Eccho Rights’ Fredrik af Malmborg

Fredrik af Malmborg, managing director of Eccho Rights, talks to TV Formats about the company’s thriving scripted-formats business.

Airing on TF1 in France, H24 is the latest adaptation of Eccho Rights’ successful Nurses scripted format, which originated in Finland in 2014. The medical drama has also been successfully remade in Sweden, Slovakia and Slovenia, with Eccho Rights representing the rights to all the adapted versions of the show.

***Image***TV FORMATS: Why is Nurses so easily adaptable?
AF MALMBORG: They’ve hardly changed the script in any of the versions. It’s gone straight into exactly the same characters. It is very relatable, universal and authentic. Of course, they change a little bit; there are more immigrants among the nurses in the Swedish version than in Finland. But it’s minor details.

TV FORMATS: In deal negotiations, are rights to the adapted versions a sticking point?
AF MALMBORG: Not really—only in America. We represent a Turkish series called Ezel that was adapted recently in Romania as Vlad. We have sold that to Bulgaria and we have a few other deals. It makes sense to keep the franchise together.

TV FORMATS: Can there be conflicts in selling the ready-made and the format into the same market?
AF MALMBORG: The way a ready-made travels follows certain patterns—it’s generally to a neighboring country. Of course, Turkish and Scandi series sell around the globe. Holdbacks are often discussed, but I think that’s exaggerated. There are three or four versions of The Office [in the Nordics]. In Sweden, there is a Spanish version of Skam [a teen drama that originated in Norway]. My assistant watches five different versions of Skam. It’s not that I wouldn’t watch a French version because I’ve already seen the British one. The Korean format The Good Doctor was adapted in the U.S with major success, and now it’s the hit of the season in Turkey. The U.S. Good Doctordoesn’t interfere with the Turkish Good Doctor. It could be a slight conflict in Latin America, but again the networks that run the Turkish Good Doctor don’t necessarily air the American one. The conflicts are very few. If you talk to the heads of legal affairs at many [companies], they might think, O h, this is horrible. I think it actually strengthens the franchise. If you’ve seen the American Good Doctor, it’s pretty fun to see the Turkish one.

TV FORMATS: How much leeway do you give local producers in their adaptations? There are Japanese or Korean series that ran for ten episodes in their originals and then were adapted and run to more than 100 episodes!
AF MALMBORG: There have been 35 Korean series adapted in Turkey so far. That was one of the reasons we are going together with CJ ENM as our majority owner because we think there are lots of links between the cultures. But to answer your question, I am not too concerned about it. We insist on there being a good consulting process, so [the producers] know the thoughts and ideas behind the original scripts. You’re free to adapt if you know what you’re adapting. If you don’t know the product you’re adapting, then you may make mistakes. In general, I’d say we’re fairly liberal.
I believe there’s a tendency to exaggerate the differences between countries. Everybody thinks, My country is so different. But Netflix is proving in so many cases that that is wrong. When we saw Turkish series [first being sold to] Latin America, people said, T hey’ll never work there! That was just not true.

This interview was conducted prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Media companies are currently shifting their strategies in the wake of production postponements and economic trends.