Sharon Levi, head of sales at Armoza Formats, talks to TV Drama‘s Kristin Brzoznowski about what’s propelling the company’s drama catalog expansion.
While entertainment formats have certainly been the driving force of Armoza Formats’ business, the company has been distributing scripted series—for adaptation and as finished tapes—for over a decade now. Lately, though, the amount of dramas in the Armoza portfolio has been boosted. “It has been a natural evolution of the company to place more of a focus on this part of our catalog,” says Levi. “As we were already in touch with clients who wanted both scripted and non-scripted content, we knew that there was a real demand for scripted adaptations and tapes in the market. And with all the new platforms looking to acquire scripted shows, the demand just continues to grow.”
Another factor driving Armoza Formats’ increased focus on scripted, according to Levi, is the growing acceptance of non-English-language drama. “The market is no longer just taking popular English-speaking series from the U.S. or U.K., as was the case in the past, but is now more open than ever to foreign-language dramas. It is truly a flourishing and exciting part of the industry.”
Audiences’ growing interest in foreign shows has also bolstered scripted format sales for the company. For example, Hostages, La Famiglia and Honey Badgers are being adapted in India, while the hit Israeli series Allenby recently aired on TNT Brazil under the local title Rua Augusta.
“From a finished-tapes perspective, broadcasters are now open to many more products than ever before,” says Levi. “For example, a few years ago we could never have thought that Brazil would be open to a French-Canadian drama, yet leading Brazilian broadcaster Globosat has now commissioned the tapes of dramas Eclipse and Refuge, which originally aired on Canada’s TVA. This is part of the industry’s new reality as we are seeing the expansion of Korean, Turkish, Israeli and Indian dramas all around the world, which has a knock-on effect for other foreign series. If the story is good and the execution is good, audiences will want to watch it—it has become as simple as that.”
Among the catalog highlights, one of Armoza’s biggest successes is the award-winning Israeli drama Hostages, which aired for two seasons on Channel 10 from 2013. “An intense psychological thriller, it is inherently relatable with an intriguing dilemma and plot that engages viewers of all ages, making it appealing to all types of broadcasters and platforms,” says Levi. “We sold it to several linear channels at the time, including to the BBC, where it became the first-ever Israeli drama to air as a finished series, and since then, it continues to sell worldwide and is now available on Netflix.”
The company has also seen success with the French-Canadian drama The Killer Inside. “It is a very compelling series that focuses on a strong female investigator who is able to connect to each suspect in an uncanny way in order to get to the truth, and it has a unique format element of being set mainly in the investigation room,” explains Levi. “It is like no other series that we have seen, and this has led to strong interest worldwide.” There have been four original seasons to date, and it has been sold in Germany, France and Eastern Europe.
The hit Israeli crime drama The Arbitrator, meanwhile, was adapted with much success in Vietnam. “Giving audiences an inside look into the criminal underworld, the series uses this twist to explore the age-old question of whether a person’s genes or environment has a greater effect on who they become,” Levi says. “In fact, it did so well there, they are now adapting it into a feature film, marking our first venture into movies!”
When evaluating scripted acquisitions for the company’s slate, Levi says that the one-liner is the most important element. “If the core premise is simple, relatable and immediately engaging, you will be able to explain the story easily and grab attention with it. When we get a great one-liner show, then you know it will be successful globally. Of course, execution is also key. When a series is well-executed with high production value and talented actors, that is a major factor in deciding to take it on.” Armoza Formats also wants scripted shows that it can sell as a format and as a finished tape, as there’s “a lot of potential for both in the market.”
Continuing to build up the company’s drama slate is going to be a substantial focus over the next few years. “We will be attending more markets, meeting more scripted and ready-mades clients and will be looking to represent more scripted series,” says Levi. “This MIPTV, we are placing a particular emphasis on our scripted catalog with multiple new scripted series and have already this year launched the new legal thriller Red Lines from Israel’s Kan. The series takes viewers into the complex world of the district attorney’s office and has been wildly acclaimed by Israeli press, with leading publication Haaretz calling it a ‘must-see show.’ Viewers have connected to the intelligent script, talented cast and high-quality production, and it was recently announced that the show was nominated for four Israeli TV Academy Awards. This high caliber of scripted series is what we will continue to provide for our clients.”