One of the formats that had MIPTV buzzing this year was The Final Four, a music competition from Armoza Formats that begins where most talent shows end: with the selection of the superstar finalists. The series, which quickly notched up deals in markets such as France and Norway, is emblematic of the company’s approach to keeping pace with what’s on trend in the fast-changing media industry—and then giving it a fresh twist. Avi Armoza, the founder and CEO of Armoza Formats, talks about delivering broadcasters the type of event TV that they need to attract audiences.
WS: The Final Four has taken a new approach to singing competitions. What was the genesis of that show?
ARMOZA: It came from the notion that singing is still the genre that is able to create the most drama, stir up the most emotions and attract the most attention. The existing shows [in this genre] have been around anywhere from 8 years to 15 or 20 years, and they are losing steam. This means that while it seems like a saturated market, there is a real need for new storytelling in music competitions.
We had done some research into what the audiences were enjoying in singing competitions, and we found out that they like the live auditions; they love to hear the stories and the fresh voices. Also, the linear structure of reality TV shows is, again, losing steam. Most shows start with 30, 40, 50 contestants, and within this, there are people who really don’t qualify to be on the show, but they are needed for the game. We tried to address this with The Final Four by starting our show where all other shows are ending. Our judges select four [singers] who have the star quality to be in the final of any other singing show. Then we ask the audience to consider this as the standard, and if they think that they are as good or better, we invite them to come and challenge the original singers. With The Final Four, we have found a smart way to keep the auditions going throughout the season.
WS: Social experiments have been another hot genre. What makes Sex Tape stand out?
ARMOZA: We feel that there is a strong need for social experiments. Often on television viewers are seeing more of the same. Social experiments give you the ability to push the boundaries, to tell different stories—perhaps even edgier ones. This is what led us to develop Sex Tape. Although it’s an edgy title, dealing with something that’s spicy, it still has a very strong human element. It’s very relatable because even though it deals with issues that are not always talked about, it shows that other people are experiencing the same things.
WS: Do you think the timing is right for a feel-good format like OVO to find an audience in the global marketplace?
ARMOZA: Within all the turmoil that’s happening in countries around the world, OVO gives people a space in which they can say what’s on their mind and in their heart and find people willing to listen. Conceptually, it gauges the mood of the country—what are people concerned about, what brings people together? By spreading the OVO listening pods around the country, you can get those perspectives in a format that tells a very strong story.
From a broadcaster’s perspective, it gives them event TV that revolves around broad, thematic episodes and engages the whole country with the topics they care about such as love and relationships, food or kids. It’s a show that also has a lot of flexibility with its scheduling—you can do it once a week with a longer episode, daily with shorter episodes, in access prime time, prime time or even later in the evening.
WS: What do you consider to be the biggest issues facing the format industry today, and how is Armoza Formats ready to address these?
ARMOZA: The biggest challenge to our business lies within the drastic changes in consumers’ viewing habits. These new habits have brought about challenges for the industry to contend with, but we look at these as opportunities that will help us to grow our business. For example, recently the international online platforms—including Netflix, Amazon and YouTube Red—have been moving toward non-scripted [content]. This opens up a new world for non-scripted formats and localized adaptations that didn’t exist before and is definitely a key influencer in the way we view our business. Also, the introduction of new technologies such as AR and VR to the world of content consumption opens up a wide range of possibilities. We have set up a collaboration with FILM.UA Group, one of the largest Eastern European media groups in advanced technology for virtual and augmented reality, to explore how we can bring these technologies to life for the industry.
Having said that, traditional broadcasters are still the main providers of watchable content, and therefore we continue to focus on addressing the key challenges that they currently face, such as cord-cutting and binge-watching, and to work closely with them to find new ways of bringing viewers to their screens. These issues demand increasingly compelling content and must-have experiences to engage audiences. One way of doing this is through event TV programming, such as with our live prime-time show that engages the nation, The People’s Choice, or with shows in which each moment is unmissable like The Final Four.