A competition format with a beloved brand at its center, LEGO Masters sees eight pairs of amateurs battle against each other in the building of unique and daring LEGO block creations. Judged on design, originality and construction skills, they vie to be named the most talented amateur LEGO builders by the LEGO Group’s VP of design, expert judges and celebrity AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO). Each episode sees the top-rated teams move on to the next round—until the finale, where one pair earns the title of LEGO Masters.
Banijay acquired the distribution rights to LEGO Masters through the merger with Endemol Shine, which had represented the format and finished-tape rights outside the U.K. for the series, produced by Tuesday’s Child Television and The LEGO Group. “When Tuesday’s Child first pitched the concept, we immediately saw the potential of the show to become a global hit,” says Simon Cox, senior VP of acquisitions at Banijay Rights. “The style, tone and cheekiness were completely unique, and we knew it would fit well into the portfolio of formats and taste of production labels globally. Meanwhile, it was a very attractive distribution offering for broadcasters around the world, too.”
Tuesday’s Child held a competitive tender process for the distribution rights to LEGO Masters, with half a dozen major companies involved, explains Karen Smith, the company’s CEO. “The winning pitch was powerful and persuasive, and as former joint managing director of Shine TV, I knew the company’s network of local producers with expertise in making formats such as MasterChef would be the perfect partners to produce LEGO Masters in their territories.”
During its initial launch on Channel 4 in the U.K., LEGO Masters proved to be a star performer with the promise to win over markets around the world, according to Cox. “We began talking to Tuesday’s Child just before the first season aired on Channel 4, and it didn’t take long to strike the initial deals,” he says. “Australia and Germany were among the earliest countries to come on board. There was a huge amount of interest from the U.S. early on, too, and it was big news when FOX picked up the show with Will Arnett hosting.”
Tuesday’s Child’s Smith adds, “It’s testament to the strength of the format, the quality of the producers and how universally well-loved the LEGO brand is that sees the format rating through the roof and returning for multiple seasons in every territory that buys it. We’re confident this year will be the biggest yet for our format.”
Thus far, LEGO Masters has been produced for a total of 11 markets, with the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Poland and France all airing local versions of the format; and a co-production between Belgium and the Netherlands airing across both countries. “Last year was actually the most successful year yet for LEGO Masters, with seven productions airing across eight markets,” notes Lucas Green, global head of content operations for creative networks at Banijay. “This format is family-friendly reality TV at its feel-good best, with ratings reflecting the popularity across all ages. In December, the first series of LEGO Masters wrapped successfully in Poland and Sweden, and the debut in France was ranked as the best launch for a new series on M6. First series runs of LEGO Masters doubled prime-time averages in the U.K. and Australia and was FOX’s number one launch of the season in the U.S.”
Key to LEGO Masters’ success is its nostalgia factor as a much-beloved brand. “We partner closely with LEGO, a company with strong family values, working hand-in-hand to maintain editorial integrity,” says Green. “LEGO is a product we are very happy to be associated with because they are not just a market leader in their field, but the very best at what they do. That’s something we can all aspire to.
In addition to its unique take on the talent competition, Green points out that LEGO Masters is also “a fantastic vehicle for big-name talent as a host.”
Central to LEGO Masters, no matter the market, is its visual spectacle, its playfulness and that ability to bring out the kid in every viewer, according to Green. A flexible and scalable format, it can be adapted to suit different broadcast models, meeting various volume and episode duration requirements. And local producers are given the freedom to devise tasks to appeal to their respective audiences.
“We have access to production assets with over 30 challenges that have been devised and tested and can be used around the world,” says Green. “We work very hard with local producers to share best practices because we want the creations to meet a very high standard. Ultimately, success is driven by builds that wow and amaze the viewers.” Green also notes how vital it is to give the builders adequate time to complete their tasks. “You can’t expect even the best LEGO Master to build genius designs in 20 minutes.”
Banijay, Tuesday’s Child and LEGO are all keen to see LEGO Masters continue to land in new markets, according to Green. “We want to push the boundaries and launch across Asia,” he says. “In some countries, the plastic bricks don’t have the same nostalgia value, but LEGO is so visual and creative, it can launch straight into a market and still capture an audience’s imagination. We won’t sleep until LEGO Masters is in production in all 22 Banijay footprint territories—it really does have that level of universal appeal.”