Case Study: Rich House, Poor House

Sarah Tong, director of sales at Hat Trick International, discusses the international success of the factual format Rich House, Poor House.

Ever wondered how the other half lives? The participants on Hat Trick International’s factual format Rich House, Poor House may have the answer. Each week, the show takes a family that falls in the lowest ten percent of household income in their country and a family that falls in the highest, and sees them switch out homes, statuses and budgets. As much social experiment as it is spectacle, the series follows the so-called “Haves and Have-Nots” as they experience—for better or worse—the lives of their richer or poorer counterparts.

The series’ stated mission “to find out whether money really does buy happiness” has proven to be a culturally ubiquitous one, as the format has been adapted in markets across Europe and beyond. The Dutch version, Steenrijk, Straatarm, was the first to air, followed by the German and Belgian variants. The format has also sold to Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Sweden, as well as New Zealand, Africa and Asia. “The increasing gap ***Image***between the richest and poorest in society is a global issue, and so very relevant to audiences worldwide,” Tong tells TV Formats.

A Hat Trick in-house production for Channel 5, the show originated in the U.K., where it is currently on its fourth season. The show debuted in March 2017 to ratings 50 percent higher than Channel 5’s slot average. Hat Trick soon secured straight-to-series commissions for the Netherlands with SBS6 and Germany with SAT.1, where the local versions launched in quick succession in October of the same year, also becoming local ratings hits. Format options were then signed with broadcasters in Belgium (BlazHoffski), Denmark (Nice) and France (Newen).

As the format travels, the basic premise stays the same, but some small changes are made to better suit local audiences. “We attach a list of all the key format points that cannot be changed in a local version. The main tweak that has taken place is the families meeting in the German and Dutch versions—they do not meet in the original U.K. version,” Tong says. “The German version airs in a two-hour slot, so longer than the U.K. one-hour version, but that’s fairly standard in Germany. There have been no other significant changes as the format works extremely well as is!” she adds.

Rich House, Poor House travels well around the world as societal wealth gaps are pervasive, and everyone can relate to speculating about how other people really live behind closed doors. It also works because “it’s entertaining, well-made and [has] lots of episodes!” Tong continues. “Plus, social experiments and docs with human interest [slants] are always popular.”

The two families paired up for each episode of the show are matched based on the things they have in common. Hat Trick wants the playing field to be somewhat even in the other arenas of the families’ lives, so the financial variable is isolated. The focus of the program is how money affects day-to-day family life, and at the end of both of the families’ life swaps, the viewer sees that both sides have common, shared values that prove far more important than their financial circumstances.