Case Study: Hunted

Billed as a real-life thriller, Hunted follows as everyday people go on the run while some of the world’s best investigators try to hunt them down. The series plays out like a national manhunt.

The concept for Hunted originated from Shine TV, part of the Endemol Shine Group, and the show was created by Kelly Webb-Lamb and Tim Whitwell. “The original idea came from the notion of a Big Brother society, and what would you do if you had to disappear; where would you go? Would you go around the corner and hide in your back room, would you go to the middle of nowhere?” explains Lisa Perrin, CEO of Creative Networks at Endemol Shine Group.

***Image***The show first launched in the U.K., Perrin says. “Shine TV and Channel 4 had huge success with another format, The Island, so Channel 4 commissioned the very first series, in 2015.”

From there, Spain picked up the format. This was quickly followed by Denmark. The series has had three seasons in the Netherlands, and it’s been sold in France and the U.S. “It’s one of our very well-traveled formats,” says Perrin.

Regarding adaptations made within the various international iterations, she tells TV Formats: “We’ve played around in terms of budget in the different territories, and from season one to season two in the U.K. there was a cash incentive added. When it was originally launched, the idea of a surveillance society was very current, whereas there was less focus on that by the time we filmed the second series. The addition of a cash prize increased the competitive element…though when you watch it I think you forget that they are playing for money and it becomes all about the contributors and their mission to evade the hunters. Some of the technology and how it’s made in Holland is really smart; they’ve really adapted the show to make it on a different budget, still using an embedded crew—one of the things piloted on The Island—but looking at when and how they shoot to make it true to the format while remaining their own.”

While the format does offer some flexibility, there are certain elements that must remain at the core. For one, having a strong embedded crew is key, Perrin explains. “That separate gold command that lives in a bubble is really crucial. We’ve played around with the number of contestants depending on budgets and production periods, which has worked. You know you’ve got a solid format when you can shake the number of contributors and put them in different environments and it doesn’t change the viewing experience.”

“It’s such a strong, simple one-line premise, which is really key,” Perrin notes. “It started from a really simple question, which was, What would you do if you had to disappear?—a really universal question that everybody has a different answer for. We’ve also managed to scale it down from a Channel 4 U.K. budget, which is probably much richer than the rest of the world (other than the U.S.), meaning that we’ve been able to travel it widely, as the scalability is key. I also think we’ve been good as a group of companies in sharing our learnings; the fact that it’s made within a big group is very helpful.”

In the U.K., there was also a celebrity version, which Perrin believes has strong potential to be replicated in other markets as well. “It was via Stand Up to Cancer, one of Channel 4’s brilliant charity strands that has the added benefit of allowing them to really innovate with some of their existing formats. It’s fascinating; the fact that these celebrities are well known adds another challenge to the mix and I absolutely think it will spawn more versions. They say that when you go celebrity there’s no going back, but I think the two can absolutely co-exist—look at Big Brother and The Island.

Perrin sees potential for finished sales on the celebrity treatment. “The English-language version has sold in six territories outside of the U.K.,” she adds. “You can binge-watch and not watch in real time, so it has real potential for finished sales.”

Looking ahead, the goal is to keep the format “fresh, new and creatively successful for Channel 4 and all of our other broadcasters around the world. That could be by using exciting celebrities, new tech or upping production values.”