Case Study: Ambulance

Lisa Perrin, the CEO of creative networks at Endemol Shine Group, talks to TV Formats about the factual format Ambulance.

Ambulance spotlights the important work of emergency medical services teams, who deal with life-and-death situations on a daily basis. Dragonfly in the U.K. created the observational docuseries, which is part of the Endemol Shine Group catalog. The show made its debut last year on BBC One, where it was the channel’s highest-rated factual premiere of 2016, regularly winning its time slot and achieving a peak audience of 4.81 million viewers.

“We have a fantastic development team at our U.K. production company Dragonfly, which is constantly coming up with new factual ideas,” says Lisa Perrin, the CEO of creative networks at Endemol Shine Group. “We wanted ***Image***to partner with the BBC for a big, noisy, factual format to suit their broad audience.”

Since medical emergencies are unfortunately something that the majority of people worldwide have to experience at some point in their lives, it seemed clear that Ambulance would work well as a format. “Ambulance fits perfectly into the trend for large-scale factual programming with drama sensibilities, which is so current,” says Perrin. “The series is beautifully shot with wonderful characters and a glossy overlay. It’s about the human condition, and that’s what really resonates with the viewers and gives them real drama.”

Recently, CBS in the U.S. ordered a local treatment of Ambulance that will see hour-long episodes produced by Endemol Shine North America. “Any U.S. network commission means a real supercharge for the format, and CBS proved to be brilliant partners for us when we worked with them earlier this year on Hunted,” says Perrin. “Broadcasters around the world still look to the U.S., and striking a deal with them is always really positive news for a format.”

Ambulance is also getting an eight-episode version for Reshet in Israel. “We’ve had a huge amount of interest internationally and are talking to a number of other countries,” notes Perrin.

As is the case with most formats, there will be a number of variations among the adaptations of Ambulance. “The way the ambulance services are set up and staffed in different countries is extremely different from the U.K. system, which is run by the NHS,” says Perrin. “There are a lot of volunteers in Israel who are paramedics, and we know the U.S. is a privatized system. All of this will bring differences, and that’s before you start looking at the vast range of cases and patients they will be dealing with. Israel is dealing with suicide bombings, shootings; America has a lot of gun-related crime and violent attacks. I think each series will have a richly diverse style.”

Endemol Shine’s main goal for Ambulance is to continue securing local treatments in multiple territories around the globe. “This show could work in any market and it will be fascinating to see cultural differences come to life with the character-led stories,” adds Perrin. The company has also sold the three-part U.K. version—which was renewed for an eight-episode second season—as a finished program in markets across Africa as well as in New Zealand, Belgium, Norway and Sweden.