Format Trend Tracking with UFA Show & Factual’s Christof Schulte

Earlier this summer, UFA Show & Factual appointed three new executive directors from its own ranks in order to further strengthen its creative clout. Among them, Christof Schulte was tapped for entertainment formats. His focus coming into the role, internally, has been on bolstering creative talents. “People are at the core of our business, and as we see a competition for the best talents in the market, we want to shape, encourage and foster the next generation of our creatives at UFA Show & Factual,” he says.

***Image***Externally, the focus is on adapting to the current realities of the marketplace. “Shorter production cycles and reduced budgets demand new approaches and responses,” says Schulte. “We want to be more flexible and faster without losing excellency in production.”

He adds, “We are establishing trusted relationships to a continuously widening range of opportunities with international and local SVODs.”

Schulte also notes that the desire for new formats that are able to run for a long time is “enormous. Therefore, we focus on offering new content that also works well on track.”

In terms of trendspotting, Schulte says that in Germany, there’s been a big wave of “retro formats, especially game shows, coming back with great success, often in combination with the original host/cast. In an increasingly fragmented media landscape and an overall insecure situation in the world, there seems to be the urge to go back to supposedly safe and better times.”

He adds that documentary formats with a scientific background or in true crime are also becoming popular and attracting more viewers. He also points to the persistent popularity of dating and celebrity reality formats.

UFA Show & Factual has seen success with its quiz show Who Knew?, an in-house development. “We started in 2015, and since then, the quiz has been unstoppable,” Schulte says. “We have produced 900 episodes within seven years.” The show has been sold internationally in seven countries.

There’s also the true-crime format Stern Crime. “Under the umbrella of the Bertelsmann Content Alliance, we are filming Germany’s biggest crime cases together with RTL+ and the true-crime magazine Stern Crime,” Schulte explains.

The company has recently adapted Viva la Diva—Wer ist die Queen? (Make Up Your Mind) and Der Preis ist heiß (The Price Is Right) for RTL, Eating with My Ex for discovery+, Die Retourenjäger (Bidding Wars) for RTLZWEI and Geh aufs Ganze! (Let’s Make a Deal) for SAT.1. It has also worked on the long-running hits Hartz und herzlich (Benefits Street) for RTLZWEI since 2016, Bauer sucht Frau (Farmer Wants a Wife) for RTL and the Austrian version for ATV since 2005, Take Me Out for RTL since 2013, Sag die Wahrheit (To Tell the Truth) for SWR since 2003, Deutschland sucht den Superstar (Idols) for RTL since 2002 and Wer kann, der kann! (Nailed it!) for Netflix.

“We see a big demand for prime-time entertainment formats,” Schulte says. “Remaining budgets are spent there, with less investment in daytime and late prime programs.”

He adds that occasional programming as recurring highlights is becoming more popular, as RTL does with The Price Is Right, for example.

SVODs, Schulte says, are shifting away from exclusive content and are “asking for localized versions of international brands or want to take over well-known formats.”

While he notes that dating formats in all genres are going strong, Schulte sees perhaps “a switch from bikini reality to adventure reality” in this space.