Andrew Sime, the VP of formats at Banijay Rights, talks to TV Formats about Banijay Rights’ catalog of legacy format brands that are currently going strong, of which the recently relaunched Temptation Island is but one example.
Earlier this month, Temptation Island made its return to U.S. screens after more than 15 years. USA Network revived the reality series, which originally debuted on FOX in 2001, with original host Mark L. Walberg reclaiming his duties.
“As the broadcast landscape continues to fragment, and with more and more opportunities to screen available to consumers, recognizable brands are becoming increasingly important to channels—and to viewers,” says Sime. “A strong brand presents less of a risk for buyers, and gives them the confidence to properly invest. At the same time, viewers are reassured that they will be getting something they already know they like. And for broadcasters, a couple of big, well-known formats can define a station’s identity. So far this year we’ve seen this happen with the return of Temptation Island on USA Network and Shipwrecked on the U.K.’s E4 after several years off-air.”
Temptation Island has been around in one form or another since the early 2000s. “In recent years, the show’s performed successfully in countries such as Italy, Sweden and Finland, and has become one of the biggest-rated programs in Belgium and the Netherlands, where the finale is often broadcast on huge outdoor screens. Our Dutch colleagues had a lot of success last year with a celebrity version of the format, and it was clear that audiences still relish seeing couples being tested in this way.”
The show’s U.S. return has generated quite a bit of buzz. “The production values are extraordinary,” says Sime of the USA Network iteration. “It’s from Banijay Studios North America and looks beautiful. It was filmed in Hawaii, and the format has kept itself modern and relevant for a new generation of viewers. This tonal shift means the show has become a true test for couples at a crossroads in their relationship, and less of a honey trap for cheats. Without losing any of its original appeal and natural environment for jaw-dropping real-life drama, Temptation Island now feels more like a social experiment than a dating show.”
Another long-running success, Survivor launched in Sweden back in 1997 (as Expedition Robinson) and has been on-air around the world ever since. “It is a format that drives reality, and the social experiment continues to resonate with audiences globally,” Sime says. “Our new YouTube channel has also opened up worldwide access to the brand for audiences throughout the year.”
In the U.S., the show has been running since 2000, and CBS will launch season 38 on February 20. “Such a rich history can be complicated to manage and curate, but it allows us to work with new territories that are looking to reboot the format. Giving them an array of proven format building blocks, they instantly have the materials to create versions suitable for their audiences and budgets. Ever-developing, the gameplay in Survivor has evolved significantly over the years since the format launched.”
He adds, “After so many productions, we know how to get the best out of Survivor both creatively and commercially. Over the years, the format has had countless twists and innovations, and there remains a strong appetite among local producers to come up with new and original ways to challenge the contestants, and with over 280 seasons of the format produced to date, there is a huge treasure chest of game challenges to select from.”
Shipwrecked, meanwhile, made a lot of noise when it first launched as part of Channel 4’s youth strand in the U.K. in the 2000s. “The team at RDF’s entertainment division, Fizz, are incredibly passionate about the format and have been working for some time to bring it back,” Sime notes. “After their success at relaunching The Crystal Maze, it was clear that they would be the best production outfit to reboot Shipwrecked for a new generation, while remaining true to the original format. The show feels very current, starring a diverse, modern cast, and some ingenious new twists. The reality is packed with drama, and the format mechanic works perfectly to guarantee gripping storylines and fierce competition throughout the entire series. E4 is committing a lot of resources to the on- and off-air marketing campaign, which shows how much anticipation there is for what is effectively a brand-new launch.”
Banijay Rights is continuing to find success with Wife Swap. In 2017, RDF produced a Wife Swap Brexit special in the U.K., pairing up leavers with remainers. “It was a really clever way of using the show’s central mechanic to look at a key societal issue,” says Sime. “We’re currently speaking with producers to see if we can find equally resonant subjects to tackle in other countries. At the same time, the traditional version of the format continues to attract audiences in countries throughout the world, including the U.S., Australia, the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and it is launching for the first time in Brazil later this year.”
While each format is different, Sime believes the keys to keeping a long-running format fresh are to “work with local producers and listen to the viewers.” He adds, “You’ve got to be able to retain the main format pillars and combine them with new twists that surprise and entertain modern audiences. It’s a complex process, but thanks to Banijay’s unrivaled network of production companies, it’s one we’ve been able to master. In recent years, interactivity and social media have become important tools for extending and supporting entertainment brands. We also work closely with channels to adapt formats to local schedules. Maybe in one country a format might play in prime time as a weekly special and in another it’s stripped daily or as an annual event.”
Talent is also crucial, Sime notes. “Keeping a beloved host can provide continuity for some formats, while for others it’s vital to inject new blood into each season. Each territory has its own requirements, so it’s a question of finding the right mix of these ingredients.”
There are many instances, though, where the best approach is to be hands-off—if it’s working well as is, why tamper with it? “Some formats just don’t need to change as they are staples in scheduling and viewers know what to expect,” concludes Sime.