‘do’ dating (for example, the U.K.’s Channel 4) can twist dating and put it in a midweek features slot,” he continues. “So dating is very flexible depending on the format and its treatment.” This genre also offers flexibility when it comes to production budgets.“The Bachelor is a good example of how the budget can be altered according to a territory’s resources,” says WBITVP’s Zein.“The U.S. version has a higher budget, whereas some local productions have managed to keep costs down, not to the detriment of the show’s success. Also, with studio shows such as Looking for Love, the budget can be monitored and kept down.”
The majority of distributors agree that dating is generally more cost effective than other entertainment shows. “Many dating formats don’t rely on expensive studio production and others aren’t in the studio at all,” notes Shingleton. “And because of the nature of dating, casting is often simpler. Dating is a great vessel for human emotion, so if it’s set up well the drama and narrative flows quite naturally.” THE DATING POOL
Casting for these shows, as Shingleton points out, isn’t too hard to nail down, given the number of singles worldwide. However, producers do put a great deal of thought into selecting contestants whose stories will resonate most with viewers. Casting is also a way to target different audience segments, allowing a broadcaster to home in on the particular demographic it’s after. “Dating formats work for a wide range of viewers,” says Red Arrow’s Pabst. “It’s really subject to the age of the candidates. If you take a 20-year-old who is looking for someone, you end up with a younger audience. But there are also plenty of people in their 30s and 40s who are looking for partners.” These shows can continue to skew older by aging up the contestants. The real sweet spot for a broadcaster, however, is the young female audience that dating series often attract and that advertisers are particularly keen to target. Also appealing for broadcasters is that dating shows have the potential to create a lot of noise. “These formats are loud and dynamic and show young people having fun and taking control of their romantic lives,” says Zodiak’s Shingleton. “Dating shows also generate a lot of social ‘chatter,’ so they work well for communal viewing, perhaps before going out for a night on the town, or perhaps even replacing a night on the town. Dating shows are often at the lighter end of the entertainment spectrum and represent a fun break for viewers.” Global Agency’s Stryker has also taken note that these shows inspire a great deal of talk among at-home viewers.“For example, My Ex Is My Witness is designed to get people thinking about reasons couples divorce and why they stay together. Perfect Bride opens up the complex and volatile relationships mothers often have with their sons and their choice of partners. The Desk of Love begins with that very honest moment of first physical attraction, and also involves the whole studio audience in helping make a good choice. Match Me If You Can plays with the difference between how a person sounds and what they look like.” In the U.K., Take Me Out is much-talked-about television, says FremantleMedia’s Wallace. “It’s in all the papers, it’s in the blogs; it’s becoming a popular-culture phenomenon. People like to talk about it and it has a real buzz.” Given the flexibility in scheduling and production budgets, coupled with their ability to draw in the always-appealing younger audience demo, dating shows have proven their value to broadcasters. Now it’s up to producers to innovate within the genre and keep the new ideas coming.“We continue to explore the dating arena and monitor the growth in new dating techniques in the real world,” says ITV Studios’ Beale. “Any show that is about relationships of any sort will continue to provide great content, and the search for love is one of the strongest sources of emotional stories,” he continues. “We just have to come up with new ways to deliver those stories that are interesting and relevant.” 10/12
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John de Mol has spent his entire adult life working in television, first as an independent producer in his native Holland and then at Endemol, which he founded with Joop van den Ende and where he created Big Brother and oversaw the development of several other shows. In 2005, de Mol set out on his own again and established Talpa Media Group, whose most recent international hit is The Voice. He also owns stakes in a number of media companies, including Endemol and the Dutch broadcaster RTL Nederland. It is fitting that as TV Formats marks its tenth anniversary, it should feature John de Mol, one of the fathers of reality television.
TV FORMATS: At what point did you realize The Voice would
be such a hit? DE MOL: I knew this show would be a hit only when we began
to record the show in Holland.We were starting the blind auditions and after one hour I knew this was going to be huge because they work so phenomenally. I thought, this is exactly the way we thought it would happen and is actually even better.That was the moment I was convinced The Voice was going to be big. Of course, I had always had trust in the format. I had invested heavily in the show in Holland by offering it to the broadcaster below cost price in order to get a platform to show the format. That proves that you trust something is going to work, otherwise you wouldn’t invest in it. I was convinced there was room for a new casting show based on quality and real talent, but we still had to find the right structure to do it. And it took us over a year to finalize the whole structure.
100 who are ordinary music lovers and the 101st, [who] is a celebrity.They vote for who they think sang the best. But you don’t see the results immediately.You have to guess if you were better than your opponent. If you have doubts you have the option of taking some money and leaving the show voluntarily, but you automatically make your opponent the winner and he or she goes to the next round and is one step closer to the final prize, which is a real big money prize. TV FORMATS: There are a number of talent competition shows. Is there the risk that the genre is becoming overexposed? DE MOL: This is so difficult to answer because it all depends on the quality of the talent competition formats we can develop in the near future. Everybody thought that the talent-show genre was at the end of its run till we came up with The Voice and gave the genre a new boost that will probably make it successful for the next five years at least. If someone in the next five years comes up with another good format in this genre, it will get [another boost to its longevity]. Fifty years ago there was someone who invented the game show, the quiz, by saying, OK, we have a host in the studio and we have a contestant and we ask him a question and if he answers correctly, then he makes money. For more than 50 years, I’m guessing some 10,000 different formats based on this simple principle have been created. And I am convinced that just as reality is a genre that is never going to disappear, music competition shows may disappear for a while but they will come back for sure after a couple of years because the broadcaster will bring them back because they work.
TV FORMATS: How involved is the Talpa team in the pro-
duction after you have sold a format?
TV FORMATS: How difficult is the selection of the judges
DE MOL: In order to make sure that the quality is good and
or, in the case of The Voice, coaches? DE MOL: The coaches are exactly the difference between The Voice and other casting shows. We don’t have people behind a
that the execution is done in the way it should be done, we have local joint-venture partners in most countries. With that struc-
“Just as reality is a genre that is never going to disappear, music competition shows may disappear for a while but they will come back...” ture we produce the local version of The Voice. We make sure that we keep control since we know the format best, we have the vision—nothing can be changed in the format or in the show without prior consent. In all countries where a local version of The Voice is produced, we send a member of our team of international production consultants to watch over the format and make sure that it is produced in line with the original format. Also to help them out, because we make mistakes in Holland and I think it would be stupid not to warn other countries so that they do benefit from best practices over here. TV FORMATS: Tell us about your new format, The Winner Is. DE MOL: The Winner Is is a talent show but with a totally dif-
ferent hook—it’s Deal or No Deal meets The Voice. The big difference between The Voice and The Winner Is is that in The Winner Is there is a psychological game element. The Winner Is consists of singing competitions between two acts— between two singers or groups. There is a jury of 101 people, 10/12
table telling you that you should forget about your music career and go back to a normal job.We have coaches.We have chosen successful, big, big, names in the music industry.The fact that they are really good singers themselves and can be an example for new talent, first of all acts as an [advertisement for the show], because if I hear that Adam Levine or Christina Aguilera or Cee Lo Green is coaching, then for me, as a contestant, it would be reason to say, “Oh that’s a show I want to be on because their experience and huge talent could help make me be a better singer.”Again, of course, we make television, so just [having] good singers is not enough to make a successful show, you need good stories, you need people with great backstories, so that you, the viewer, start liking somebody already before he sang one note. TV FORMATS: Is Big Brother proof that a show based on a format
can go on indefinitely as long as you know how to refresh it? DE MOL: Yes, correct, I think that Big Brother is an example of
a format that has room for many applications to give it a fresh World Screen
By Anna Carugatii
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markets and China is a big market, not really yet a mature market but changing very fast.Those are the markets in the world that make a difference, that’s where you make your money. TV FORMATS: Are you branching out into scripted formats? DE MOL: Yes, I think a full-fledged production company
should produce scripted and non-scripted. Scripted is a genre I’ve liked very much, so I wouldn’t want to leave it out. Sometimes these projects happen by coincidence. For example, if you have talent under contract like my sister, who is both a host and an actress. We were looking for something for her in scripted. She said, “I would love to make a Dutch version of Everybody Loves Raymond.” [We got the rights] and it was very, very successful. TV FORMATS: Speaking of talent, how do you manage to
find and attract creative people? DE MOL: If you are creative and you want to be creative in the
TV business, at least in Europe, we find that a lot of people have noticed that Talpa is probably one of the nicest companies to work for because we take creativity and development to a high level.We spend a lot of money in development. Here in Holland we have almost the ideal situation.We own a big stake in one of the biggest broadcasting groups in Holland. That makes it easy to get access to screens, test and fine-tune formats each year, which puts us in a position to go to other countries with a suitcase full of proven shows.That makes Talpa quite unique. Music makers: Talpa partnered with Mark Burnett to produce The Voice in the U.S., now in its third season on NBC.
feeling. In the U.S., the producers of the show have done a great job giving the show new twists every year that make it fresh and worth watching. “Indefinitely” is probably too strong a word because indefinitely is forever and, I don’t think there is one show in the world that can last forever! But it can last for decades— 10, 20 years, if done well, but that is the exception to the rule, because most formats work for five to seven years and then the viewers say,“Well, we’ve seen enough, thank you very much.” The Voice has proved to have some room for improvements. In the short history of The Voice, it started two years ago in Holland; we already have made improvements in the format. TV FORMATS: What are Talpa’s plans to expand in the U.S.
market and in the rest of the world? DE MOL: Our output of successful formats, which are airing in
many countries, is growing much faster than I thought it would. We are in the middle of a process of finding out what the final structure of Talpa should be in order to [accommodate international growth].We had a joint venture with Warner Bros., which ended a year ago. Right now we have a small office in the U.S. for a couple of new shows we are going to produce ourselves.We are doing The Voice in co-production with Mark Burnett. At the end of the day, somewhere in the next 6 to 12 months, we have to figure out what the final and definite structure of Talpa is going to be on a global basis. That means that whatever we decide to do will also be applicable to the U.S. market. TV FORMATS: What territories are you focusing on? DE MOL: The most important markets are the same ones as 20
years ago: first the U.S. and then the five big territories in Europe: U.K. Germany, France, Italy and Spain.Then you have Australia, which is a mature market. And India, Russia and the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region are becoming mature 412
TV FORMATS: What went wrong with Endemol? DE MOL: What went wrong is very simple. Endemol is one
of the most successful and healthy production companies in the world, with healthy revenues and very healthy profits. But if what I call the gray suits from the banks put $2.5 billion in debt on a company like that then you make a healthy company a very sick company. What happens now is they are taking the debt away, and when that process is finished, Endemol will immediately be an extremely healthy and profitable company. TV FORMATS: You have accomplished a great deal, you have made a good amount of money, you are showing no signs of wanting to slow down and relax. How come? DE MOL: Because it’s fun! I was 18 years old when I started to work in television in Holland, and in those days there were only two public broadcasters; there was no commercial television. Then I started my own company in a market that did not exist, so it took me a couple of years to get out of trouble and have a healthy company. I was a guy who invented an idea, went into the studio and produced the show and that’s it. When we created Endemol, following the joint venture with my previous partner, we became a publicly listed company. All of a sudden I was running a company with 12,000 people and $2 billion in turnover, with companies in 36 countries. I hadn’t studied how to do this, and those were the unhappiest years of my life. I have learned from those mistakes and I’ve made sure that I hire the right people to take care of the financial side, the offices and pensions. I don’t even look at all that. All I do is work with creative people. I am in the studio making pilots, producing shows and selling shows.That doesn’t make me tired, that makes me happy. I work 80 hours a week but I don’t feel like I work 80 hours a week, because I get up in the morning early and I love to go to work because I love what I do. 10/12
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winner. That’s a very universal story. It works everywhere. But above and beyond that, what’s made a big difference was introducing the voting component when Idols started. That was pretty groundbreaking. It really made that winner the people’s winner. Voting empowers viewers, it makes them relate to the show and connect with it. These shows connect very deeply with their audiences, like no other shows do. And music is very universal, but it’s not only about the music, it’s about that rags-to-riches story. What sets these shows apart is that they are very real. The people who show up to audition, whether it’s for X Factor or Idols or Got Talent, don’t show up just to be on one episode and make a bit of money. They show up because they truly want to become a pop star or a rock star. They want to make music. They want to be famous. They want to perform. And the show also wants to find that person, so there is a complete alignment between the goals of the show and goals of the contestants, and that makes those shows incredibly real and incredibly raw. TV FORMATS: They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There are so many talent competition shows out there now. Is the genre being diluted? FROT-COUTAZ: As you say, imitation is the best form of flattery and people love these shows. For a while you say, I can’t get enough, and it’s true up to a point, but it will be interesting to see what happens. So far, these shows haven’t cannibalized each other hugely because the market has gotten bigger and the demand is still there. We’re certainly seeing that. But naturally, each one of these shows probably isn’t quite as successful as it could be if there was only one show in the marketplace. Let’s not forget, though, if we’re talking about Idols, or X Factor, or Got Talent, we’re talking about the world’s top entertainment formats. These shows are getting huge audiences and they’re still traveling. Looking at the wider landscape and the other shows around, maybe they will all survive at their current levels, maybe some of them will go away. Our job as producers is to make sure our shows still feel relevant and surprise people, and make sure we find great talent, and that we’re true to what the shows are about.That’s all we can do—concentrate on making the very, very best shows in the market.
Cecile Frot-Coutaz By Anna Carugati
If anyone knows how to produce channel-defining, blockbuster hit shows, it’s Cecile Frot-Coutaz. Among her duties as CEO of FremantleMedia North America, she served as executive producer of American Idol, America’s Got Talent and The X Factor. She has seen firsthand the connection these shows make with their audiences, on multiple platforms, and the varied revenue streams they can generate. She takes this expertise with her as she assumes the role of CEO of Fremantle Media, one of the world’s leading producers and distributors of a wide variety of programming, with a network of offices in 22 countries.
TV FORMATS: What are the essential ingredients that make
shows like American Idol, Got Talent or The X Factor hits? FROT-COUTAZ: First of all, they are big events, and if you
really boil it down, they tell a story of the search for that one person that gets anointed at the end. It’s almost like a feature film that extends over three months. You start with a search, but you know that by the end you will have your 414
TV FORMATS: Are there specific ways to look for the next big hit, or does it just happen when it happens? FROT-COUTAZ: If there were, there would be a lot more big hits! What we’re finding is that the reality genre has really matured. I don’t know if you remember ten years ago, but every week you’d read about a new reality show, and there was a lot of creativity and a lot of invention because the genre was completely new. It isn’t new anymore, so now we’re in a 10/12
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different place. If you talk to me or to any of our competitors, the big question is, Where is the next big hit going to come from? Nobody’s got a crystal ball, so all you can do is try a lot of different things: have really talented people on your team, join in partnerships, take some risks, look globally. And if you do enough things and if you try enough times, hopefully you’ll find something that works. Ultimately, there is no prescriptive way to approach development, other than establishing a culture that nurtures creativity and being fairly agnostic and flexible about how you approach it. TV FORMATS: Has social media increased the engagement
that viewers have with big shows?
FROT-COUTAZ: A key focus is on getting IP into the
pipeline, across a broad range of genres. Strengthening the development effort globally continues to be a top priority, along with looking at different kinds of partnerships. Another focus is on digital, and this is crucial. New technologies, new platforms and new digital audiences open up enormous opportunities for a company like FremantleMedia. On a more short-term tactical level, there are a lot of markets around the world that are entering recession, and we always have to bear that in mind as we look at the next couple of years. But if Europe is having a tough time, that’s counterbalanced by markets like Brazil or India that are real growth markets. That’s the good news about having a global company.
FROT-COUTAZ: Yes. That is the short answer. Social media
has become a must, but as with everything, it’s much more complex than that. It’s very easy to say you have to do social media. Of course you have to do social media, the question really is how do you do social media. If you really want to use social media to further the engagement viewers have with a show, it has to be compelling and it has to actually engage viewers. It’s not enough to just generate conversations around the show, you have to understand the nature of the conversations and why they’re taking place. The crazy thing is, two years ago, Twitter barely existed, and now you can’t watch a show that doesn’t have a hash tag on it. Interestingly, it’s still a fairly small part of the population that tweets, but those people who do tweet are obviously very engaged with the shows. It’s still not a broad medium—the grandmother in Iowa is probably not going to be tweeting, but she’s still watching the show and is engaged. The thing about Twitter in particular is that it’s almost like a live research tool. When we’re doing a show like The X Factor and people are telling you in real time what they think of what you’re doing, it’s really interesting for us as producers. You have to be quite careful how you use it because it does represent only a certain part of the viewing population, but it’s fascinating to get viewers’ feedback and see the level of engagement they have. You can’t launch a big show like that today without a social-media strategy. It’s just part of doing business. TV FORMATS: There are other ways of connecting with viewers beyond the TV screen. Do you start thinking of consumer products while you are developing a show or do you wait until the show starts connecting with viewers? FROT-COUTAZ: It’s a bit of both. From an economic standpoint, shows that have extensions will be more profitable than shows that don’t, because you can create all these additional revenue streams. Putting an emphasis on those kinds of shows while you develop is important. It’s also important to recognize that once a show goes on the air, typically it takes more than one season to do something that is very meaningful around extensions. By the time you have gone through two or three seasons, you’ve really refined your brand, and you and the viewers know what the show really is about. It then becomes far easier to sell it to your sponsors, look more deeply at the licensing aspects and figure out what makes sense for the show. It is also far easier to monetize those aspects when the show is a hit— that’s when the revenue streams really start to come through. TV FORMATS: What are the major challenges and oppor-
tunities you see as you take the helm of FremantleMedia? 10/12
Taking the stage: Idols is one of the biggest entertainment formats in the FremantleMedia catalogue, having been adapted across the globe, including in Vietnam.
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It has been 12 years since Mark Burnett announced his arrival on the U.S. television scene with Survivor. An instant watercooler hit on CBS when it premiered, in 2000, the competition game show, based on a Swedish concept, continues to deliver strong ratings in its 25th season on American television. And Burnett himself remains the undisputed king of unscripted content in the U.S., with a slate that also includes The Celebrity Apprentice, The Voice and Stars Earn Stripes for NBC; Shark Tank on ABC and The Job on CBS. All told, the producer is credited with more than 2,200 hours of content that has aired in 70-plus markets across the globe. He is now taking his hit-making expertise into the scripted space, executive producing The Bible for HISTORY. Under the banner of One Three Media, a joint-venture company he established with Hearst Entertainment, Burnett is focused on delivering “great characters and great stories,” scripted and unscripted, to channels worldwide.
power, whereby unknown, unproven singers are being pitched to join the teams of music superstars. It’s human nature for the masses to love seeing the little guy have some power. It’s a great hook and to evaluate someone solely on the strength of his or her voice was something I knew the American public would respond to. TV FORMATS: Survivor remains a ratings stalwart on CBS.To
what do you attribute its longevity, and how have you been able to keep it fresh over the years? BURNETT: Survivor has an incredible fan base and we [have just begun] our 25th season. Longevity is completely dependent upon high quality, great characters, and compelling story lines. Jeff Probst has been the anchor of this series since day one of season one. Every season we add small twists, but it always remains true to the core values of the format. When you watch Survivor, it’s a familiar
Burnett TV FORMATS: You are very hands on with your shows— how are you managing this large slate? BURNETT: The last couple of years have been amazing. We have Celebrity Apprentice, The Voice, Survivor, Shark Tank. We also have Stars Earn Stripes on NBC and The Job on CBS. Four of these shows are renewals and two are new. Constant renewals require maintaining a very high quality. In order to maintain that quality, it’s imperative to have a great team around you, which we do, from a corporate standpoint and with the showrunners we hire for each series. The fundamental answer to your question, however, relates to quality. We have always held high standards, and they’ve been achieved by having a very focused team to maintain quality. Making great shows is what I love doing, so I can’t imagine ever feeling burdened by increasing the volume as long as the shows are great. TV FORMATS: The Voice has generated a lot of buzz over the last two seasons—what attracted you to adapting that format to the U.S.? BURNETT: The Voice has become the music competition series for young Americans. I have three teenagers who hang out at our house with a lot of their friends. I often ask these teenagers what they think of current television shows. I talked to them about the Voice format. Initially, they all said, “Why would you do another music show?” until I asked them to watch the clip of John de Mol’s The Voice in Holland. Universally, these teenagers got it.Yes, it’s another music show, but it’s entirely fresh and causes a reversal of 10/12
experience, but you always get something a little different. That’s the key. TV FORMATS: What are the qualities you look for when evaluating international ideas for the U.S.? BURNETT: I look for the same things from an international format that I do for a U.S. format: solid storytelling and something unique. The projects that appeal to me have worldwide appeal. The Apprentice is a three-month televised job interview. Most people have thought about what it would be like to have a big job with a dynamic figure at a huge salary. This series is something everyone can relate to. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? has great humor. What parent hasn’t been helping their kids with their homework and realized they could not remember the simplest things from their school days? These kinds of hooks make a show relatable to a worldwide audience. TV FORMATS: Can you tell us about your own development
process, and the projects you’re generating in-house? BURNETT: We have a great in-house team that is gener-
ating ideas across multiple genres. The most important qualities to me are that shows be thoroughly developed, true to our brand, and most of all, tell a great story. There are three things to remember in developing shows: story, story, story. TV FORMATS: What led to the partnership with Hearst to
set up One Three Media? World Screen
By Mansha Daswani
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world. Bringing them early to a project and getting the benefit of their input early in the process will help us create more relevant shows. We’re also stepping up our efforts in connecting with the top creative producers from around the world to bring some of their ideas to the marketplace in a much bigger way than they could do themselves. It’s been a great time to be on the content side of the business. With all the new technologies, viewers are finding new ways to watch shows, which makes it a really exciting time to be a producer. Our primary business is still creating formats that would be successful globally. We are going to start some formats in countries outside the U.S. as well as continuing our normal U.S. operations. It’s clear to us that our brand and our quality really mean something globally, and therefore, we don’t want to limit ourselves to always starting our shows just in the U.S. TV FORMATS: What do you see as the major
shifts that have taken place in the format business in the last decade? BURNETT: Technology has made the global marketplace much smaller. It makes the exchange of ideas so much faster. Smart international broadcasters have started jumping in and acquiring formats and shows much more quickly than they used to. We’re also starting to see international broadcasters be more willing to take a chance on a new format idea, not needing to wait until it’s made in the U.S. or U.K. first. That’s very encouraging.
Fit for fighting: Mark Burnett teamed with Dick Wolf and General Wesley Clark for the NBC series Stars Earn Stripes, in which celebrities like Dean Cain compete in various military-inspired challenges.
BURNETT: I have always admired Hearst as a company and have had a long business relationship with my friend and colleague Scott Sassa [the president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication]. When Scott joined Hearst we began exploring various ways to work together, which initially led to our partnership on The Bible mini-series [for HISTORY] and, ultimately, the larger content partnership we concluded last year as we formed One Three Media—the production company jointly owned with Hearst and myself. Hearst, through its TV stations, magazines, newspapers, and other businesses, has a massive reach both here and overseas. Scott and his team are incredibly smart and are steering us on paths that we wouldn’t have taken without this relationship. They’ve been incredibly supportive of our programming in a whole host of ways. TV FORMATS: What are your priorities for your interna-
tional business over the next year? BURNETT: As we move into scripted content more, we will
be doing more co-productions with broadcasters around the 418
TV FORMATS: How has the move into scripted been for you? BURNETT: We are making an aggressive move into scripted television. Hatfields & McCoys [a mini-series that delivered record ratings on HISTORY this year] was a watershed event in a trend we already saw coming, which is that, just as broadcast networks realized ten years ago that they all needed unscripted shows, cable networks that only aired unscripted shows are now realizing that they need scripted shows, too. We have hired Anne Thomopoulos, who was previously with HBO, to spearhead our scripted division. This is a clear signal that we are starting to produce the same quality in our scripted division as we have maintained in the past two decades in unscripted. TV FORMATS: What have been the greatest challenges for you working in scripted as compared with unscripted television? BURNETT: All successful television shows require great characters and great stories. It doesn’t matter whether it’s unscripted or scripted, you are held to the same standard of capturing the imagination of viewers and having them become loyal fans. 10/12
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