Izzet Pinto, founder and CEO of Global Agency, talks about TF1’s Good Singers adaptation and the momentum behind the format.
The last year was marked with success for Global Agency’s format business. “The Shopping Monsters franchise was going strong, with so many renewals in all territories plus new additions to the sales roster,” says Pinto. “We had more formats being produced all over the world. So, it was at a very good climax.”
When COVID-19 hit, it disrupted production in most markets around the world, leading to a pause in some of the format momentum that had been building over the previous 12 months. But now, cameras are rolling again, and Pinto feels a shift back to the energy of the pre-pandemic days.
This dynamism is strengthened by a recent deal that brings Global Agency’s Is That Really Your Voice? to French broadcaster TF1 as Good Singers. Created in 2013 by Pinto himself, the format is based on the unique idea of being able to spot talented singers by looking at the contestants, though without hearing them sing.
The concept for the format came to Pinto while watching a YouTube video of Susan Boyle, a Scottish singer who rose to fame after appearing as a contestant on a talent show. Boyle had an unconventional look, but a killer voice and Pinto was inspired.
“When we meet someone, we all love to guess what their background is or what their profession is without knowing them,” he says. “She didn’t look like a good singer at that moment, so when she said she was going to sing, people were kind of laughing. But when she started singing, she blew everyone away; everybody stood up and started clapping! There was such a great energy behind it, to amaze and surprise people. That idea clicked with me.”
And thus, the comedy, musical guessing game Is That Really Your Voice? was born. “This idea was so unique, but it took some time to get more attention,” Pinto recalls.
The series landed a deal in China, where it was a success, but there were elements that Pinto and the team felt could be improved. “We didn’t love the adaptation,” he says. “So, we said: the next time we license this format, we will put in all the proper elements to make it a perfect show.”
When TF1 came on board, Pinto “knew it was going to be an amazing adaptation—they have done Dancing with the Stars and others. They were really serious about it. We worked together day and night for three months, so many emails, Zoom meetings and Skype calls! We were working out what elements to change and how everything should be done, and the result is an amazing adaptation.”
And it shows in the results: Good Singers premiered on TF1 on July 17 and garnered a stellar response. It was a top trending topic on Twitter during its debut, with a flurry of positive comments from viewers who were reacting to the original premise. “The TF1 team was so happy,” says Pinto, “as there was a 40 percent increase in viewership from the previous week. To have such an increase on the main commercial channel is huge; even 5 or 10 percent is big, but 40 percent—wow!”
With the French version officially a success, Global Agency has been receiving an outpouring of interest for other local adaptations. “We have closed our first license deal,” he teases, not yet ready to reveal the details. “All the major territories and networks are interested. I hope this can be the next big thing.”
Pinto believes it has all the qualities to be a breakout success in what is quite a competitive prime-time arena. “It is such a feel-good show,” he says. “It has excitement, guessing play-along elements. I was watching with my 7-year-old son and even he was guessing! It’s so fun to watch. It can be the next The Masked Singer; it has that potential.”
Pinto also created the format Keep Your Light Shining, which has been licensed in ten countries, including Germany, China, Thailand and Ukraine. “That was a success for me, but I think this will be a bigger one,” he says of Is That Really Your Voice? “I expect this will be in 50 or 60 territories with multiple seasons.”
The format Legend was also an original creation from Pinto. “I love creating formats; it’s my greatest hobby and motivation. You really need patience, though. It can take years to reach one territory. I want to create more.”
Global Agency is also supporting many format creators, especially in Turkey, and financing pilots. “I see the format business as kind of like the lottery,” he explains. “One may win big, some flop, but at the end of the day, it’s fun.”
Having set up Global Agency on the basis of a single format, Perfect Bride, Pinto says he will always have a passion for this business, even though the catalog has diversified with hit Turkish drama titles.
“In the last five or six years, I have wanted to have an even balance in my business of formats and dramas,” he says. “But drama became a bigger business because we never had a big prime-time franchise on our hands. We had good daytime franchises like Shopping Monsters, Momsters, Blind Taste and Joker. But in order to grow big in formats, you need a prime-time franchise. If Is That Really Your Voice? becomes big, I will be able to balance Global Agency’s format and drama businesses—and I will reach my target finally.”