Arabelle Pouliot-Di Crescenzo, the managing director of KABO International, tells TV Formats about a trio of futuristic shows featuring VR and an immersive app it recently acquired from Finnish outfit Reflect.
Known for successful scripted formats such as Our Crazy Family and Cops on the Block, KABO International is expanding the breadth of its offering and recently acquired worldwide distribution rights for several interactive game show and social experiment formats from Reflect, a Finnish production company that has incorporated virtual reality and other technological developments into Tilt, High Score and Together.
“We’re a boutique distributor, and we are looking to have a very diverse catalog with quality formats,” explains Arabelle Pouliot-Di Crescenzo, the managing director of KABO International. “Our goal is to have programs in the main format food groups: games, factual, prime-time entertainment and scripted. When we came across Tilt, High Score and Together, which are breaking new ground and involve virtual reality and interactivity, we felt they would complement our existing catalog well.”
“I’ve been working in format distribution for almost 20 years, and we [at KABO] have known the team from Reflect for several years,” says Pouliot-Di Crescenzo. “We’ve been meeting with them and discussing their formats and ours, and different areas where we can work together. Last MIPCOM, they said, ‘We have the first-ever TV show featuring virtual reality.’” Pouliot-Di Crescenzo was immediately interested in taking a look at Tilt, which currently airs in Finland on TV6 and is sponsored by HP.
The game show is produced using mixed reality production techniques. Shot on a green screen, Tilt features millennial celebrities, or folks whose claim to fame lies in their YouTube stardom, as well as pop stars and even athletes, who challenge each other in VR games. Once a participant puts on the VR goggles, he or she becomes immersed in a different reality, and the other participants attempt to distract the gamer to keep him or her from winning. The audience is not only able to observe the reactions of the goggle-clad gamer but also the VR world the person is experiencing. “At the same time, [the audience] sees the other participants who are not immersed in the virtual reality game, who are commenting and attempting to distract the person to keep them from racking up points, because they’re all playing against each other,” Pouliot-Di Crescenzo explains.
“Tilt is the first show on air that features virtual reality,” she adds. “I would say it’s a hybrid between a game and an entertainment show. It’s quite unique.”
High Score also features virtual reality games. Unlike Tilt, it is more similar to a typical game show format in that average Joes compete to win money. “But instead of being a standard studio game show, it’s all about VR games and new games,” Pouliot-Di Crescenzo says. “It’s a VR and gaming decathlon. They’re developing a lot of new games, so High Score is the next generation of game shows for television.”
On the show, two contestants battle it out in various games. Each episode features ten challenges, including “Climb or Die,” which is played on an interactive climbing wall, as well as “Virtual Reality” and “Karaoke Quiz,” among others. The format is accompanied by a set of games for viewers to play at home on mobile devices, connected TVs and virtual reality platforms.
According to Pouliot-Di Crescenzo, “We’re looking for stories that are entertaining, that speak to us on a deeper level and are presented in a new, innovative and exciting way. It’s absolutely a challenging proposition,” though KABO International seems to have hit the nail on the head with the three interactive formats from Reflect.
For example, Together takes the social experiment trend into fresh territory by incorporating an app that asks its users to respond to a series of questions regarding their relationship. The questions range from whether both partners feel they share equally in household chores to more intimate inquiries. Then, for four weeks, the app takes over, prompting each partner to do something nice for their significant other based on their responses to the survey. Viewers at home can also use the app to improve their own relationships and share in the journey of the couples on Together.
“We’ve had a lot of requests for social experiment, relationship-based programs,” says Pouliot-Di Crescenzo. “Together is different because it is based on an app that launched in Finland and recently became available in the U.K. and the U.S. Through the app, the viewers at home are able to experience the ‘app boot camp’ on a parallel track with their own partner as they’re watching this show. It’s more than just posting comments on Facebook. There are a lot of opportunities to organically incorporate interactivity into the format beyond phoning in or texting in.”
Looking ahead, Pouliot-Di Crescenzo says, “Our objective is to grow our catalog with selective, hand-picked formats in every category and find quality titles and companies that have expertise and credibility in the genre. Then we will look to roll those titles out internationally.”