The never-ending search for the next big thing in entertainment formats was on the agenda at MIPFormats and MIPTV last week as everyone from global behemoths to digital upstarts hyped their new wares to broadcasters and platforms eager for a compelling new idea.
Peter Salmon, chief creative officer at Endemol Shine Group, touted the new talent competition All Together Now in his MIPFormats session, in which he was interviewed by World Screen’s Anna Carugati. Salmon has high hopes for the format globally, even though he noted that it’s difficult to break out with a new talent competition today. “There are some amazing formats out there—The Voice, The X Factor, Idols. It’s very hard to break into the Saturday night, weekend entertainment market with a new talent show. We set out from the beginning to be a new, energetic, challenger brand to those big shows. It’s been a long time since a big singing talent show has been launched.” All Together Now, Salmon said, “can work anywhere, it’s very inclusive, very diverse, and you can tailor it any way you want.”
The format, which is headed to Australia, originated on BBC One, which has signed up for a second season. Kate Phillips, the controller of BBC Entertainment, commissioned the brand from Endemol Shine’s Remarkable Television. “We have to take risks,” said Phillips of the BBC’s approach to programming. “We’re not a commercial channel, we can probably try things out, and I think I’ve taken a lot of risks since I started. I have a team who feel passionately about new ideas. When I started the job, we put over 50 ideas into development at all levels and worked hand in hand with the indies of all sizes in bringing those shows to life. I will always take risks. I will always commission from paper, tape, whatever grabs us. There’s nothing that gets me more excited than a new idea that feels distinctive and fresh.”
On competing with FAANGs, Phillips said, “I think it’s brilliant that there are people putting this amount of money into our industry. From a point of view of my friends running indies, great, there’s another outlet. In the factual-entertainment space, they are definitely tough competition. In terms of our big Saturday night shows, I don’t see [online platforms] so much as competition. It’s like with sporting events. Sporting events are live, shared experiences. No one knows what’s going to happen. That’s what it’s like with big talent shows. You’re watching it together, you’re waiting for the result, and you go into work the next day and everyone is talking about it and you’re waiting for next week. Those big, special, appointment-to-view pieces sit very well on terrestrial channels.”
Alex Mahon, CEO of rival U.K. broadcaster Channel 4, expressed a similar perspective in her MIPFormats keynote. “The concept of distinctiveness in a post-Netflix world is more important than ever,” she said. As is relevance for linear broadcasters. “Why does the audience need you, what do you provide to the market that others don’t?”
Mahon went on to say, “You might think the market is more fragmented, but big shows are getting bigger. We used to talk about event television as, Are you watching at 8 p.m. on Saturday night? It’s now, Did you see what I saw this week? That’s about relevancy. No matter how you window across that, whether it’s VOD or live or repeat, there’s a demand from consumers for that.”
On the lack of new big format hits over the last few years, Mahon commented, “There is a tendency in our business to de-risk everything. Things don’t take off really fast and then they are abandoned. The answer to that is to open up the risk windows in the schedule, where risks can be taken. So that might be later, or daytime. And do it enough, repeatedly, so there isn’t the inherent fear locked into every individual show. And to encourage the environment where you can be open and ask about things and try ideas without diluting them by risking every element.”
At mobile-first content studio Vertical Networks, there is less risk with new ideas because the company is heavily reliant on data. The producer of Snapchat’s biggest show, Phone Swap, combines “creative with data,” said CEO Tom Wright in his MIPFormats session, moderated by World Screen’s Carugati. “By the time we make a show, we’re quietly confident, based on the math, that that show is going to be successful. And everything we make is designed to go to television. Everything we make, the end goal is to make big global TV formats.”
The company’s specialty, Wright explained, is “dense formats,” targeted to audiences with limited time—and attention spans. “If you look at a traditional piece of television, one could argue that you might have a 22-minute show and within it, you might have 4 minutes of really good stuff and then packaging. Our approach is to remove all the packaging. If you treat impatience as a virtue, with that comes the requirement that when you’re building a format, there isn’t time to explain what the format is. You have to get into it. There is an obligation that anything you provide for that audience has to be immediately impactful and rewarding. You’ve got to earn the right for exposition. You can’t assume you have this sit-back audience. They have everything in the world they could be doing with their time if you lose [their] attention.”
So what is captivating the attention of buyers? The big format brands remain in high demand, such as BBC Studios’ Dancing with the Stars, which is headed to Nepal. Keshet International secured a raft of new deals for Masters of Dance, including in Vietnam and Norway. In the game-show space, Warner Bros. International Television Production Spain (WBITVP Spain) secured a commission from Antena 3 for Game of Games. And on the fact-ent side, Channel 4 renewed Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, and ITV ordered a second season of What Would Your Kid Do? Seven in Australia, meanwhile, snapped up the format and finished tape rights to all3media international’s The Real Full Monty.
Some new concepts also generated headlines at MIPFormats, with the Italian series Light My Fire! selected as the winner of Formagination at MIPFormats: The International Format Pitch. Armoza Formats, partner of Formagination at MIPFormats, secured its first deal on The Surprise Teacher. Endemol Shine Group picked up two new properties last week, LEGO Masters, a talent format, and the game show Puzzle Masters. And as part of its efforts to deliver a new wave of titles with global appeal, Keshet International entered into a pact with Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation (YTV) in Japan to co-develop a non-scripted format.
Scripted formats were also a hot commodity last week. India’s Applause Entertainment licensed the remake rights for three of Armoza Formats’ scripted series, including the crime thriller Hostages. Dori Media Group clinched an agreement with TV Azteca for its daily drama Lalola. And Ukraine’s STB TV channel scored the rights to adapt Nippon TV’s Mother, which has already been remade in Korea and Turkey.
Catch up on these stories and more on TVFormats.ws and look out for more recaps throughout the week.