BOLDPRINT’s Phil Harris

BOLDPRINT Studios was founded earlier this year by Phil Harris with an aim to bring a fresh voice to the formats space. The former Channel 4 head of entertainment and events, whose credits include Big Brother, Taskmaster, The Only Way is Essex and more, created the studio to focus on original non-scripted programs that can reach global audiences. The startup has taken up the challenge to work around new and unpredictable streaming habits, shifting audience appetites and a tough market, staying optimistic along the way.

When it comes to the specifics of the reality, entertainment and factual entertainment the studio is looking to bring to market, the CEO explains, “The blueprint of a BOLDPRINT format is simple and marketable, broad yet distinctive, with a healthy dose of humor.” All these qualities are key, not only when it comes to the global reach a format can have with audiences but also the ease with which it can be adapted and produced over and over again.

For BOLDPRINT, having a strategy for developing both new and veteran talent in front of and behind the camera is crucial. “We are investing in new talent at the beginning of their journey who can learn and grow with the company as we begin ours,” Harris explains. “We want the best talent on- and off-screen to call BOLDPRINT home.”

In that vein, the studio has named Lou Hutchinson, former head of entertainment at Twofour, as creative director. Her credits include such hits as The Biggest Loser, I Can See Your Voice, The Greatest Dancer and Loaded in Paradise.

Harris stresses the importance of leveraging industry experience to lead the new studio, especially from his own previous work at Channel 4. “As a commissioner, you are on a constant quest to understand and serve your audience as much as possible, analyzing every bit of data, insight and research to make the best commissioning decisions,” he says. Now, as CEO of BOLDPRINT, he hopes “this discipline will be invaluable on the ‘other side’ as a startup devising new formats.”

What’s more, BOLDPRINT landed backing from media giant Fremantle. “Our ethos is an extension of Fremantle,” notes Harris, adding that the fresh space aims to be “the place creatives call home.”

The investment reunited both Harris and Hutchinson with the outfit, as the two also formerly served in executive roles at Thames under Fremantle.

For a new studio in a tight market, backing from a hits powerhouse can give a much needed leg up. According to Harris, Fremantle brings “an incredible network of development, production and distribution expertise with a very special group of people we are able to collaborate with, and vice versa.”

And though a universal hit can be hard to come by, there are patterns emerging. Harris says, “Whilst we have seen some brilliant examples of unscripted hits in the U.K.,” including the game-show competition formats The Traitors and Gladiators, “streaming habits are still driving an appetite amongst buyers for reality with arced formats and returning casts.” This hunger for arcs and casts to follow can be seen in what’s been successful across genres, whether it’s in competitions, game shows or dating formats. These “give a better chance for viewer investment and retention across a series,” Harris asserts.

So, while the market is crowded and may remain somewhat unpredictable for the foreseeable future, for Harris, there is room and necessity to stay positive. “It is a hugely exciting moment,” he says. “As the CEO of a new startup in 2024, I have to be eternally optimistic.”