CJ E&M Focuses on What’s Fresh

For the last six years, South Korea’s CJ E&M has been providing “fresh and proven format hits” to the world, according to Jin Woo Hwang, the company’s head of formats and global content development.

He says that the formats CJ E&M offers to the market feature scripts that “find extraordinary characters and stories from ordinary lives and ideas from Asian perspectives, but possess universality and scalability for international tastes.

“Also, we provide formats with strong local track records,” he continues. “In other words, we are only selling local hits that have the potential to become international successes. With our 16 TV channels, there are always diverse, fresh ideas and lots of inner competition.”

He also notes that CJ E&M’s format packages include a full production bible and marketing solutions, making them ready to adapt to global standards. “We strongly believe that our formats can continuously bring new surprises to the world,” Hwang adds.

As for what’s guiding the company’s format strategy at present, Hwang outlines three key drivers. “The first thing is that we’re providing fresh local hits from our new creative talents to the global arena. Earlier this year, CJ E&M recruited some of Korea’s finest creators and producers to our creative/production arms. We have been working together for some time to bring the freshest formats, and we are very happy to release the results at MIPCOM.

“Second is enhancing our catalog with international co-developments,” he continues. “Two of our co-development results will be released at MIPCOM. One is with ITV Studios Global Entertainment, and the other is with Gil Formats. It has been fantastic cooperating with these international partners. We are excited to see how the market will respond to the formats.”

Hwang adds that the company is also diversifying its format catalog by adding content from the digital creative group 72 Seconds to its slate. “72 Seconds is relatively new but currently Korea’s most influential digital content company. All their clips are created to be less than two minutes, and they garner an average of 22 million views on all the content they create, with strong brand-driven creativity.”

Scripted formats are becoming an area of increasing focus for CJ E&M. “Recently, we have doubled our scripted formats being optioned,” Hwang explains. “Incomplete Life was successfully localized for Fuji TV in Japan. Moreover, as part of our global expansion strategies, many buyers from Turkey and CEE countries are looking into our scripted formats with strong lead characters.” Titles of particular interest include Another Miss Oh, about a woman who has lived a tortured life due to someone with the same name, and Marriage Not Dating, which focuses on a lady who is looking for the perfect man.

Regarding non-scripted formats, Hwang points to studio-based shows as being top picks at the moment, followed by outdoor reality formats. “Game shows and singing shows are still strong,” he adds. “However, the tastes for singing shows are not for nationwide talent-search formats, but for light, fast-paced music entertainment shows.” I Can See Your Voice and Better Late Than Never (also known as Grandpas over Flowers) are two of the company’s top-selling formats. I Can See Your Voice has been commissioned in eight countries, including China, Bulgaria, Malaysia, the Philippines and Romania. Better Late Than Never, which has a distribution partnership with Small World IFT, has been commissioned in six countries, including the U.S., where it was a hit on NBC last summer and has a second season coming.

Hwang says there has also been a lot of interest for formats that were launched at MIPTV, including Golden Tambourine, The Gobbler Race and Crazy Market. Coming up at MIPCOM, the company will present the unscripted formats Leaving the Nest, a family reality show that features the children of celebrities; Shadow Singer, a music entertainment series that gives undiscovered singers a chance to shine under the guise of a celebrity clone; and Youn’s Kitchen, which comes from the creator/producer of Better Late Than Never. In the scripted arena, highlights include Stranger (Forest of Secrets), a crime thriller; Live Up to Your Name, a comic fantasy medical series; Duel, about a clone who is committing crimes; and Emergency Couple, a romantic drama set in a hospital. As for digital, CJ E&M will be showcasing three titles from 72 Seconds: The Ordinary Life of Miss O, about a woman who dreams of pure love; Banana Actually, a story of four couples, told from the perspectives of both the men and women; and Deux Yeoza (Two Femmes), a situational comedy about two talkative girls.

“Despite the Chinese ban on Korean formats, our format sector is at its busiest time,” says Hwang. “Our top priorities are always in creating new IPs. We are still receiving a lot of co-development requests from the U.S. and European partners, and we are looking forward to working more on the co-creation and co-development of global IP. We are looking into new markets, such as Turkey and CEE, where CJ E&M formats can stand out as well as blend in well into the local content culture.

“At the same time, the format sector will do its best to bring fresh and successful local ideas to go global, as well as expand our abilities to advance into the global markets by developing and producing new IP through collaboration with regional media partners,” Hwang says.