Endemol Shine’s Peter Salmon

The number of registered formats in the Endemol Shine Group portfolio stands at more than 4,300, many of which hail from its network of 120 companies in 20-plus markets. They run the gamut from mega-brands like MasterChef and Big Brother to emerging formats like All Together Now. Peter Salmon, as the chief creative officer at Endemol Shine, has been championing All Together Now since its inception; a bet that has paid off with a series of high-profile deals on the format since its launch earlier this year. A veteran of the British broadcasting and production sectors, Salmon has been with Endemol Shine for the last two years, fostering creativity across its global footprint of producers. He tells TV Formats about managing global hits and taking bets on new ideas.

TV FORMATS: Tell us about your role across the broad network of Endemol Shine Group companies.
SALMON: I try to conduct the Endemol Shine orchestra. I don’t play any instruments myself, as we’ve got great people who do that all over the world. We have 120 companies in over 20 countries, [making] 800 productions which air in 70-plus territories. We are all doing the same thing—making shows. We try to help teams work in the best possible environment. They do what they do and we try to connect the dots. The beauty of our business, the simplicity of it, is that 98 percent of everything we do is about telling great stories on video. So, the scripted network of producers all have the same challenges finding great writers and original storylines and ideas and figuring out the new global platforms they’re increasingly working for. The same goes for non-scripted—the teams are looking at new format trends, cultural changes and social-policy issues and then how they can respond quickly to what may be in the zeitgeist. That’s a common thread right across the piece, from Brazil to Australia, from Stockholm to Los Angeles—our producers are talented people doing much the same thing and some are even working on the same shows. It could be MasterChef, it could be Big Brother, it could be All Together Now, it could be Pointless, it could be Bron. The wonderful thing is that we’re all involved in the same enterprise, which is inventing, developing, selling and distributing great programs. When you strip it back, though it can seem quite big, global and overwhelming on the surface, it’s a very simple idea.

TV FORMATS: What do you keep an eye on when determining which shows have the greatest opportunity to be formatted in multiple markets?
SALMON: The brilliant thing about operating in over 20 countries is that we have lots of on-the-ground R&D. Our teams offer a stunning feedback loop for us in the group as to how broadcasters are changing, how newer platforms are developing and what commissioning teams are looking for. We piece that intelligence together, we absorb the trades and we try to spot trends. We have a sense of what the world feels like at any one time and we have a series of global conversations about programs, from crime to dating, music to makeovers.

When I started here two years ago I said, We’re this extraordinary global powerhouse, but we don’t have a new talent music-entertainment show. When we put out the call, Remarkable in the U.K. emerged with All Together Now. That show is now in [11] territories and rising; we have new deals about to be signed. The Endemol Shine creative machine responded to the call brilliantly.

We’re really good at food and have at least 100 food titles in our archive. We’re also the MasterChef people. People always ask us about making MasterChef, but we can only sell it to one platform in each territory. So what else are we going to do? The remarkable Fennessys [Mark and Carl] in Australia came up with Family Food Fight. The group got behind their new food format and it’s now away in America and Argentina, plus other territories are close to commissions.

So, we look at areas where we feel we’re not up to scratch. And then we also look at areas where we think we’re rather good, because you shouldn’t overlook what you’re good at as well and double down [on it].  In the search for a global hit, let’s not overlook local proof of concept. Can you make something a hit in its own territory? All Together Now had to become a hit on the BBC in the U.K. before it could become a hit somewhere else. That’s delivering proof of concept with a demanding audience, and is important to us and to the markets that then want to buy it.

TV FORMATS: Why do you think it was able to cut through in such a crowded space so quickly?
SALMON: It works because it’s a joyful, euphoric experience wrapped in a fun concept—the 100 vote with their feet! It’s a big party show. If you look outside the U.K. at the series we’ve made in Brazil, it looks like Carnival every night in that studio. It forces you to interact, join in, get up and sing along, shout at the TV. It’s got those key elements and music is a beautiful, universal thing. The songs too are often ones that we all know—they are part of the global jukebox. And it’s not cynical in any way; we’re not trying to put anybody down. Just the reverse, it feels uplifting. The world has some amazing music-entertainment brands, from The X Factor to The Voice, but we also felt that they were all getting on a little bit, and at some point, one of them might falter. We needed to have a piece in the marketplace that could at least be a challenger. So, to be in eight markets in eight months is amazing. It promises a lot and we have some promising deals to come.

The Talent Project is another music-entertainment piece that we loved and spotted way back. It’s coming to fruition now in the Netherlands. It’s going to be sitting in the same bit of the schedule that The Voice occupied previously, but it’s got a different approach to music and entertainment.

TV FORMATS: How do you maintain the momentum on your big returning brands?
SALMON: We have strong managers of our key formats and, crucially, we have them for emerging formats as well. So, Big Brother and MasterChef have support[at the] group level and producers get together to showcase the good things and discuss the challenging things. But equally, we began the All Together Now process with brand management in place. We said, right from the outset, we’re going to attempt to create a global brand. With The Talent Project, we did something similar. More and more we are saying, Let’s begin the process as if this show is going to be on air for ten years. Let’s get communications, marketing, digital, the production teams themselves, all the key stakeholders [in front of] the key broadcasters in a unified fashion so we can all support what we’re launching.
MasterChef is a perfect example of a well-managed global brand, but we are also super aware of local sensitivities. We love the fact that anywhere around the world, it’s most definitely MasterChef—wearing the same suit of clothes. But how it operates inside that suit of clothes is often very different [from market to market]. I was at our Copenhagen MasterChef summit recently. All of the MasterChef producers from around the group came to talk about what they are doing, what their key challenges are, what they’re most proud of and the different cultural tonalities [between markets]. In the U.S., [audiences] love strong, edgy competition and the judges are superstars. It’s the judges slugging it out, and it’s less about the actual food per se. The cooking remains important, but there is conflict or chemistry between the characters on that show and the warfare between the judges is what appeals to viewers. In Spain or Australia or Sweden, it’s much more about the emotion they invest in the cooking, about the local quirks. Each of these local formats has to have its own voice and speaks in a vernacular, in its own idiom, to stress things the producers on the ground feel are important for the conversation with their own audience.

So it’s a balance, all over the world. In the case of MasterChef, one of the best-managed brands in the world and the best-traveling food format, I think we get it just right.

TV FORMATS: What role do you see entertainment shows playing on the OTT services?
SALMON: There’s enormous potential. I don’t think it’s been fully realized yet. The OTTs are on the hunt. They’ve launched and been successful with some smart reboots like Queer Eye and originals like Nailed It! [both on Netflix]. We’re having lots of conversations now about our back catalog too. We have some gorgeous shows in the archive, from Wipeout to Beauty and the Geek, that have huge brand recognition. People know them, so they’re easy to launch and you can rethink them for a new era. And then we’re learning things ourselves on the job. We rebooted Operación Triunfo [Star Academy], the big entertainment show, in Spain. It was a multiplatform reboot, working with the public-service broadcaster RTVE, who wanted to reach a millennial audience. We put together a platform for YouTube highlights, a 14-hour live stream, and we worked with an OTT player. [We wanted to deliver] easy mobile access for that younger generation. We also wanted live interaction with the [contestants]. We’ve started to think more about that OTT model and how we can offer it to those FAANG services as well as linear broadcasters who are desperate to retain and attract younger audiences. There are a lot of great things happening in the entertainment space. We’ve always been strong in this space and we aim to build.

TV FORMATS: What are some of your entertainment highlights for MIPCOM?
SALMON: We’re certainly bringing our big three recent priority launches, which, remarkably, are all recommissioned and all traveling. Big Bounce Battle is the big physical entertainment show on trampolines in that Wipeout mold. We launched it in Germany, based on a Dutch piece of IP. We now also have it placed in France and there will be more announcements before the market. It’s a fun new entertainment format. All Together Now will be back at the market, of course. And Family Food Fight, which is moving into a bunch of new markets too. Our triple-header! We have newer pieces too, like The Talent Project, coming through. But also another fact-ent stunner. Shine in the U.K. is really good at crafting beautiful factual-entertainment formats like Hunted and The Island. We have a new one that Sky loves in the U.K. called Heist. That’s another innovative entertainment format—being made with groundbreaking tech, which is very important to us too. We’ve been introducing a lot of new tech around the group. We’ve got at least one additional territory that is already going to make Heist and it’s not even aired yet.

TV FORMATS: We have to talk about scripted as well.
SALMON: Yes, please! Non-scripted is the workhorse of the group—it’s probably 70 percent of our business—but in the last two years scripted has become mega for us, whether it’s Broadchurch or Bron or Black Mirror or Peaky Blinders. We’re thrilled that some of our biggest brands are now enjoyed on global platforms or are being remade for them, like Utopia for Amazon. We’re also remaking The Fall in France, which will air this autumn as Insoupçonnable. A lot of people can’t pull off the remaking of scripted formats, but we’ve become quite adept at it, alongside making new and original scripted for the world. Bron from Sweden taught us a lot about that and we’ve now adapted it in five territories, our first in Asia too. So we have some very good models in the group. We’re very, very proud of scripted, so look out for a new season of Peaky Blinders, now in preproduction. There’s more Black Mirror—again, look out, world! We’re also making The Good Karma Hospital out in Sri Lanka at the moment. Finally, Kudos is back, making Deep Water in the U.K., for ITV. The scripted phenomenon shows no sign of abating, which we’re grateful for on a daily basis. Long may it last!