ITVS GE Has the Ticket to Love Island

Mike Beale, the executive VP of global development and formats at ITV Studios, talks to TV Formats about the reality-dating show Love Island, which recently returned to ITV2 for a second season.

Most of us are probably familiar with the classic Gilligan’s Island and the three-hour tour that turned into a laughter-inducing stint on an uncharted isle. That title may come to mind upon hearing the name Love Island, but the live realitydating show that ITV Studios Global Entertainment (ITVS GE) launched as a format at MIPCOM 2015 takes viewers on a different kind of tour.

Unlike Gilligan, the millionaire and the rest, the contestants on Love Island willingly ship off to a luxury villa on an exotic island in search of love. The group of singles lives together for the show’s six-week run, hoping to be struck by Cupid’s arrow and leave with a cash prize. Not only is there pressure to hit it off with a fellow housemate, but contestants must also win over the viewers, who can vote to replace them with new singles. “Viewers can genuinely impact the show,” explains Mike Beale, ITV Studios’s executive VP of global development and formats. “It’s not a linear arc dating series where you start with 20 people and end up with the ‘Hollywood ***Image***moment.’ In Love Island, there are people coming, people going. It’s constantly changing.”

“The original incarnation of Love Island dates back to 2005,” says Beale. At that time, ITV was experiencing success with the competition-reality show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, and younger-skewing sister channel ITV2 was looking for a similar summer event that could strip daily and attract a young audience. “So they developed Love Island, in which a group of hot, young, single celebrities moved into a villa in Fiji…and we followed their antics as they went on dates,” Beale explains.

In late 2014, when ITV2 was again searching for a bold summer program, it turned to Love Island. When the show returned to ITV2 last summer, Beale notes, there was “one fundamental change: we took the celebrities out and brought the general public in, which was a moment of brilliance.” So much so that a sophomore season of the new incarnation premiered on ITV2 on May 30. The first episode of the season drew 1.23 million viewers and a 5.4 percent share, higher than the slot average. The debut episode was also the most-tweeted-about show on the day of its broadcast, claiming almost a third of all TV-related tweets in the U.K. that day. Love Island season two also made ITV2 the most-watched digital channel in its first week, and ITV2’s all-time share for the 16 to 34 demographic was the best on record for the channel since 2002.

Now ITVS GE is offering Love Island as a format, and it’s a potential boon for international broadcasters, filling a widespread need for programming that serves as an event. “The best shows at the moment are those that are able to cut through, to act as an event,” Beale emphasizes. “Love Island falls into that category,” with social media playing a key role in encouraging audiences to tune in regularly. “The way Love Island goes out daily enables people to talk about it,” Beale explains.

And talk they do. The 2015 run generated 38 million social-media impressions across Facebook and Twitter from the show’s official accounts. It was also one of the top five most-tweeted about programs every day of transmission. “Twitter moments are the new watercooler moments, and Love Island generates so much noise off-screen that it drives viewers on-screen,” Beale says. “The audience grew across its run, not just on the linear channel, but on catch-up too.”

Audiences can also engage with the show directly. “We’ve launched a brand-new app this year that ups the ante even further on the potential for interactivity,” Beale says. Among other things, the app allows fans to vote on which islanders should leave or enter the villa throughout the season, using the show’s “rolling, live nature to drive interactivity,” he explains. Opportunities for audience engagement can be tailored to each territory where the format is localized.

Beale acknowledges that as Love Island is adapted in other countries, adjustments may be necessary. “Dating shows have to temper their sense of decency based on the slot and the territory, so we’ll have to do that with Love Island,” he notes.

There are some challenges associated with selling a stripped show like Love Island to broadcasters across the globe. “It takes time for channels to find the real estate,” Beale says. Even so, “There are a number of territories we’re talking to about Love Island that are looking at [making space in their schedules]. We can work with a channel [regarding] how to structure the format, and we’re seeing a lot of desire, across Europe especially, for shows like Love Island that can air daily and can attract a younger audience.”

Additionally, since the show has a fixed-rig setup similar to Big Brother, Beale explains, “We’re looking at the opportunity to help networks resolve production issues by possibly finding a location where we can roll countries through to make [production] easier for them.”

As a new set of singletons look for love in Majorca throughout season two, ITV Studios Global Entertainment will continue to entertain international suitors for the budding format.