Shigeko Cindy Chino, associate managing director of international business development at Nippon TV, talks about the momentum in its global format business.
From the early stages of the coronavirus spread, Nippon TV quickly prepared itself to face the reality of productions halting around the globe. And its swift action, coupled with clever creative sparks, has led to some nice momentum in its global format business.
“It is not surprising if we are to be affected by the revenue streams derived from regional format adaptations,” says Shigeko Cindy Chino, associate managing director of international business development at Nippon TV. “Now, as we are adjusting to moving forward under the new norms, our hit brands are reappearing, not only with a pool of archive content but in various COVID-friendly styles. The marketplace now seems to be looking for workable programs complying to safety measures, but also those that have a stress-free feel from the various restrictions. This is now a valuable time for us to review our catalog from a different perspective and to concentrate on developing fresh ideas that satisfy our viewers’ evolving appetite.”
In Japan, a state of emergency was declared in early April and was lifted at the end of May. A voluntary ban on various activities has been imposed on daily lives, and broadcast scheduling had to adjust to what could be provided without newly shot entertainment. “After the two months, production picked up, navigated by an internal safety-measure team; transparent partitions and remote cameras became routine to keep social distance amongst the cast,” Chino explains. “Also, audiences are still not allowed in studio recording, which must be shot within a limited time span by a limited number of crew.”
She says that all the inconveniences led to not only safety but also a new kind of energy in the company’s creativity. “A great change has been taken in the way we entertain our viewers, and there is now more focus on the enhancement of production values. For example, our summer special version of the hit game-show format Mute it!, with the simple rule: don’t make any sounds, just aired in August and proved successful as a fun-packed entertainment show with celebrity contestants facing obstacles and hazards in a deadly silent environment. The vivid tension and liveliness created from this unique studio set with no audiences proved workable in our domestic market and also added momentum to our progressing global format business. Mute it! offers solutions to many of our clients searching for a game show with an Asian twist.”
Likewise, she says, there is much anticipation for the localization of the game-show format Red Carpet Survival, to be produced by ITV Studios, along with the Quibi-commissioned pastry game show Sokkuri Sweets (Eye Candy).
This fall, Nippon TV is offering two brand-new formats. The unscripted game-show format Piggyback Challenge “fills in the gaps in our hearts to affirm strong bonds with one’s dearest partner,” says Chino. The show sees couples compete against other pairs while piggybacking their partner as they clear tasks such as shopping, jogging or dining within a time limit, in pursuit of their dream prize. If they fall off, they are out. “Simple as that, this lighthearted human drama is something refreshing as we are experiencing so much distancing instead of physically connecting with each other.”
The scripted format title, Double Booking, is a social genre, “which reflects the times with a look and feel you’ve never seen before,” Chino says. In the series, the worst possible scenario for a date begins to unfold in different ways: the story of fooling and being fooled among one man who made a mistake of double booking a date with two different women takes place entirely through computer screens. “But just when you think this is a frantic love comedy, an unexpected twist in the final three minutes sets the stage for some hardcore suspense!”
Alongside offering these proven formats, Nippon TV is pushing further on its strategic creative collaborations with global partners “because we see these as investments in our future business in which we aim to expand on our slate of brands,” Chino says. “The successful adaptation of our physical studio game show BLOCK OUT in Thailand, a co-development with Red Arrow Studios, became a track record for the other Southeast Asian territories—Vietnam, Indonesia and some others that we have yet to announce. This sparked interest among Red Arrow’s clients and led to deals, breaking through Western borders.” Spain and Holland have local treatments to come this year, and more European countries are to follow.
“Currently, we are holding weekly discussions with the London-based The Story Lab through video conferences to create a totally new type of entertainment format with fresh creative perspectives, scalable and returnable across multiple territories,” Chino says. “Project members from Singapore, Holland, the U.K., U.S. and Japan have overcome time differences in exchange for attaining the chemistry that sparks between The Story Lab’s global reach and Nippon TV’s time-proven creativity. It is amazing how much we have accomplished given the travel restrictions and separation we had to overcome. Details of the format will be unveiled for MIPCOM, but we are sure it is to provide solutions to broadcasters and platforms looking for an explosive new format that will be relevant to the savvy viewers of today.”
For the year to come, Nippon TV will continue to leverage its creative initiatives despite this unprecedented pandemic world, Chino adds. “I am happy to witness a lot of our formats now resonating in the global market. Also, our strategic partnership with global partners will continue as long as we can both cherish from sharing our destination.”