Sophie Ferron, founder, executive producer and president of Media Ranch, talks to TV Formats about some of the company’s major milestones and her long- and short-term goals.
It was ten years ago that Media Ranch launched as a player in the format arena, and over the last decade the company has gained a reputation in the marketplace as both a creator and distributor of original and existing formats.
TV FORMATS: As you look back at the last ten years since launching Media Ranch, what have been some of the key milestones for the company?
FERRON: I used to represent Endemol as their agent for French Canada, and actually continued to do so until a year ago. That’s how I became so heavily involved in formats, which naturally shaped the direction of my company. Wipeout was our first series, and that was a huge success. One production that everybody talks to me about still to this day is Dining with the Enemy. We did the first adaptation of the Norwegian format. It’s a very compelling show that brings people who are involved in a conflict together to share a meal. I produced Baggage Battles for Scripps. Business-wise, that brought us more into the international scene. Two years ago, we officially launched our distribution arm and set up our Amsterdam office.
TV FORMATS: What was the mission when Media Ranch first launched, and how has that evolved into what the company aims to offer today?
FERRON: We started by producing locally, bringing formats into the local market. Things evolved, and now it’s basically the other way around. We do produce locally, but mostly with the international market in mind. We’re building global formats. We moved from being a production company that produces local adaptations of international formats for our local market to now being a global format company that creates, owns, produces and distributes formats for the local and international market. We’re very IP-driven.
TV FORMATS: Why was it important for you to launch your own distribution division?
FERRON: Since I had an expertise in formats, people had been asking me if I could represent them outside of Canada or help them with contracts or sell their formats. Even my competitors came up to me asking if I could represent them in a negotiation! Since I know all about these formats, and we have this big network of format expertise around the world, it was a natural step to launch this distribution arm. I still believe that the future in content needs to be global.
TV FORMATS: In terms of distribution, what types of formats seem to be working best in the marketplace at present?
FERRON: The word that we keep hearing is “authentic.” It needs to look and feel real; people know when it’s not real. It needs to be authentic. You have to focus on what people want to know about or care about—formats that people can identify with. It also has to be entertaining. Great characters are important as well. Our original format The Ex-pert, which we’re launching at MIPCOM, has exactly that. Anne-France Goldwater is a great character—out of this world! She’s the biggest character; she’s the next Judge Judy, but even better. It’s all about helping people resolve conflict around their separation or divorce.
TV FORMATS: As creators, what types of concepts are you looking to deliver, and where are you scouting for ideas?
FERRON: We specialize in factual, reality and docu-reality. We always want to deliver content that is compelling, interesting, well-produced, entertaining and responsible—entertainment with a conscience. As producers, we tend to produce content that has strong messages but that is also fun. People want funny! Right now, the world is a bit complicated. People want to feel good, they want to see a connection between themselves and their neighbors. It has to feel authentic, and it has to have a global reach. I won’t take on a format if I don’t see it as a global play.
TV FORMATS: What are some of the partnerships Media Ranch has in place?
FERRON: We have a lot of partnerships. We have a strong partnership with Canadian networks, of course, and the Dutch indie production house Vincent TV; we represent two of their formats, which are selling quite well. We have aligned with Tanin Productions in Israel. Locally, we have partners such as Productions J and Kenya Productions. These are all partnerships where they trust that their content will be well represented by us. It’s a big network and it’s throughout the world. We don’t only represent Canadian formats; we represent good formats wherever they come from.
TV FORMATS: What new formats will Media Ranch be launching at MIPCOM?
FERRON: We’re launching three new formats: The Ex-pert, The Vault and The Judas. They are very good, compelling formats. The Vault is a mix of Ocean’s Twelve and an escape room. The Judas is a scripted format that is interactive. It can play on a lot of platforms. The Ex-pert is a strong format about trying to settle issues between people getting divorced.
TV FORMATS: What have been some of the bestsellers from the company’s catalog?
FERRON: True Sex Confessions, which is our own format creation, has been sold to multiple territories. Thunderstruck is a studio-based dating show. We have a lot of developments from France and Germany such as Verdict on Demand and Legal House Call. We have Face It in development in Spain, South Africa and France. Who Am I?! just got picked up in Germany. There’s a lot going on!
TV FORMATS: As you look out at the next ten years for Media Ranch, what are the long-term and short-term goals the company is hoping to achieve?
FERRON: Long term, we’re aiming to be a reference for good content. I want people to come to us thinking, They always have great content, they are great people with great expertise. I want us to be strong with our business and creative aspects. I strongly believe that we’re a global company. The only borders that exist are the ones that we choose to see.
In the short term, I think we’ll have a couple of global hits coming. We’re pretty confident. We have many deals pending.