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MIPFORMATS & MIPTV EDITION
Scripted Formats / Project Runway ’s Heidi Klum / Banijay’s Marco Bassetti / Keshet’s Avi Nir / Top Chef ’s Tom Colicchio
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10 TV FORMATS
The Tweet Beat
22 Twice as Nice The business of adapting scripted dramas and comedies across borders is picking up steam.
46 25 Seasons of Fort Boyard The Zodiak Rights format is still going strong around the world.
Watch any of the most popular entertainment shows on television these days and chances are you’ll see a hashtag pop up somewhere on the screen.
Ricardo Seguin Guise Publisher Anna Carugati Editor Mansha Daswani Executive Editor Kristin Brzoznowski Managing Editor Joanna Padovano Associate Editor Joel Marino Assistant Editor Simon Weaver Online Director Victor L. Cuevas Production & Design Director Phyllis Q. Busell Art Director Cesar Suero Sales & Marketing Director Faustyna Hariasz Sales & Marketing Coordinator 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 © 2014 WSN INC. 1123 Broadway, #1207 New York, NY 10010 Phone: (212) 924-7620 Fax: (212) 924-6940 Website: www.tvformats.ws
The phenomenon of social media, instant voting and real-time sharing has permeated the format market in a big way. The term “interactive” comes up quite frequently when discussing what’s new and what’s next from format producers and distributors. Whether they are game shows that allow viewers to help out contestants, talent shows that let fans chime in about their favorites or competitions in which the audience influences the outcome, there are a slew of formats in the marketplace that offer interactivity as part of their proposition. Broadcasters are increasingly asking for these types of extensions as well. Interactive elements help to deepen audience engagement, creating loyal viewers who are going to tune in live each week.This can come in the form of “social TV” features, which allow people to easily comment about a program via social media, or second-screen applications, which provide added elements that enhance what’s being presented on the show. Both are taking a larger role in the way that entertainment formats are marketed for buyers. Live entertainment shows have, for the most part, mastered the art of leveraging social media for real-time integrations. But what about scripted? Lately, there has been a spike in the sales of scripted formats, which we examine in this issue.The feature makes mention of how social media chatter has helped drive awareness of shows. In-character tweeting and Facebook fan pages are also part of the digital campaigns around some scripted formats.These digital tactics can help drum up interest before a show launches and keep audiences invested in the story between episodes and breaks in the season. The U.S.-based global information and measurement company Nielsen recently released a major study that proves there is a causal relationship between Twitter conversation and TV ratings. For the first time, there is statistical evidence of a two-way influence between broadcast TV tunein for a program and the Twitter conversation around it.This goes to show that interactive is more than a buzzword now; it’s an asset of growing importance and may soon be considered a must. Many in the format market are already on board, but the challenge is to integrate these digital offerings in a compelling way that makes sense for the show and the market it’s being adapted in—and gets the viewers wanting to join the conversation. —Kristin Brzoznowski
22 INTERVIEWS 32 Project Runway ’s Heidi Klum
34 Banijay’s Marco Bassetti
38 Keshet’s Avi Nir
42 Top Chef ’s Tom Colicchio
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all3media international • Gogglebox • Reflex • Sexy Beasts Blending together the trends of interactive programming and reality shows, Gogglebox sits in as people watch TV together and react to the shows and each other.The format, from Studio Lambert, “seems to hit a sweet spot,” says Neil Bailey, the commercial director at all3media international. “We relate to the people and the shows, and we find it compellingly addictive and wonderfully entertaining.” The format is a lead title from all3media international, along with Reflex, a game show from the makers of The Cube, and Sexy Beasts, a dating show. Bailey says that Sexy Beasts is a “long-overdue, clever and accessible take on the dating format, which plays on our obsession with looks above personality.” He likens it to Dating in the Dark meets Monsters, Inc.
“There’s a welcome opportunity to continue the remarkable growth of our formats business.” —Neil Bailey Gogglebox
Armoza Formats • Celebrity Battle • Runway in My Closet • Pull Over
For broadcasters looking for prime-time entertainment, Armoza Formats’ Celebrity Battle may be the answer. “Celebrity Battle is a fresh and unique take on music-based prime-time formats,” says Avi Armoza, the founder and CEO of Armoza Formats.“Whereas most talent shows only focus on the singer, in Celebrity Battle both the celebrities and their producers are put to the test and are given immediate feedback in an original way that increases audience engagement through the unique moving chair mechanism.” Buyers looking for stripped shows can turn to Armoza’s Runway in My Closet, which sees three designers making new looks from people’s existing wardrobes. As game shows continue to prove popular, the company is offering up Pull Over, which surprises real people with a prize that they need but is usually out of their reach.
“Each of these shows brings to the table a fresh perspective on the genres that broadcasters across the world are looking for.” —Avi Armoza Celebrity Battle
Banijay International • Extraordinary Masters • The 7 Weddings • Tested on Humans From the producers of Stars in Danger:The High Dive and BeatYour Host comes Extraordinary Masters, a new studio entertainment format. “Extraordinary Masters is the next step up from the singingand dancing-focused entertainment formats that have dominated the market for many years now,” says Karoline Spodsberg, the managing director of Banijay International. Then there is The 7 Weddings, a documentary-style format that follows seven couples from the moment they make their wedding vows through the highs and lows of the first seven years of their marriages. In the format Tested on Humans, brave volunteers offer up their bodies in the name of science and entertainment. In each episode, experts conduct tests that will find out everything you’ve always wanted to know about the human body but would never dare to try on yourself.
“Studio-based prime-time entertainment shows are still very important in almost every territory and commissioners are always looking for something new and fresh to offer audiences.” Extraordinary Masters 282 World Screen 4/14
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Blue Box Entertainment • The Wine Match • Travel Coach • Battle Dance A talent competition for sommeliers, The Wine Match sees eight contestants who are interested in wine being transformed into experts in the field.The format, which is offered by Italy’s Blue Box Entertainment, has a number of cross-media activities that accompany it as well, including an interactive game and apps that feature info on food/wine pairings. Another competition format with a twist is Travel Coach, in which travel agents compete to create the best getaways. Battle Dance is a competition for dance crews, featuring genres such as hip hop and dance hall. The viewers decide which team wins via voting on the Internet. “We want to emphasize Italian creativity, which, besides TV, is often expressed through innovative entrepreneurial projects,” says Silvio Testi, the CEO of Blue Box.
“All over the world Italian creativity is often related to important, successful brands.” —Silvio Testi The Wine Match
CJ E&M Corporation • The Genius Game • Let Me In • Trot X
In order to win The Genius Game, contestants must be able to outwit their opponents in this survival competition format, which is being presented by CJ E&M Corporation in Cannes. Other MIPTV highlights from the company include Let Me In, a makeover format, and Trot X, a talent format that highlights the oldest form of K-pop music. “Our approach with formats is particularly unique as it provides localization options of Korean content [that are] much more flexible to overseas markets,” says Alex Oe, the sales director at CJ E&M. “China is a big market for us, but we’re also having good feedback from the U.S., the Netherlands, France, Italy and Latin America as well. So, we have now increased the format sales [further] this year.”
“We had a good track record with China last year and we have broadened our format sales in many different territories.” Let Me In
Dori Media Group • Power Couple • AHA! Experience • Taste of Love The prime-time reality game show Power Couple sees eight couples move into a house together and face extreme challenges that test how well they really know each other. “Power Couple is a success not only in ratings but also in the fact that it shows the couple’s dynamic in extreme, funny and moving situations that give the viewers a whole new watching experience,” says Revital Basel, the VP of sales for Dori Media Group. Dori is also presenting AHA! Experience, an entertainment quiz show with a companion Internet application. The company also has Taste of Love, a dating cooking show. “Taste of Love combines two successful genres in a new, fun and elegant way that is not too serious. It is all about producing a light and pleasant viewing experience,” says Basel.
“The content we are bringing to this market is innovative and fresh.” —Revital Basel Power Couple 284 World Screen 4/14
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Electus International • Food Fighters • Bet On Your Baby • Years of Living Dangerously The cooking game show Food Fighters is launching in the U.S. on NBC. “Cooking game shows have never been created at the scale of Food Fighters,” says John Pollak, the president of Electus International. “Thanks to some early presales, we have already moved forward with productions in many of the world’s key markets.” Bet On Your Baby is entering its second season on ABC in the U.S. this spring. “Bet On Your Baby is a family-friendly game show that unites viewers of all ages, from grandchildren to grandparents. ‘How well do you know your child?’ is a universal theme that is an incredibly entertaining idea that has been produced across the globe. We are on air in a dozen markets and have another dozen under option.” The company is also highlighting Years of Living Dangerously.
“We are really taking advantage of our formatdistribution expertise to make sure local series of all of our formats are broadcast around the world.” Bet On Your Baby
FremantleMedia • Fittest Family • The Love Table • An Hour to Save Your Life
Headlining FremantleMedia’s formats lineup at this year’s MIPTV is Fittest Family, which watches as athletic relatives compete for a cash prize. “Three sporting legends are assigned to coach their families and push them to their fitness max; the families then compete against one another as they are faced with a set of extreme challenges,” says Rob Clark, the director of global entertainment development at FremantleMedia. “Its ratings in Ireland were very strong and this can only be good news for Cannes.” The company is also highlighting The Love Table, featuring the world’s first flat-pack dating machine that helps prospective lovers learn about one another, and An Hour to Save Your Life, which illustrates how time is of the essence when it comes to emergency medical treatments.
“Fittest Family is exciting, competitive and in a new area for a realityarced series.” —Rob Clark Fittest Family
Global Agency • Bring’em Back • Dating Pool • Keep Your Light Shining The talent format Bring’em Back focuses on the sheer vocal ability of its contestants. “We believe that with its design and magnificent stage, Bring’em Back will leave audiences mesmerized and fascinated,” says Fahriye Sentürk, the head of operations at Global Agency. Sentürk also points to Dating Pool as a highlight for MIPTV. The show sees ten males and ten females compete against each other while each standing on a droppable platform above a cold-water pool.“This is an entertainment dating show with a twist, where looks are good but brains are better,” Sentürk says. Also a push for Global Agency is Keep Your Light Shining, which has already notched up a number of deals, including in the U.S. “The format has been sold around the world, and the international demand keeps growing.”
“Our latest formats are all original and dynamic, qualities that are highly in demand for any audience.” Dating Pool 286 World Screen 4/14
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ITV Studios Global Entertainment • Game of Chefs • The Guess List • Pressure Pad Cooking competitions have been popping up in prime time around the world, but Game of Chefs, distributed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment (ITVS GE), offers a new spin. “Unlike other shows, the pressure is on the mentors to ensure the amateurs are up to scratch and their reputations will be on the line as much as the competitors,” explains Mike Beale, the director of international formats at ITV Studios. ITVS GE also has two new formats from 12 Yard Productions: The Guess List and Pressure Pad. Beale says of The Guess List, “It’s a feelgood, funny show that is set to have both the contestants and the audience in fits of laughter!” He says that Pressure Pad is like a board game played out on the studio floor,“which means that viewers have the opportunity to play along at home.”
“Game of Chefs offers an exciting new approach to the perpetually popular cooking talent genre.” —Mike Beale Game of Chefs
Red Arrow International • Safety First • House Rules • The Lie
The comedy Safety First is the newest format from Tim van Aelst, the mastermind behind the award-winning Benidorm Bastards and What if? “A hilarious, feel-good comedy set in the heart of a security company, Safety First proved its hit potential by smashing VTM’s channel average in Belgium and raking in several prestigious comedy awards,” says Henrik Pabst, the managing director of global format and factual distribution at Red Arrow International. House Rules also has a track record of success, after increasing its ratings over season one by 88 percent on Australia’s Seven Network. Red Arrow International recently secured the rights for The Lie, which premiered with a bang on Irish broadcaster TV3 by exceeding the channel average by 32 percent. The quiz show was created by STV Productions.
“All of these formats have proven themselves as hits with fantastic ratings.” —Henrik Pabst Safety First
Secuoya Content Distribution • The Shower • Wicked Chef • Miss President The Spanish company Secuoya Content Distribution believes that its formats for MIPTV present a fresh approach to established ideas. The Shower, for example, is a talent show, but it features contestants singing on stage while washing in a giant shower. “Although we work in all genres, we have been focusing our interest on talent shows lately because we think talent has a long lifespan on TV,” says Vanessa Palacios, Secuoya’s content manager.The company is also presenting Wicked Chef, a cooking talk show in which the chefs secretly poison the meals.Why? To get revenge on someone who has been set up by a family member or friend to be punished for something they’ve done in the past.Another highlight is Miss President, which sees beauty queens compete to be the best candidate for the presidency in their country.
“We are focused on promoting our formats in the international market, trying to deliver a twist on what has already been developed.” —Vanessa Palacios Wicked Chef 288 World Screen 4/14
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Shine International • Anything Goes USA • The School • Big Town Dance From the producers of Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew comes Big Town Dance, a factual-entertainment format that is meant to inspire a community to come together in a dance spectacular. Shine International is highlighting the format for MIPTV, where it will also be presenting Anything Goes USA (working title).The original Anything Goes debuted on TF1 in January 2012, and the format has since enjoyed success in countries such as Portugal, Denmark, Spain and China. It will launch soon in the U.S., where Shine America is producing in association with Steve Carell’s Carousel Television. The U.S. treatment will air on FOX. Another Shine International format highlight is The School, which invites viewers inside the classroom to reveal what life is really like behind the school gate.
Sony Pictures Television • Release the Hounds • Milky Way Mission • The Big Allotment Challenge
Following a one-off special in the U.K., the youth-skewing channel ITV2 ordered a full season of Release the Hounds, while ProSieben in Germany ordered a two-hour special. “Release the Hounds is a completely new take on the game show genre, mixing horror, humor and suspense in each episode, and is already getting a lot of attention from international broadcasters,” says Wayne Garvie, the chief creative officer for international production at Sony Pictures Television. Commissioned by the Dutch broadcaster Nederland 1, Milky Way Mission offers celebrities the chance to train as astronauts and travel into space. “The Milky Way Mission format is, quite literally, out of this world in terms of scale, ambition and originality,” says Garvie. The Big Allotment Challenge, meanwhile, taps into the “back-to-basics trend,” according to Garvie.
“We really believe this is the start of the business’s most creative era ever, and we’re looking forward to sharing the excitement we have for these and other formats we have in the pipeline.” Release the Hounds
Zodiak Rights • Dropped • Back to School: The Big Class Reunion • Big Ballet The adventure reality show Dropped has enjoyed considerable success on TV4 in Sweden, and Zodiak Rights is now offering the format internationally. “There is a tremendous interest in ‘Scandi-tainment’ at the moment and the show represents a way of producing adventure reality which is more ‘real’ than others in the genre,” says Barnaby Shingleton, the company’s VP of entertainment.“This fits well with the general trend toward depth and away from overtly produced programming; a trend typified by broadcasters in the U.K. and Scandinavia that has strong signs of spreading further.” Shingleton says that Back to School:The Big Class Reunion is “no-holds-barred entertainment for co-viewing.” He says of Big Ballet, “I think it would be difficult for a buyer to watch 15 minutes and not want to watch more.”
“Dropped is a big, exciting format and will undoubtedly generate a huge amount of interest in Cannes.” Dropped 290 World Screen 4/14
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TWICEasNICE The business of adapting scripted dramas and comedies across borders is picking up steam. By Joanna Stephens
Warner Bros.’s Nip/Tuck in Colombia, Mentiras perfectas.
ark Twain famously said that he liked a good story well told, quipping, “That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.” Judging by the current boom in scripted format sales, the global content industry feels much the same way.There’s a lot of storytelling going on—or, more accurately, story-retelling, as it becomes clear that, while audiences everywhere like a good story, they like it even better if it’s told in their own language, is anchored in their own culture and resonates with their own experiences. 292 World Screen 4/14
Neil Bailey, the commercial director of all3media international, sums it up neatly: “Broadcasters need drama. Most are seeking local content. Few have the luxury of time and money to create things from scratch. And we all take comfort in concepts and ideas that have been proven and succeeded elsewhere.” Examples abound, from SVT Sweden/DR Denmark’s cult crime series Bron/Broen (The Bridge) to Disney’s Desperate Housewives, now powering into its sixth local adaptation in Nigeria, to Turkey’s Forbidden Love, reincarnated by
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Among the many hot concepts to have emerged out of Israel is Hostages, represented by Armoza Formats, which was adapted by CBS in the U.S. and has sold into the U.K. and France in its original version.
Lionsgate has entered the scripted format game with Nurse Jackie, which was versioned in the Netherlands as Charlie.
Telemundo as Pasión Prohibida for the U.S. Hispanic market. And let’s not forget the masters of scripted reality, the Israelis, responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed shows on U.S. television, most notably Showtime’s brilliantly complex thriller Homeland, inspired by Keshet’s Prisoners of War. So what exactly is a scripted format? How does it vary from an old-school adaptation, such as CBS’s retooling of the ’70s British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part to create All in the Family, or, to cite a more topical example, Movie Central/The Movie Network’s adaptation of the 2005 BBC comedy Sensitive Skin, now in production in Canada? “For me, a scripted format provides both a story line and a method of production that will reduce development time and make the program more cost-effective,” Bailey says. “An adaptation won’t necessarily be cheaper, quicker or easier, nor [mimic] the processes used to develop and produce the original or seek to replicate them.” As with all successful drama, a scripted format needs a strong original idea at its core. But it helps, Bailey says, if there are no “idiosyncratic gimmicks” and the plot or premise can be easily adapted to reflect local cultural differences and locations. “There also needs to be some economies of scale, so that you can learn from each version and see ways to improve the concept each time,” he adds. “This means the proposition can be commoditized, which helps with rollout.” Bailey names Cases of Doubt and Berlin: Day & Night, from all3media’s Filmpool, as examples of constructed reality formats that blend “strong accessible stories with refined 294 World Screen 4/14
production techniques and straightforward locations that can be easily replicated in multiple territories.” ON THE HOOK
Andrea Jackson, the managing director of acquisitions and formats at DRG, agrees with Bailey that, for a drama to travel in scripted form, it needs a “distinctive hook.” But she has a slightly different take on the importance of simple settings. As an example, she points to DRG’s breakthrough scripted format, ITV’s hit Doc Martin, the location of which—a sleepy Cornish fishing village—is arguably as big a star as the comedy drama’s eponymous central character. DRG did its first format deal for Doc Martin back in 2005. “I think it’s fair to say we pioneered the scripted space with Doc Martin,” Jackson says. Since 2005 it has been remade in six territories and is under option in several others. “It’s been really interesting to see each country identify their equivalent to Cornwall,” she adds. “But they have all succeeded in replicating that sense of remoteness and localness, and a small community in which the arrival of a doctor makes a big impact.” Jackson also believes that the casting of the original drama is crucial. In the ITV series, Doc Martin is played by Martin Clunes, whose brilliant portrayal of a socially inept physician around whom rich comedy unfolds undoubtedly made it easier for DRG to sell the show as a format, not to mention as a finished series, which has now aired in some 200 territories. DRG’s current slate includes several dramas that combine a unique hook with cultural portability, including NRK Norway’s political thriller Mammon and TVNZ’s mystery drama The Cult, recently sold to Russian state broadcaster Rossiya 1. Jackson is particularly excited about two Finnish dramas from Moskito Television: the award-winning Easy Living, a high-octane thriller that centers on the secret criminal life of a respectable family man; and Black Widows, a darkly humorous tale of three unhappily married women who decide to murder their objectionable husbands.
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Birds of a Feather, one of ITV’s biggest comedy successes this year, is being pitched as a format by FremantleMedia.
“I think Black Widows will do very well as a scripted format,” Jackson says. “It’s brilliant, it’s different and it has universal resonance. In every country and culture, the idea of being stuck in the wrong relationship resonates.” Nadine Nohr, the CEO of Shine International, identifies another topic that has universal traction when analyzing the success of Bron/Broen, which has now inspired two distinct adaptations: Shine America’s version for cable network FX set on the U.S.-Mexico border; and The Tunnel for Sky Atlantic and CANAL+, produced by Shine France and Kudos, set in the Channel Tunnel between France and the U.K. “Every country has a neighbor with whom there are cultural conflicts and issues,” Nohr says of Bron’s “highly transposable premise.” But ultimately, she adds, every thing must flow from brilliant writing and original, compelling story lines. “Drama is
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always an expensive risk. It’s high profile and if it fails, it can fail big. However, it is also channel-defining and can punch above its weight in terms of impact,” she says. THE WRITE STUFF
Sarah Doole, the director of global drama at FremantleMedia, also names writing talent as a key driver of the scripted formats boom. She points out that writers are at a premium throughout the world, with top talent booked up to three years in advance. “The most difficult thing [to write] is the plotline for a crime drama, because you have to come up with all the twists and turns and scenarios,” she adds. “But if you have the plots already written, you can bring in local writers to shape characters and settings to fit cultural concepts. That’s a huge advantage.” Another aspect of the scripted phenomenon that fascinates Doole is drama’s ability to shine a light on social and political trends. “In territories that are closed culturally because of, say, religious or political beliefs, it can be difficult for broadcasters to tell contemporary stories via news or current-affairs programming because of media control,” she says. “But drama can tackle hard-hitting or intimate issues, like divorce and adultery, in a way that’s more culturally acceptable and that broadcasters can get away with showing.” An example from FremantleMedia’s scripted portfolio is Confrontation, which launched in Indonesia in 2011 and went on to be a hit in India. The drama, which takes the form of a talk show, pits brother against brother, wife against mistress, faith healer against fraud, in a tightly scripted format that offers all the surprises and reveals of a drama. “It allows brave stories to be told—ones that real contributors would struggle to reveal—and gives broadcasters the opportunity to provide a strong take-home message,” Doole adds. FremantleMedia’s scripted format lineup also includes Danish producer Miso Film’s Dicte, a contemporary drama about a woman juggling her career as a crime reporter with single motherhood, which has blazed a trail across Scandinavia and is now set for the international market; ITV’s highest-rated sitcom launch in a decade, Birds of a Feather, produced by FremantleMedia UK label Retort; and the gritty Australian drama Wentworth, set in the brutal world of a women’s prison. A reimagining of the classic Australian drama Prisoner: Cell Block H, Wentworth also serves as an illustration of one of the trickiest challenges for rights holders in terms of scripted format sales: ensuring that a remake complements, rather than competes with, the original drama. Wentworth has now been sold into 20-plus territories as a readymade drama and into Germany and the Netherlands as a scripted format. “Managing those windows to make sure your format sales don’t cannibalize your tape sales is a job in itself,” Doole says, noting that FremantleMedia has a dedicated team in London to orchestrate the process.
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Global Agency is looking to capitalize on the rising prominence of Turkish content, offering up the format rights to series like the comedy The Last of the Magikyans.
After identifying a strong idea that reflects the universality of the human condition but is able to be tweaked to suit local lifestyle, cultural and religious differences, the next challenge is to determine how involved the rights owner, or original producer, should be in the adaptation process. How far beyond the original script does—or should—a scripted format go? On one hand, the local producer has the advantage of knowing the local audience; on the other, the format owner has a duty “to maintain the high production values of the original and thus give it the same level of success,” says Andrew Zein, the senior VP of creative, format development and sales at Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITVP). “The overall design concept of a scripted format is something that WBITVP takes very seriously. Our clients have to embrace the original design elements, including costumes, make-up, locations and studio set.” IF IT AIN’T BROKE...
Keeping remakes as true to the primary production as possible is based on the sound principle that “there are reasons why the original was a success,” Zein says. For the same reason, the production team involved in any local adaptation of a WBITVP scripted format must be capable of making the show, on the basis that, if the director and producer aren’t up to par, the adaptation will suffer—and with it so will WBITVP’s reputation. Zein reports a significant rise over the past 12 months in the number of local versions of WBITVP’s scripted shows, with highlights including The O.C. remade in Turkey by Star TV, Nip/Tuck given a make-over by Colombia’s Caracol 298 World Screen 4/14
TV—the first-ever reversioning of a U.S. scriped format in the Latin American country—and The New Adventures of Old Christine reincarnated on RTL in Germany. Zein agrees with the general view that a strong, original story is always the starting point for a scripted format—“trying to find a generic formula would hamper creativity,” he says. Zein has found that buyers are drawn to long-running series, both current and historic, and formats that have clear target-audience segmentation profiles, such as younger-skewing dramas or comedies with a female bias. Peter Iacono, the managing director of international television at Lionsgate, echoes Zein when he says, “it all starts with the script and story,” but disagrees about the necessity of sticking rigidly to the original version. In fact, he believes it is critical not to be too firmly wedded to the primary script. “It’s so important not to copy but instead to build upon the original in order to create something new and fresh for each market, yet still maintain all the elements that made the audience fall in love with the initial program,” he says. Nurse Jackie, one of Lionsgate’s first forays into the scripted format market, serves as a good example. The Showtime comedy drama was picked up in late 2012 by Dutch pubcaster AVRO for Nederland 3, where it aired under the name Charlie. Iacono says that while the Dutch remake featured new local elements and developed its own distinctive “voice,” it remained true to the inspiration of the original series. TRAVEL TIPS
As to what genres travel best in scripted form, Iacono reports as much interest in Lionsgate’s comedies, including Weeds, House of Payne and Are We There Yet?, as in its dramas Boss, The Kill Point and Hidden Palms. But Shine’s Nohr believes comedy is a harder sell than crime. “The basic structure of a whodunit is arguably more straightforward than comedy, which is more subjective and presents a particular set of challenges,” she says. “Ask any stand-up comedian—what works in one territory might not play so well in another. The joke, quite literally, can get lost in translation.” Catherine Stryker, the head of sales for Global Agency, agrees that comedy doesn’t always migrate across cultures. That said, there are no hard and fast rules.The popularity of Turkish drama formats, particularly with Middle Eastern viewers, has been one of the most talked-about TV trends of recent years. But these tales of passion and intrigue, of sultans and sinners, are about as far from Nordic noir’s dark menace as it is possible to get. Both genres, however, have proved to be export gold. “Turkish storytelling tends to center on a romantic interest and relationships within extended families,” Stryker says. “These themes can be very appealing to societies with the same close familial ties and dynamics. That’s one of the reasons our drama has taken off like wildfire in the CEE and
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ily thrown into an impossible dilemma. That makes it very easy to relate to and gives it inherent potential for adaptation.” The third reason is financial, Armoza suggests. He points out that Israeli budgets are comparatively low but local audience expectations are high—a contradiction that has resulted in a talent for producing shows that cost relatively little but look and feel like bigbudget productions. “Take The Naked Truth, also from Hostages producer Chaim Sharir,” Armoza adds. “It’s a suspense-filled drama that follows a police team looking into the disappearance of a 17-year-old girl. The action takes place in an interrogation room, which creates a dramatic pressure-cooker effect, but is also extremely cost effective.” TWEET IT
all3media’s portfolio of successful scripted formats includes Berlin: Day & Night, a constructed reality hit in Germany.
MENA regions. Also, many viewers like to be swept away from their everyday lives by a powerful love story—and that’s where Turkish stories really deliver.” ISRAELI INSPIRATION
Few would dispute, following the massive success of Homeland, that Israeli scripted formats are among the hottest properties on the international market. In recent months, Dori Media Group has sold three scripted dramas into the U.S.: its thriller New York, and its comedies Little Mom and Magic Malabi Express. Late last year, Armoza Formats reported that the Israeli version of its psychological thriller Hostages, the scripted format behind the recent CBS series, has been bought by the BBC—the first time the British public broadcaster will air an Israeli series. And in early February, CBS announced that it is to pilot Armoza’s The Ran Quadruplets, which tells the moving story of the first quadruplets born in Israel, whose lives have been played out in the media spotlight. Avi Armoza, the founder and CEO of Armoza Formats, believes there are three reasons behind Israel’s current status as the world’s go-to supplier of drama. “The first is that Israeli culture is very comfortable with risk-taking,” he says. “That helps us take the risks that are necessary for creating successful formats. Second, there’s something in the essence of Israeli dramas that makes them universally appealing. Hostages is a good example. It’s a powerful story about a very real fam300 World Screen 4/14
Interestingly, Armoza believes that good oldfashioned word-of-mouth, far from being obsolete in today’s hyper-connected world, is playing a bigger role than ever in creating drama hits. “Thanks to social media and consumer-created content, conversations about successful dramas are more prevalent than ever,” he says. “And the more controversial the drama, the more there is to discuss. That’s what happened with our psychological thriller Allenby, which generated a huge amount of online chatter when it aired on Channel 10 Israel. It’s set in Tel Aviv’s redlight district and it reveals, in a very authentic way, the lives of those who live and work in this dark underworld.” So what’s next for scripted formats? DRG’s Jackson thinks we’re in for some unpleasantness. “The crime detective thing is getting a bit tired,” she says. “I think it’s time for something more spine-chilling. It doesn’t have to be ubergruesome, but it could be something broadly in the horror genre, like The Returned (Les Revenants) or In the Flesh.” Shine’s Nohr, whose scripted format slate includes ITV’s audacious, addictive crime drama Broadchurch, now being remade as Gracepoint for FOX in the U.S., also thinks the future looks sinister. She adds, “The current trend in the U.K. seems to be for dark thrillers, populated by flawed central characters.” Lionsgate’s Iacono predicts there will be fewer formulaic cop, legal and medical formats as “we begin to see a similar renaissance in extraordinary television internationally as we have seen in the U.S.” And WBITVP’s Zein sees the demand for scripted drama expanding out of the TV heartlands of the U.S. and Western Europe to encompass the likes of China, Serbia, Thailand and the Philippines. “If WBITVP is any indication of the wider business, I think the appetite for scripted formats is going to continue to rise,” Zein adds, a view endorsed by all3media’s Bailey. “We are all looking for things that perform and that are quicker and cheaper to make and less risky,” Bailey concludes.“So I see further growth and sophistication as producers, distributors and broadcasters increase their focus on this key area and try to improve their expertise and understanding.”
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or model-turned-mogul Heidi Klum, television has played an important role in building her brand empire. The GermanAmerican beauty parlayed her successful modeling career into a gig as the host of and a judge on the reality show Project Runway, which she also executive produces. Klum is also the host, judge and co-producer of Germany’s Next Topmodel, the German version of the internationally successful franchise. As an occasional actress, she has appeared in a number of movies and TV shows, and as an entrepreneur, Klum has designed clothing lines, launched fragrances and been the face of countless product campaigns. She also currently occupies a judging seat on America’s Got Talent. Klum took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her various TV projects with TV Formats.
TV FORMATS: After a decade of involvement with Project
Runway, what is it that you enjoy most about participating in the show? KLUM: What I still love about Project Runway is that it really is about the talent.Yes, it’s a fun TV show and we show the drama when it happens naturally between the designers who are in a high-pressure situation, but at the end of the day, talent wins out. I’m proud that we’re not a show that’s about people being mean to each other and bickering.
point of view. I love having the opinions of my fellow judges because we all have different roles in the fashion world— model, editor, designer, celebrity—and together, it forms a complete critique for our designers. TV FORMATS: With all that’s on your plate, what led you to sign on for America’s Got Talent? KLUM: You know, it’s one of the few shows that I found myself actually watching. I loved to watch it with my family. I’m going into my second season now, and it’s a lot of fun. TV FORMATS: What is the hardest thing about critiquing people and giving feedback on that series? KLUM: I think I’m definitely a tougher judge now than maybe I was at the beginning. I don’t think I’m “mean”— it’s more that I truly can’t hide what I’m really feeling. If someone did not perform well or do a good [photo shoot] or design something interesting, I’m not going to lie. I like to think of it as constructive criticism—and in the real world it will be much tougher, I always tell them! TV FORMATS: What are you able to tap into personally that
makes you relatable for audiences? KLUM: Because I’m honest and genuine, I think the audi-
TV FORMATS: What have you learned about the TV busi-
ness from your work as a producer on that series? KLUM: As a producer, you always have to think of the big picture and, especially for us, as a show that’s been on the air going on 13 seasons, how to keep it fresh. Like anything else, you have to think about how to keep people’s interest while keeping the core elements that the audience love. TV FORMATS: What was the process like to transition from being a model to mentoring them on Germany’s Next Topmodel? KLUM: I’m still actively modeling, and in a way that makes it easier and more relevant for me to mentor my Germany’s Next Topmodel (GNTM ) girls. I know what it’s like to get up early, get into the photographer’s vision, deal with clients and all that. I’m not telling them anything that I haven’t been through many times myself! TV FORMATS: You also serve as a producer on that show. Are there differences in producing in the German market versus the American one? KLUM: I think the bigger difference is in my roles. Because I am a model, I really do relate the most to my GNTM girls. On Project Runway, I’m coming at it from a more objective
ences can relate to that. Audiences are smart—they absolutely have a BS meter, and to be effective as a judge, host or mentor, you have to be their eyes and ears and be true to commenting on what’s actually in front of you. TV FORMATS: What has been the strategy for building Heidi Klum as a full-scale brand? KLUM: Well, nothing happens overnight. I’ve been working for many years now, and the strategy has always been to build my brand and businesses along the lines of my true passions. I host and produce television projects I really believe in. I design lines for New Balance and Babies “R” Us because they really fit my lifestyle, and I feel I have something new and useful to contribute through my collections. So it’s all very much a part of my personality and interests. I never take on anything where I’m [indifferent] because it’s just too much work the way I like to do things—hands-on! TV FORMATS: What projects do you have lined up next? KLUM: It’s a very busy rest of the year. I just wrapped Top-
model, then I go into both Project Runway and America’s Got Talent, and then I have collections coming out for all my lines and am continuing to do various campaigns.
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By Kristin Brzoznowski
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TV FORMATS: What appealed to you about joining Banijay? BASSETTI: First of all, I knew the companies in the group.
They are very strong in their respective markets and their management is very motivated—companies like Bunim/ Murray Productions in the U.S. and Brainpool in Germany are good examples. The group of shareholders is very solid. Banijay is an independent because it doesn’t belong to any broadcast group, and among the independents it is number two after Endemol. Banijay has huge potential once it finds a property that can unify all its companies, which is what happened to FremantleMedia when it found The X Factor and Idols, or to Endemol with Big Brother. I know the Banijay shareholders; I respect them a great deal and they made me an important offer. In addition, there is a lot of growth potential within the company; the world of scripted formats has yet to be developed and creativity in the group needs to be managed differently. I presented [the shareholders] with a plan for the next four years. It was approved by the board in December and now I will work on this plan for the next four years. TV FORMATS: In what ways are you thinking about expand-
Marco BASSETTI By Anna Carugati
Marco Bassetti began his career in Italy, where he worked for Mediaset. He then founded his first production company, La Italiana Produzioni, followed by a second one, Aran, before being tapped as head of Grundy Italy. With his know-how in light entertainment, game shows, sitcoms, soaps and TV movies, he founded Endemol Italy, which he ran for a number of years. Later he we would rejoin Endemol Group and was eventually appointed CEO. He stepped down from this position in April 2012 and joined Banijay Group as CEO in April 2013. Banijay comprises production entities in a number of key territories, including the U.S., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia and Australia. Bassetti talks to TV Formats about expanding the company and nurturing creativity.
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ing the company, by buying more companies or by investing in partnerships and start-ups? BASSETTI: The market has proven, especially in light of recent acquisitions, that simply buying companies is not always the right choice. When you invest money, you have to be able to invest in initiatives that have a very large growth potential, or in properties that you can distribute internationally. We don’t want to create an inefficient network. We want to improve our operations in the countries where we already have a presence, in all the genres we are strong in, so that we can remain among the top two independent groups. We want to be able to offer our clients a range of product— reality, talk shows, game shows—and have the best creatives and executive producers in our countries. We want to expand into scripted and digital, while remaining focused on what we already produce. Should we find important content that would command a premium price in the international market, we will evaluate the possibility of broadening our network. We definitely want to grow in English-language countries and we are implementing a strategy that I hope will soon bear fruit. TV FORMATS: Banijay has companies in Spain, Italy and France—countries facing difficult economic conditions. How are you dealing with broadcasters in these markets? BASSETTI: Spain’s crisis was more severe than Italy’s. The decline was faster and steeper, but the Spaniards have been able to implement some reforms in business, labor laws and the flow of credit that have worked and have attracted investment. The country is starting to pull out of the crisis. We see that the ad market is starting to grow by double digits. In Italy, there have been no such reforms. If anything, whatever reforms have been made have worsened the situation, particularly in the job market, which is a disaster. Italy hasn’t been able to make reforms and is still stuck in the crisis. The main broadcasters have been mainly cutting programming costs. They haven’t been able to make other cuts, like other European broadcasters who have chosen to cut fixed costs rather than reduce investments in programming.
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have been hit hard by the crisis, like Italy and Spain. Banijay is much more exposed in Germany, Scandinavia and France. TV FORMATS: Unlike other TV companies, Banijay has nei-
ther private equity nor broadcasters as shareholders. What advantages does this present? BASSETTI: Having the backing of such strong shareholders, and not having private equity that requires you to deliver certain results for its investors or a broadcaster that places certain constraints, is undoubtedly an advantage. Our shareholders, and this is thanks to the work done by those who preceded me, have had up to now the best return on their investment. We have a long-term growth strategy—a four-year plan—after which we will decide what the next steps will be. We have placed certain revenue and profit margin objectives and at the moment the company is maintaining all the commitments it made to its shareholders.The European market is what it is, so we are fairly tied to markets’ performances even though we are not subject to the same volatility in the market that broadcasters are. Creativity is our first priority and I am intensely focused on this. TV FORMATS: What have you learned about nurturing cre-
Banijay Group’s network of companies includes Nordisk Film TV, the creator of the 71 Degrees North format that Banijay International has licensed across Europe.
In France, the crisis has not been as severe as the one in Italy. To give you an example, in France, investments in programming have been double what they are in Italy. Even though the advertising markets in the two countries are similar in size, France has invested much more in digital terrestrial channels. CANAL+, TF1 and M6 each have DTT channels and they are averaging 3-percent to 4-percent audience shares. In Italy, DTT channels still get negligible audience shares and the investments in programming are 10 to 20 times smaller than the amounts invested in French DTT—I’m talking about prime-time cost per hour. TV FORMATS: And among terrestrial broadcasters? BASSETTI: France has been more actively looking for innova-
tion in programming than Spain or Italy, where broadcasters are much more on the defensive now, especially in Italy. This is a period of low consumer spending. In the last four years there has been €2 billion ($2.7 billion) less spent in the TV advertising market in Italy. In Spain, the market went down from €3 billion ($4.1 billion) to €1.6 billion ($2.2 billion) in the same period. Banijay is very well positioned in France. It’s the number one independent producer in terms of hours.We are well positioned in Spain. We recently acquired a company called DLO Producciones, which is active in both scripted and unscripted. Amparo Castellano joined our team and is one of the best executive producers in Europe. In Italy, we just got started last year and have set up three diversified brands: Ambra produces for free to air; NonPanic produces for DTT and satellite channels; and Aurora produces scripted shows. Compared to companies like Endemol and FremantleMedia, Banijay is not very exposed in countries that 306 World Screen 4/14
ativity and helping development teams find ideas for shows that can travel to several countries? BASSETTI: I have understood one thing; it is important to look for people who are able to identify creatives—and they can be anywhere—in various genres, and have the ability to keep them together, incentivize them and point them in the right direction. Creativity is not something that you can buy, you have to be able to attract it. To be able to attract it, you have to have the right incentives and the right managers in the countries in which you operate.You have to lay the right foundations so that the next blockbuster can be born in one of your companies. Today there are premium products—multiplatform products— but in order to get these you have to start thinking about them from the very first minute you start creating a new program.You can’t come up with a show idea and then think of how many applications you can attach to it.You have to think about that from the very beginning. So the people who have to offer guidance to the creative process must also have knowledge of what the market demands, because with shows that can create a lot of awareness, you can ask a certain price of your clients. If instead, what you produce has no possibility of being exploited internationally or across multiple platforms, but is only able to fill one slot with a fixed run, then you are only working for a producer’s fee. We are focusing on finding premium properties that not only are strong performers in their home markets, but also have the ability to travel internationally. TV FORMATS: Even though all the companies in Banijay are
strong on their own, do you want them to start sharing ideas and know-how? BASSETTI: In this I’m lucky to have had a lot of experience elsewhere, so at Banijay we are intensifying the dialogue between our creatives, both vertically and horizontally. We have also set aside an important amount of money to invest in development and pilots. In addition, I believe that if you want to attract important [talent] you have to share with them the value of what they are able to create, so you need the tools to do that. Today it’s difficult to think of treating a creative as an ordinary employee.
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KESHET’S AVI NIR condensed creative process but take it outside Israel.We have created an infrastructure that is very lean and mean. We always aim to be present not only in Israel but also in other countries in very efficient small units that will be [closely] connected to the Israeli hub and work with this generator of ideas and shows and take them to the international markets.The idea is, in many instances, but not always, to go full steam ahead with the shows here in Israel, and take them very quickly to the rest of the world. Sometimes in scripted, when we have great ideas that are international from the get-go, we take them outside Israel from the minute they are born. TV FORMATS: Israel is a very small television market.What has been fueling so much creativity and so much innovation? NIR: I can answer for Keshet. Keshet is unique because on one hand it’s a commercial broadcaster and producer, but in a kind of paradoxical way, creativity comes first for us and our professional pride in what we are doing, and only then comes the bottom line. We are constantly looking for the next new great idea and we believe that if we keep coming up with great ideas, at the end of the day, the P&L will also be OK. So for us, it’s really about constantly looking for creative people, for new ideas and how can we get—and this is our goal in Israel—50-percent audience shares with our shows. How do we achieve this? What are the innovative ideas in drama or unscripted shows? And clearly we have many talented people here but we are constantly looking for more and encouraging them to try new ideas.
By Anna Carugati
Israel’s Keshet Media Group has been drawing considerable attention in the last few years. Its groundbreaking drama Hatufim (Prisoners of War), which depicts the life of Israeli prisoners of war once they return home, served as inspiration for the Emmy– and Golden Globe–winning series Homeland. Keshet has also been selling a variety of scripted and unscripted formats and finished programs to broadcasters around the world, including the talent competition show Rising Star, the hidden-camera prank show Deal with It and the romantic comedy She’s with Me. With offices in the U.K., Canada and Australia, Keshet continues to grow its international business. CEO Avi Nir talks about the creative culture of the company, his passion for quality programming and how constructive arguments can lead to hit shows and high ratings.
TV FORMATS: Keshet experienced considerable growth over the last year. What has been the strategy in expanding the company? NIR: We have always been a very creative and prolific organization and as a broadcaster, very much concentrated on our own market. The strategy is to stay small but think very big. We want to maintain our creative organizational culture and our really 308 World Screen 4/14
TV FORMATS: Not to focus too much on Homeland because it’s only one of your shows, but did it open doors that weren’t open before? NIR: Homeland helped a great deal, but Keshet has been so active in recent years. It’s satisfying to have such a hit show, but I think it’s a process. One of the unique things about Keshet is that we are looking to get the same kind of disruptive quality in both scripted and unscripted shows.We are very grateful for Homeland, but then came Rising Star and we have many other projects in the catalogue and in development in both the scripted and unscripted areas. TV FORMATS: Tell us about Rising Star. How did it come about? NIR: We’ve had a show called A Star is Born for ten years that was somewhat like Idol and The X Factor. It had elements of traditional talent shows. We came to realize that these shows have a tendency to wear out as we’ve seen throughout the world. They were conceived in the age when the Internet was just beginning and now, 12 years later, technology has changed, the way people look at television has totally changed, but these shows haven’t changed. So on one hand we had a good show, but on the other we felt that A Star is Born was starting to lose its mojo. Because [Keshet is] so advanced in technology, we asked, Can technology help us in innovating a new show? The
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There is something unique in our ability to move very fast like a commando unit, make the decisions, go forward, stop, take all the risk, etc. TV FORMATS: The U.S. market is big, complex and has a
lot of networks. What was the key to Keshet breaking into the U.S. market? NIR: First of all, we have to be very thankful to Rick Rosen and WME who have been our partners for seven years from the early days when we were just crossing the Atlantic. They really believed in our creative ability and the way we can take a project to the next step. Second, the great thing about the American market is that eight or ten years ago it realized that a great idea or innovative script is good no matter where it comes from. I think we are at a time and age where traditional television is changing, and the Americans are very receptive to new ideas, to breaking the paradigm. And we are the kind of company that brings different stories, different narratives and different formats. It’s a good time to be someone who doesn’t do procedurals and we don’t know how to do procedurals! We stick to the things we know how to do! TV FORMATS: Tell us about the series Dig for USA Network. NIR: The idea for the archeological thriller project was born
in Keshet. Gidi [Gideon Raff, creator of Prisoners of War] wrote the story first and then Tim [Kring, creator of Heroes and Touch] joined and they worked out the pilot together.We have been fortunate enough that [NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment’s] Jeff Wachtel and Bonnie Hammer took this on with great enthusiasm and it went straight to series. For me, it’s a great example of how we can come up with an idea, get an Israeli writer, get the collaboration of WME, get a great American writer and move forward with the help of BermanBraun [now Whalerock Industries] and USA Network. I would love this to be the prototype of how we work. Keshet is expanding its international-distribution business, offering the global market new formats like She’s with Me.
main thing, though, is not using technology just as an icon.The most important thing is that technology serves the story of the show. It took us about six months to figure out how technology could really be embedded in the actual story of a talent show. And at a certain point we said, OK we have it, we got it. But we had to be sure. So we had many arguments and conversations and disagreements—part of the creative culture here is to argue! At a certain point there was a unanimous agreement about the show and on one hand this made me very insecure. [I thought,] What’s going on with these people? They are supposed to be opposing everything we suggest! But on the other hand, in an organization with such opinionated people, when they come back and say, Look we think this is something great, then we put in all the effort, all the money and resources and get the show on the air. We produce Rising Star with Tedy Productions, so we share the responsibility of the creative process, but the actual monetary risk and the resources are ours. So we are in a position to say, OK, we put in the money, we get it in the schedule, and we put forward our interactive people who will be all over it. I think this is something very unique. I told you at the beginning of the conversation why I insist on keeping this organization small—it’s because of the ability to make decisions in a small organization, where the CEO is making the decisions in the room with the interactive people and the creative people, and is involved in the discussions and arguments for and against. 310 World Screen 4/14
TV FORMATS: You have offices in the U.K., Australia and
Canada. Do you have plans for an office in the U.S.? NIR: We already have a very established and good partner-
ship with dick clark productions in the unscripted business in the U.S. I expect that we will build a similar partnership in the scripted business. TV FORMATS: How have you been able to keep your fin-
ger on the pulse of what your audience likes? NIR: I am on one hand the CEO of a company, but what
drives me is excellent, innovative television that I would be very, very proud to be a part of. I keep looking for something about which I can say, “Oh, this is great television!” Then I worry about ratings and the P&L, etc. This drive to be very proud of the shows we put on the air is only getting stronger and stronger. TV FORMATS: As you look ahead 12 months, where do you
see growth? NIR: Twelve months from now, the plan is to come up with
two or three new unscripted formats, to produce about three new scripted formats in Israel and to shoot three or four outside Israel. In international terms, I would say this year will be marked by producing totally new shows in Israel, the U.S. and the U.K.
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TomColicchio TV FORMATS: What first attracted you to Top Chef ? COLICCHIO: It’s an interesting story, because I said no three
times! I got a phone call from Shauna Minoprio [at the time at Magical Elves], and she said,We’re doing this show, and we think you’ll be great for it. I said I wasn’t interested, partly because there were some reality shows already on the air and I wasn’t crazy about them. She asked again, and I knew [Magical Elves] did Project Runway and Project Greenlight and I was a fan of both. They asked if they could come [to New York] and just get me on camera. So they sent someone in and we did a brief interview.Then they called me and asked if I could come to L.A. for a screen test. I said, I’m not coming to L.A.! But there was a documentary on the opening of Craft and I sent them that. And they said,We want to make you an offer.Then I got serious and said, Let’s talk about this.We discussed it. I didn’t want the show to be about me.When I got a pretty good idea that the show was about the contestants and I was just judging it, that the judges made the decisions, that we weren’t the pawns of the producers or the network, and that I could keep it about food and it wouldn’t turn into a popularity contest, then I was fine with it. TV FORMATS: You have completed 11 seasons. How have you kept the show fresh? COLICCHIO: What is really great about the production team at Magical Elves and my involvement, and even Gail’s and Padma’s, is that we will try new things all the time. For instance, up until season four in Chicago, all the discussion about the food was at the judge’s table. One day we were at a neighborhood block party in Chicago, and the four of us were sitting on a stoop, just talking about some of the dishes.Typically we try not to [discuss the dishes off-camera] because we want the conversation to be fresh. One of the producers heard us because there was an open mic and he said, Can you guys not talk? And we said, Why don’t you shoot this? So they came and shot it, and that started what we call the “mini delib” that we have at a location. That’s just an example of some of the things we do.We don’t sit back and [settle on] a formula.We try to change things. The location plays a big role, too. Last season we went to New Orleans and there were some challenges that are New Orleans-centric. So it always feels like a new show.
By Anna Carugati
Tom Colicchio has been cooking since he was a child. A passion that started at home with his mother and grandmother turned into a drive to excel. He went on to open restaurants in several cities, including Gramercy Tavern and Craft in New York City. He earned national attention as the lead judge in Bravo’s Emmy Award–winning series Top Chef. Alongside host Padma Lakshmi and fellow judge and food critic Gail Simmons, for 11 seasons Colicchio has been putting chefs to the test in grueling challenges that highlight cooking skills, creativity and knowledge of food combinations in order to find the best chef. As Colicchio tells TV Formats, the audience loves learning new dishes and witnessing the drama of the competition. Top Chef is also a successful format that has been garnering high ratings in France, Canada, Finland, Spain and several other countries in Europe and the Middle East.
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TV FORMATS: Over the seasons, what have you learned
about casting the show? COLICCHIO: Casting is important. Early on, in the first couple of
seasons, we were casting a few amateurs or even some students— it doesn’t work. An amateur or even a first-year culinary student cannot keep up with the pace that it takes to put food out [on the show].You have to have really good knife skills.You have to be able to think about food really very quickly.You get the challenge and you have to jump right in, which isn’t the way a lot of chefs work. Some chefs plan things out or they cook things several times before they present it.This is very different.You have to be on your game to compete. That is number one. We also made the decision at some point that we were going to cast executive
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behind.They are leaving their restaurants behind. They are not allowed TV. They are not allowed books or magazines or newspapers or music. It’s 16 hours a day cooking, interacting with each other, always with this idea that everything they do is being scrutinized. So my feeling is that we really have to honor their commitment and the work that they are doing. We have to be honest and fair. Sometimes we make very unpopular decisions, but they are always based on the way we understand the challenges and this idea that we are focused on what the chef is doing at that moment in that challenge. So you can win five or six challenges in a row, but then if you make the worst dish once, you are done.
Colicchio has been head judge on Top Chef since its inception.
chefs, chefs de cuisine or very strong sous-chef candidates because, again, a two-year or three-year cook couldn’t handle it. Obviously personalities are important in making the show, but we need to have really strong cooks that come with personalities, not someone with a really strong personality who maybe can cook. Sometimes we hear in casting, Oh this person is great! Well, if they can’t cook they’re not going to be around very long. It doesn’t matter what personality they have, they’ll be the first or second to go. If you want a good personality to last even halfway through [the competition], they better be able to cook, because as judges we don’t care about personality at all. In fact, all the reality stuff that happens behind the scenes, we’re not privy to it.We [the judges] don’t care about it, we don’t know about it.We care about the food—what is on the plate—that’s it. If we are not on camera, we are not interacting with the contestants at all. I find out [about the drama] when I see the episodes after the show is edited several months later. TV FORMATS: How has your role on the show evolved? COLICCHIO: The first couple of seasons I wasn’t a producer and
now I am. That came out of a couple things, like some of the work I’ve done behind the scenes getting hotel deals. Now I’m involved a little bit on the creative side.They will run challenges by me to make sure that food is what we’re focused on, because it could very easily go in a different direction. For example, the second that food is cooked, we’re eating it. It doesn’t go to get photographed first for beauty shots, which I’ve heard happens on a lot of shows. Typically, if the contestants have to make four dishes for the judges, they’re making five dishes—one is for the camera. We do little things like that to make sure that we are getting the food the way the chefs intend us to eat it. I remember in the first season we had some problems, especially in the finale, with getting food out fast. It may have cost someone a win. So we have to be careful.The chefs are really working hard. They are up 16 hours a day with the camera in their faces.The public sees the show and thinks we have a week to work and then they see an episode and then we have another week. But every other day we shoot an episode—it’s back to back. Halfway through, the chefs are exhausted.They are leaving their families 314 World Screen 4/14
TV FORMATS: Do you think it’s the focus on food that sets Top Chef apart from other cooking shows? COLICCHIO: It’s popular because we have a real double threat. The reality TV junkies can come in and see the reality, and for people who love the food, there is a lot of focus on food. I love that kids watch the show. I was recently at a food festival in Miami. Kids came up to us and said they were so happy to be learning about food. A lot of kids have said, I was a really picky eater until I started watching Top Chef and now I want to try everything. Parents have said, I only cook a handful of things for my family, but now I’m expanding my horizons and doing a lot more. Even though it’s a reality show and sometimes it’s easy to poo-poo a reality show, we are actually doing things that people can learn from; they get an education. Also, look at what we’ve done for the chefs on the show. Look at Bryan Voltaggio, whose restaurant was about to close. He had a great run on the show; he didn’t win, but now you can’t get into his restaurants and he has three. Stephanie Izard, who won season four, has a couple restaurants that are doing well. Michael Voltaggio is doing really well with his restaurants in Los Angeles. So many of our chefs have gone on to do such amazing things. So someone is casting right, because this isn’t just that we’re casting for reality TV and you’ll never see these people again. They are going on to have really significant careers. For us to be taken seriously in the food world, the chefs that we cast have to have a career. If they don’t, then everyone knows it’s a hoax. TV FORMATS: You’ve had an extremely successful career. Has Top Chef broadened possibilities for you, too? COLICCHIO: Without a doubt, but it works both ways—it’s almost a double-edged sword.Yes, I’m much more popular than I have ever been, personally, and that helps draw customers to the restaurant; without a doubt there are branding opportunities. But then there are people who think I am only on TV and I’m not in my restaurants anymore, so they don’t come. I’m very vocal about the fact that it only takes five weeks to shoot a series of Top Chef. It takes four or five or six months to air, but that doesn’t mean I’m out of the restaurants for four, five, six months! So it does work both ways, but it clearly helps build [my] brand and provides opportunities that I normally wouldn’t have.
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broadcasters in Sweden (TV4), Germany (SAT.1) and the Netherlands (AVRO).“Fort Boyard was way ahead of shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in terms of format distribution, at a time when the market was not nearly as developed or sophisticated as it is now,” says Shingleton. “It’s a real credit to Adventure Line Productions [ALP, the show’s producer] that they rolled the show out so quickly and efficiently. And it remains a great example of how to distribute a hub production, years ahead of rivals such as Wipeout.” ALP has now co-produced 1,299 Fort Boyard shows with broadcasters from across the globe. Local versions of the format have been produced for 30 territories outside the home market of France, including 15 seasons in Sweden, nine seasons in Canada, nine seasons in Denmark and multiple seasons in the U.K., Russia and Germany. It recently penetrated Azerbaijan and enjoyed success on its return to Dutch screens after a 19-year absence. “The facts speak for themselves; this is a format that consistently performs the world over and broadcasters renew it again and again based on reliably strong ratings,” says Shingleton. There are a number of factors that Shingleton says explain the format’s success and longevity, the first of which is its iconic location. “It’s not like any other TV show and viewers understand that as soon as they switch on,” he says. “If it’s the fort that grabs the attention, it’s the games that keep the viewers hooked. Each one is distinctive and pushes the contestants to their limits. Whether it’s clinging to the outer wall of the fort to secure a key, facing their fear of insects, or confronting real-life ‘ghosts’, the contestants are at the same time both ‘out of this world’, and very much in it. It’s an amazing combination of fantasy and reality,
25 SEASONS OF
FORT BOYARD By Kristin Brzoznowski
In the mid-1800s, a Napoleonic fort was constructed off the west coast of France, but was never actively used for battle or protection. Instead, years later it became the site of a physical game show, Fort Boyard. The series is said to be the first game show to involve a “hub” production, based in a highly unique location. The format itself was developed in 1990 by Jacques Antoine, who at the same time created the highly successful The Crystal Maze for Channel 4 in the U.K. “In fact, they are effectively the same format, but Fort Boyard has proven much more durable, much like the fort itself,” says Barnaby Shingleton, the VP of entertainment at Zodiak Rights, which represents the format. “Since that time, Fort Boyard has become a mainstay of French TV, and this year the show will enjoy its 25th season. This is an incredible achievement in the flighty world of entertainment television, which is only added to by the success of the show in countless other territories across the globe.” A studio-based version of the Fort Boyard format was adapted in the U.K. for Channel 4 in 1990 at the same time as the original production, but the first true adaptations of the format using the fort itself were broadcast later in 1990 and early in 1991 for 316 World Screen 4/14
which takes viewers on a real adventure. Who wouldn’t want to be a contestant in Fort Boyard?” Throughout its time on air, the format has been refreshed and updated. Each year, new games are developed to run alongside existing challenges so that there is always something new for viewers to enjoy. For example, in 2013, a new “haunted” room was introduced in which contestants are challenged to unlock a safe while battling the spirits inside. Another new game is played in a giant washing machine, complete with foam and water. “What’s so exciting about Fort Boyard is the variety of games produced each season, from the high-tech to the distinctly medieval,” says Shingleton. “The format has also changed in terms of the way the show is played and the number of contestants; some territories start the show with two teams dueling each other, whilst others prefer the classic single-team format used in France. We’ve also produced a kids’ version of the show for CITV and Disney XD, and there have at times been various celebrity-led shows for different territories. But whatever version broadcasters choose, and however they choose to cast their shows, the spirit of Fort Boyard is always the same.”
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