MediaLane’s Iris van den Ende

An indie producer based in the Netherlands, MediaLane has put a premium on entertainment that’s accessible for a wide audience. This is evident in its string of hits—from the shiny-floor entertainment format Stars on Stage to the family quiz show The Connection and talent competition Aria. Iris van den Ende, founder and CEO, talks to TV Formats about the Netherlands as a hotbed for creativity.

TV FORMATS: When launching MediaLane, what did you set out to create, and how has this evolved to where it is today?
VAN DEN ENDE: I’ve always wanted to create high-level entertainment with the best possible production value for everyone to enjoy. This can be an amazing TV format or series but also includes musicals and/or concerts. Growing up with both of my parents in the business, I’ve been very fortunate to experience the magic of something beautiful being created in the studio from a very young age. My parents’ passion for the business became mine, and in 2014, I started MediaLane, an independent production company with great ambitions to produce high-level content for TV, live and theater. We work in collaboration with commercial and public broadcasters, theaters, venues, licensees and brands. Our focus is to make entertainment accessible to the general public with the slogan: We are live. Always. Everywhere. For everyone.

We believe in the power of talent as the heart of our content. That’s why we work closely with established as well as upcoming talent. We work with the best teams of professionals and specialists in every department and field, not only in front of the camera but also behind the scenes. We are a talent-driven company—from concept to production to commerce to the final product.

TV FORMATS: Talk to me about the type of content you’re looking to bring to the market.
VAN DEN ENDE: In the Netherlands, we produce a wide range of content with one thing in common: it’s always high-level and for everyone to enjoy. It varies from big shiny-floor studio entertainment (such as Stars on Stage and Aria), quiz shows (like The Connection), infotainment, documentaries and also drama series.

For the international market, our main focus will be on our big studio entertainment formats, all of them real, pure family entertainment and all formats that translate easily to any international market. Our most recent launch last MIPCOM, Stars on Stage, is currently in active development in eight major territories already, including countries such as France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Australia. The amount of interest has really been overwhelming, and we can’t wait to see the first international versions.

TV FORMATS: What makes the Netherlands such a hotbed for creativity?
VAN DEN ENDE: Firstly, Endemol, the company founded by my father, Joop van den Ende, and John de Mol, played a big role in showcasing the Netherlands as an amazing creative format country. Formats like Big Brother and Deal or No Deal simply changed the format landscape and opened the doors to many other collaborations. It’s not only the creation, but also the distribution and sales power we have to make sure that the world knows what we’re doing and also the risks people are willing to take.

John de Mol is still a big player, is not afraid to invest himself and is still bringing many formats to the international market with his company Talpa Networks. Also, other Dutch people, like Reinout Oerlemans for example, achieved a lot internationally with 3 Ball Entertainment.

What also helps is that our broadcasters are not afraid to take on paper concepts. We are allowed to experiment and to see what works and what doesn’t. Because of this, I think relatively many new formats come out of the Netherlands. What also helps is that our viewer is brutally honest, so if it works here, the chances of success elsewhere are pretty high.

TV FORMATS: Looking at the broader entertainment landscape, what’s working best in both unscripted and scripted formats these days?
VAN DEN ENDE: Right now, we see that positive family entertainment works really well. Programs that will bring the whole family in front of the screen and that will give you a positive vibe—formats such as The Masked Singer, The Great British Bake Off, The Traitors, LEGO Masters and Stars on Stage. They are cozy programs to watch together with the family, fun for both young and old and simply heartwarming.

And another important ingredient to success these days is satire and humor. Our format Even tot Hier (News The Musical), in which two comedians are turning the main news events into a musical parody in a prime time Saturday night show, is one of the most-watched shows in the Netherlands.

Also, formats where you can experience as a viewer the physical and mental struggle of people in, for example, Special Forces VIPS, continue to perform. Also in the Netherlands, we see the trend of hit revivals.

TV FORMATS: What are you hearing from commissioners about their needs for entertainment these days?
VAN DEN ENDE: All broadcasters are looking for these surefire hit shows—great entertainment that attracts millions of viewers on the weekend prime-time slots without too much risk. Big shiny floor simply works as well as humor and satire. These genres will remain very popular, as [they] will guarantee you a wide audience and great results in all target groups.

TV FORMATS: In surveying the marketplace, what are the opportunities you see?
VAN DEN ENDE: The desire for quality content remains. Despite budget cuts and the increase in production costs, there are still opportunities, and we simply need to be smarter on how to produce cost-effectively and create content that will last and that remains of that high-quality level. Also, new clients such as streaming services create new opportunities.

With Stars on Stage, The Connection and Aria, we have developed and produced original formats that are good examples of great family entertainment with very impressive results in all target groups. For the upcoming years, we will continue to create these types of formats, and we’re very much looking forward to expanding our international footprint. We are fortunate to be working with amazing partners around the globe already and will focus on strengthening these relationships and hopefully create many new ones as well.