Dori Media’s Nadav Palti

Nadav Palti, CEO of Dori Media Group, talks to World Screen about how a focus on quality and willingness to take risks have been guiding principles in the company’s ability to meet clients’ needs.

With production facilities in Israel, Argentina and Mexico, Dori Media Group produces and distributes scripted and unscripted shows to buyers worldwide. Known for such hits as Be’ Tipul (In Treatment), Lalola, Rebelde Way and Power Couple, the company has a slate of new shows: from the dramas Hammam and Los Hermanos Salvador to the reality competition Stand-Up Warrior.

***Image***WS: What trends are you seeing in the market now and how different are they from pre-pandemic trends—what’s changed?
PALTI: The big difference is that people don’t want to take risks, especially the big players, which is amazing—unlike us; we are taking a lot of risks. Maybe they can afford not to take risks, so they are going back to the successful formats, either scripted or non-scripted. If it’s non-scripted, it’s easy because you can make another season of a successful format. If it’s scripted, either you make a remake of a successful drama, or you say I will buy a good drama that somebody else took a risk on. Everybody is doing the same, but for us, it’s an opportunity because we are taking risks. We are now producing 11 different dramas in Israel, Mexico and Argentina.

The biggest drama that we have is the six-episode series Hammam. It will air in Israel in January 2023 on Kan 11. It’s about a special elite unit of the Israeli army, but it’s not action and fighting, although there are some action scenes. It’s about relationships [between members] and what happened to this elite unit. They come back to a base that was abandoned in the past. This place is weird, cursed maybe, and wrong things happened there, so it’s become drama with the mystical. It’s based on the legend of the Biblical story of Saul and King David and the relationship between them. If you know the history, you can find the connection in the TV series. If you don’t know the history, it’s a new great drama. If you know the history, then you are really astonished; it provides a second level. Hammam is a very high-quality production. We shot it in the desert; it was very tough, 40-degree [Celsius] heat. The shooting was huge.

We also have two new drama titles from Argentina and Mexico in Spanish, Los Hermanos Salvador (The Salvadors), a comedy, ten 30-minute episodes, and Ten Piedad de Nosotros (Mercy on Us), a psychological crime drama of six 30-minute episodes.

WS: And your teams are also developing shows?
PALTI: We have a lot of new projects in development. At the end of last year, we bought another production company in Israel called Sumayoko. Under the umbrella of Dori Media, we have three studios. The first is Dori Media Studios. The second is Dori Media Studios Sumayoko. The third is Dori Media International, responsible for the productions in Mexico and Argentina, which we are doing with Joshua Mintz and Givon Snir. We are also doing co-productions with other companies in the world.

We also develop non-scripted shows like Spy Date, a reality dating show,and Stand-Up Warrior, a reality competition. Power Couple continues to triumph, with many countries renewing another season. If you have a proven concept, it’s great; people don’t want to take risks—this is the main issue.

WS: Production costs keep going up, but the increases don’t seem to be impacting your production. How are you managing?
PALTI: We do not compromise on quality because if we compromised, we would not sell. You have to put more money into creating good content to be able to sell it because, in Israel, we get very little money. Sometimes we even put more money into production to make sure it’s good quality.

We are producing Berlin Blues, a six-episode series that we are shooting in Berlin and Budapest. Even though it’s an Israeli production, most of it will be shot outside Israel. We are shooting in Berlin or Budapest and only a few days in Israel. It’s a high-end production with a big budget.

What’s happening in Israel is that the demand for quality has increased, and people want more money. After Covid, the cost of living has gone up, so we have to pay 25 percent to 30 percent more. We also have to shoot more days per episode to make sure that the quality is good enough. The writing takes more time. And then, producing six episodes, not eight or ten. If you have 12 episodes compared to six, the cost per episode is completely different because you have a lot of fixed costs—and the fixed costs are the same whether it’s six or 12 episodes.

Yes, costs have increased, especially in Israel, but we also feel it in Argentina and Mexico.

WS: So, how do you get around the increases? Do you have partners, or are you managing to fund on your own?
PALTI: Right now, we are managing to do it by ourselves. Maybe in the future, we’ll have partners.

In Argentina, AMIA is a production of eight episodes, a drama based on a real story of the Israeli Embassy bombing in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in 1994. The first season moves from ’92 to ’94. It’s a high-end drama that we produce in Argentina and finance ourselves. We don’t have a pre-commission because I decided we can get much more money for a finished tape than if somebody is taking a risk with a pre-commission.

In the past, we also financed Lalola and Rebelde Way by ourselves and then sold them.
We also have the remake of the comedy Little Mom (produced in Israel by Yoav Gross Productions) in the U.K. The local adaptation is Hullraisers for Channel 4. Due to the success of the remake, a second season was announced. And we are developing some of our titles as remakes in the U.S.

WS: And you have a deal in the United Arab Emirates with Abu Dhabi Media.
PALTI: Israel has a peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates: the Abraham Accords. As a result, we did two big deals with Abu Dhabi Media for two non-scripted formats they bought from us and did remakes in Arabic: The Selfie Challenge and Win the Crowd. They were very successful and now they are doing second seasons for both shows. This is huge because Abu Dhabi Media is one of the leaders in the Gulf, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The latest news is the adaptation of In Treatment into Arabic by Abu Dhabi Media. The announcement marks yet another successful partnership between Dori Media Group and Abu Dhabi Media.

WS: I have often thought that television executives can negotiate and get along better than politicians and governments can!
PALTI: Beyond the success of the agreement from a business point of view, it, of course, also has importance beyond that. I hope and believe that we will close many more deals in the future. We also have a big deal in Turkey, where they are going to do a remake of one of our big titles that we will announce soon.