GRB Media Ranch’s Sophie Ferron

Last fall, GRB Studios and Media Ranch struck up a joint venture for distribution. The move combines the two companies’ extensive content catalogs and proven formats, coupled with the years of entertainment business experience of Gary R. Benz and Sophie Ferron. Ferron, co-founder and president of GRB Media Ranch, talks to TV Formats Weekly about the strengths of the new distribution entity and shares her view on the state of the current formats landscape.

TV FORMATS: What is your view on the overall health and vibrancy of the unscripted entertainment/formats sector at present?
FERRON: We are in a state of change. Distributors and creators are still finding their way through significant changes in the corporate structures of the networks and buyers. Budgets are reduced, while quality must stay premium. That being said, there are clear indicators that we are headed for positive outcomes. Pilots and presentations are being commissioned. Older formats are finding their way to new audiences, and new twists (Golden Bachelor is a prime example) ensure that known IP remains fresh.

We are still seeing a demand for social experiments and different takes on dating. While game and competition are always in demand, social experiments and dating are hitting the sweet spot where relatable reality and higher-stakes intrigue meet.

Most of our conversations revolve around prime time, with access prime a close second.

TV FORMATS: Tell me about the combination of GRB Studios and Media Ranch for the format space and the strengths of this combined strategy.
FERRON: The joint venture has allowed both companies to expand their libraries. Proven titles that are sold as finished programs can be reviewed and adapted as formats when appropriate. We also work closely together to see what finished programs are selling at any given time. We can take that data and develop formats for those territories that match what they are looking for.

TV FORMATS: How are you looking back at the GRB Studios slate to see if there are format opportunities for some of the library titles?
FERRON: We don’t try to force it if a GRB Studios project is not a format. It is case by case. That said, we are further developing the format structure of our flagship medical reality series Untold Stories of the ER, which has been sold in over 150 countries. Localization would be a natural progression of this series.

We would look at the initial structure of the show and work with the GRB team to learn more about its history and how it sold. If we feel that the show can be adapted or work as a format, we bring the rights holder into the conversation and collaborate.

TV FORMATS: Overall, where do you see the bright spots and opportunities in the formats landscape at present?
FERRON: We are seeing buyers be more receptive to paper and a desire to explore formats that are not instantly known as hits. The last few months have given us reason to believe that the future is quite bright and that there is a hunger for new voices and talent.