BBC Studios’ André Renaud

André Renaud, senior VP of global format sales at BBC Studios, talks to TV Formats about what’s driving the company’s brisk scripted remakes business.

CBS recently issued a full-season order for Ghosts, a Thursday night comedy adapted from the BBC Studios-distributed series of the same name. Ghosts is just one of a slew of BBC-originated shows remade in markets across the globe, and interest in the remake market is picking up speed as Covid-19-related delays have producers, broadcasters and platforms looking for more efficient ways to get scripted content onto screens.

TV FORMATS: Can you give some examples of shows from your catalog that have been successfully remade in other markets?
RENAUD: The Emmy Award-winning The Night Of, starring Riz Ahmed, is an adaptation of the Criminal Justice format, which first aired on the BBC in 2008 and has since been adapted in India for Disney+ Hotstar, where it was in the top five dramas of the year across all platforms in 2020. It is soon to be adapted in Korea with Studio M.

Doctor Foster is another great example of how strong characters coupled with local storytelling and setting can draw big audiences. The series has already been adapted in Russia, Turkey and France, where it reached 6 million viewers on TF1, and in Korea, where it became the most popular South Korean cable drama of all time.

TV FORMATS: How is the overall demand for scripted drama formats today?
RENAUD: We have seen a huge growth in interest for scripted formats over the past five years and even more so in the past 18 months, as broadcasters have seen the benefit of reduced development times on stories that are already proven successes, and local writers and producers have the flexibility to tell the character’s story in a way that resonates with audiences.

We have enjoyed particular success in Asia, where Doctor Foster, Undercover and Mistresses have been adapted in Korea alone. We expect that trend to continue as other broadcasters and platforms in the market recognize the positive response from local audiences. We have already licensed Doctor Foster in the Philippines, Criminal Justice and The Split in Korea, Luther and Guilt in India to come. There remains strong appetite in EMEA, too, as Doctor Foster has found local versions in France, Russia and Turkey and The Split in Turkey, too. It truly is a vibrant moment for scripted adaptation.

TV FORMATS: What is driving the interest in drama remakes and reboots?
RENAUD: Given the period of uncertainty that we have all just experienced, there does appear to be an audience desire for familiarity, so instant recognition of a name or story can be useful to drive viewership. But more generally, I think broadcasters are looking to find new ways to reflect society back to viewers, whether they want to provoke a discussion, like in Doctor Foster or Criminal Justice, or just to have a bit of fun, like in The Office. 

TV FORMATS: What are some of the keys to successful drama remakes?
RENAUD: It all comes down to the quality of the ideas and, especially for drama, the authenticity of the characters. At BBC Studios, each of our scripted formats has bold and relatable characters at the heart that can comfortably sit in a brand-new set of surroundings. Their stories are both specific and universal: a serious crimes officer trying not to be consumed by the dark crimes he investigates or even the day-to-day goings-on of people in an office environment.

It is essential for us that the adaptation process is a collaborative one. We have a dual responsibility to do justice to the original creative work and be sensitive to making an adaptation that remains true to the original. We work closely with our partners to translate stories in a way that will best resonate in their own country, whether that is how local culture might mean a change to a character’s job or family environment, but in a way that doesn’t alter from the core DNA of the story. For example, our partner in the Philippines on Doctor Foster has given careful consideration to how they can showcase Filipino culture and fashion in their version of the story.

TV FORMATS: Are you retaining the distribution rights to the remakes?
RENAUD: Balancing the needs of the commissioning broadcaster in any region with the desire to have as many people as possible around the world see the great quality of production that countries bring to life is often the fine line everyone treads. And, as audiences also become even more comfortable with seeing shows from various countries around the world, we always work closely with all of our partners to find the best way to navigate this together.

TV FORMATS: What are the challenges and opportunities in distributing multiple versions of the same show?
RENAUD: One of the most rewarding things in format distribution is to see how a story can be told and retold with different nuances every time. Not only does it give insight into a culture or a community, but it also often can shed new light on the stories themselves and give viewers a chance to rethink or rediscover a part of the story they may have missed before.

Making this happen must be explored in a way that gives everyone the space to allow their own version to shine, too, and it’s why we always want to spend time with our partners to talk through how their own unique version stands next to the other versions around the world.