Media Ranch’s Sophie Ferron

Sophie Ferron, president and executive producer at Media Ranch, talks to TV Formats about the current state of the format business and scouting for new IP in the marketplace through its HorsePower incubator program.

This summer saw the first premiere for Media Ranch’s Watch! format. The debut on ProSieben in Germany was not only important because it took place amid COVID-19 production upheaval, but it also signaled the first launch of many to come for the show, which began as a paper format and quickly notched up deals in 12 territories.

***Image***TV FORMATS: Tell us about the second round of Media Ranch’s HorsePower incubator.
FERRON: HorsePower 2.0 was a resounding success! The creators from this edition were resilient, especially given that they shifted to work-from-home midway through the sessions. We announced the winning format in July, and all the projects were surprising, entertaining and viable. Due to the shift to working from home, round two didn’t have the same “workshop” feeling, but the talent was very strong, and we adapted. In a way, it helped the process and prepared the team for the virtual pitches. HorsePower is very valuable to Media Ranch. It’s a great way for new creators from outside the industry to learn how to write formats and find themselves pitching a network. The ideas are new, exciting and different. Media Ranch leads the trend of distributors getting involved in pre-development and balancing acquisitions with internal creation. HorsePower solidifies Media Ranch’s long-standing reputation as the go-to agency for established and new format creators. We will be announcing news shortly on the future of HorsePower, so stay tuned.

TV FORMATS: What’s your view on the current state of the format business, COVID-19-related and otherwise?
FERRON: While the format business has, of course, encountered some slowdown due to COVID-19, it is still a very vital part of the production ecosystem. At Media Ranch, we are forward-thinking and continually search for new ways to adapt and improve upon format creation and production. Even before the pandemic hit hard, we were working on ways to adapt our formats to a faster production model. Last year we coined the phrase QTF, Quick Turnaround Format, to bring shows to the screen faster. Our new fall/MIPCOM catalog identifies which scalable high-concept formats can be produced quickly, in a high volume and with minimal requirements.

TV FORMATS: What are some of the new production methods that are being used to keep shows moving forward with increased health and safety protocols?
FERRON: We have an actual case study, as our hit format Watch! was produced and aired this past summer in Germany on ProSieben with special COVID-19 protocols. The stage was reconfigured to allow for proper distancing. The way it was produced ensured proper cleaning plans, testing and plexiglass dividers, and it always felt natural to the show. The protocols did not impede on the entertainment value nor the sense of connectivity and interaction.

We were also thrilled that our celebrity prank format, the revival of the hit show Surprise Sur Prise, was produced during the pandemic in France. It’s a big entertainment show with celebrity involvement, and they did it following protocols and managed to reimagine how pranks can be done well while remaining safe.

TV FORMATS: As you look to 2021, where do you see the greatest opportunities for the format business and for Media Ranch?
FERRON: We see a move away from shows that have a “from home” video-conference look and feel. People want to escape, be engaged and entertained. We are excited to be expanding into Asia with our recently announced partnership with Something Special, Jin Woo Hwang’s new format agency. They are taking Watch! for Asia distribution and production, and we are taking two of their hot new formats, Miracle Habits and Miracle Recipes, to represent outside of Asia. Jin is one of the preeminent format experts, and we are thrilled to be working with him and his business partner, Insoon Kim. This exciting collaboration follows our partnership between our HorsePower format incubator and South Korea’s FormatEast (an SBS initiative). We have a reciprocal first-look to represent projects in each other’s territories. We’re taking on their shows Honey in a Box and Boundary(from the creator of South Korea’s hit Running Man). And FormatEast is representing Family Tripped, our winning HorsePower 1.0 title. They are reviewing our HorsePower 2.0 formats, and we are doing the same with their second-edition incubator project. The format business is very much alive and thriving, and we look forward to contributing to the sector for years to come.