2017: The Year in Formats

TV Formats recaps last year’s developments in the format space.

Dancing with the Stars waltzed into new territories, MasterChef cooked up fresh deals, The Voice stayed on key, and Got Talent performed more acts. As many of the stalwart entertainment hits remained in their plum slots on broadcasters around the globe, format creators continued to face an uphill climb last year to bring fresh concepts to air. Testament to this is the revival of American Idol, which is returning in the U.S. this March. The hit singing competition, which has only been off the air for two years, is moving from FOX to ABC, and original host Ryan Seacrest is back on board.

FOX, meanwhile, is placing its bets on a brand-new singing competition: The Four. Armoza Formats launched the title to the international market at MIPTV as The Final Four, which went on to notch up a slew of deals quite quickly, from the U.K. to Russia, Turkey to Australia. Further proof that the singing/musical talent genre isn’t losing its shine, Bell Media is rolling out The Launch, Global Agency is shopping Bring Your Fame Back and Open Call, and The Voice is getting a seniors spin-off alongside its already popular kids version—while Lip Sync Battle has made a mark as a singing competition without even featuring any actual singing.

Along with American Idol, a number of other format hits were revived in various markets after a short period of rest. Dancing with the Stars, for one, is returning in South Africa (having last aired there in 2014), as well as in New Zealand (following a three-year hiatus). There were also a number of cases where classic formats made a comeback. FremantleMedia, for example, is recharging the game show Supermarket Sweep, while DRG has done a deal that could see Catch Phrase back on U.S. TV screens for the first time in 30 years.

Another long-standing format hit that made headlines in 2017 was Survivor, which celebrated 20 years in the global market. Banijay brought the newly acquired reality titan to MIPCOM, after having raised some $416 million to finance the acquisition of the format’s rights owner, Castaway Television Productions.

The unscripted entertainment arena has had stiff competition though as of late, as the demand for premium drama continues to reach new heights. This brought a welcomed lift in the scripted-format space in 2017, with a notable number of concepts from the East being embraced. Japan’s Nippon TV followed up its successful collaboration on the adaptation of Mother with a new deal with Turkey’s MF Yapim and MEDYAPIM for a local version of the drama Woman—My Life for My Children, while CJ E&M exported the Korean romantic dramedy Emergency Couple for local adaptation in Mexico.

With the appetite for drama showing no signs of slowing down and so many entertainment megahits still on air and working just fine for broadcasters, what’s a creator to do if they want to get a new idea off the ground? Leave it to Dutch media tycoon John de Mol to take up that challenge. The brain behind such format behemoths as Big Brother and The Voice has just launched a new concept called “The Fastest Way to the Screen.” The accelerator is meant to help format creators from around the world launch their ideas straight to series in the Netherlands on one of the four linear television channels of Talpa Network.

Of the new endeavor, de Mol said: “I am very interested in the opportunity to team up with creators around the world, and I believe this new initiative creates the perfect launching pad for new and original formats. It underpins my entrepreneurial spirit by investing in new original formats I believe in. Bringing your idea to screen can take forever nowadays. Now that I have 100 percent ownership of the Network group in the Netherlands, I’ve decided to fast track this process by selecting third-party formats myself, together with my commissioning team at the networks in the Netherlands. Under this approach, we give international parties the opportunity to launch their format in our country in return for co-ownership of the format. Launching an original idea on one of our networks saves international creators time, money and risk, plus we will help shape the idea further and will use our radio stations and digital channels to help market the concept.”

TV Formats Weekly will continue to chart the latest developments in the format space in the year ahead, so be sure to sign up for your free subscription here.