Blow Up Breathes Fresh Air into Reality Competitions

Competition shows remain a hot commodity in the format market, as audiences seek upbeat viewing to engage the whole family. “While we can almost certainly guarantee viewers and buyers will continue to flock to these titles, we must keep innovating to ensure standout gameplay, visual mastery, and ultimately, concepts people can identify with but are yet to see,” says James Townley, global head of content development at Banijay.

He adds that at Banijay, best-in-class creatives imagine and tap into formats that, first and foremost, celebrate expertise, with brands such as MasterChef (commissioned in over 64 territories), LEGO Masters (commissioned in 18 territories), Domino Challenge (commissioned in 2 territories) and the newly launched Blow Up in its catalog. “All first-of-their-kinds, they have set the bar high in the market, and now the latter is coming through to show it’s pretty amazing what you can make with a couple (or a few) balloons,” Townley says. “We all like to use the phrase ‘it’s a first’ but on this occasion, it really is the first time a show has celebrated balloon artists and their unique craft. The beauty of skill-based formats is that while creating heartwarming, uplifting television for the whole family, there is also a lot at stake. In each episode of this new entertainment gem, we feature high-energy challenges central to balloon artistry, with weekly themes testing the contestants’ speed and technique.”

Townley is also seeing shows strike a chord with audiences by layering competition with comedy. Amazon Prime Video’s comedy competition format LOL: Last One Laughing, which Banijay’s labels produce in Australia, Italy, France, Mexico and Spain, is an example. “Elsewhere, beyond the format beats, our hosts continue to play a huge role in a show’s emotive positioning and success, wherever we look in the world,” he adds. “Guaranteeing the right cultural fit can be a challenge, but for Blow Up, the team tapped into some great talent who were sure to bring the warmth—and the laughs—that the show needed.”

Hosts Chantal Janzen (Eurovision 2021, Chantal’s Pyjama Party) and Martijn Krabbé (The X Factor) are known for bringing playfulness to the shows they front, Townley notes. In the case of Blow Up, they will “elevate the energy, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats one minute and in hysterics the next, like we have seen from Will Arnett in LEGO Masters U.S. through to Darlow Smithson Productions’ Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr.”

Blow Up, produced by EndemolShine Nederland for RTL 4, sees the nation’s best balloon artists showcase their craft and artistry. The format has great international potential, Townley says, as it plays into audience desire for “tonally warm, lighthearted, family-friendly viewing, which will put a smile on people’s faces, whilst being totally fresh and unique, as the first show of its kind.” Since the craft demands technical knowledge and attention to detail, it also results in some “incredible masterpieces, absolute tense and time-stealing disasters, and above all, a beautifully rich and colorful watch.”

The show is also upbeat and positive, he adds, and the contestants are at the heart. “Of course, they all want to win, but they display compassion, kindness and kinship with their fellow competitors, and we witness their passion, which very quickly immerses us all in their world.”

Blow Up sits in the Banijay catalog alongside other hit competition formats such as LEGO Masters, MasterChef and Domino Challenge. “Behind a host of hands-on, creativity-focused shows, internationally we have an incredibly strong reputation and an enormous amount of expertise in delivering world-class competition formats,” says Townley. “As a result, we are in an enviable position to take this experience and develop exciting new IP in this space.”

MasterChef has now been produced in over 64 territories and is a ratings hit globally. The format continues to innovate and evolve with popular spin-offs such as Celebrity, Professionals, All Stars, Senior and the all-new iteration, Young MasterChef.

LEGO Masters has been commissioned in 18 territories to date, including Australia, China and the home of LEGO, Denmark.

“These formats are continually being refreshed, and this is down to our incredible creatives who make sure the competition titles are as gripping and entertaining as when they first aired,” Townley says. “Banijay fiercely champions innovation, and our creative incentivization schemes promote new development and commissioning opportunities. Through our Creative Fund, we supported EndemolShine Nederlands and invested in Blow Up, and we hope this is just the beginning in terms of spurring on these big, bold, new developments and projecting them to screen.”

Competition formats such as Blow Up are ideal for co-viewing and, therefore, are a great fit for prime-time slots, he adds. “Combining jeopardy with lovable contestants and incredible skill, they are highly anticipated shows with broad appeal. Whilst guaranteed to put a smile on your face, they also provide a filmic experience, with sets that embody the creativity of the shows. Importantly, our formats are designed to appeal to multiple markets, and a strong selling point of our reality competition IP is its flexibility. With every production, we utilize Banijay’s scale and expertise to adapt the show based on each region’s needs. Building on our success in this genre with brands like MasterChef and LEGO Masters, competition challenges can be scaled up or down. We can offer solutions like hub filming or strategic consultancy to ensure each version is tailored for the specific audience and budget of that production.”

Townley adds that as one of the largest producers in the world, Banijay has “a responsibility to set and endorse global ESG standards. With that in mind, while we have a lot of flexibility with respect to the nuances of our formats, we encourage all those we work with to be considerate in the way they bring our shows to life, whether that be adhering to strict food sourcing, waste and preparation guidelines for MasterChef or guaranteeing the use of biodegradable balloons on Blow Up, we are dedicated to safeguarding our planet, and our people, at all times.”