Nippon TV Scripts Success in Format Marketplace

Yuki Akehi, head of marketing for international business development at Nippon TV, talks to TV Formats about the company’s many scripted shows that have traveled the world as formats.

There has been a wave of success for Nippon TV with its scripted shows traveling the world as formats in the last few years. “The time was ripe for scripted formats, because so many digital platforms were emerging and one way to succeed was to stream captivating drama series,” says Yuki Akehi, head of marketing for international business development at Nippon TV. “There was a heightened need around the world for good scripts. Our producers were creating great stories and were also understanding of the complicated international adaptation process, so we took that as a chance to spread our content internationally.”

Well-established Korean production houses took note of hit series such as The Queen’s Classroom, The Pride of the Temp, Mother and I’m Mita, Your Housekeeper. Then, Turkish producers MF Yapim and Medyapim discovered Mother and Woman –My Life for My Children–, and the local treatments were a hit. “These international versions were welcomed beyond expectations by their local viewers, ***Image***who have discerning eyes for good storytelling,” says Akehi. Mother has also been adapted by Ukraine’s STB, and the format is on its way to having a French version produced by Incognita Films.

“It is, indeed, a fascinating story, very original and unlike anything that has been created before,” says Akehi. “Our producer Hisashi Tsugiya and director Nobuo Mizuta got together to develop an original story for our Wednesday prime-time drama slot. We had joined forces with the award-winning script writer Yuji Sakamoto, and when they got together to build their original story for a drama series, they talked about what made them furious. After many meetings and research, their consensus was that child abuse just might be one of the cruelest of crimes. This is how the story-writing process began, and the Japanese audience was intrigued by this heart-wrenching story.”

The show, she says, is adaptable because the story is highly relatable. “Just as despicable as child abuse itself, if not worse, is the all-too-common tendency of society to turn a blind eye to evidence of such exploitation. Mother is the story of a woman who responds to an abused girl’s silent cries for help.” It explores the meaning of motherhood in modern society.

When the creators of Mother set out to create a new series, they wanted to depict stories of people whose voices are not heard in society. “The next theme was poverty among young women, especially single mothers,” Akehi explains. The team created Woman –My Life for My Children–, which tells an emotional story of a mother’s unconditional love for her children and her economic plight in a harsh reality. This series depicted a woman’s fight to survive in a difficult world, while shedding light on problems rooted in society.

Both Mother and Woman –My Life for My Children– had very successful Turkish adaptations, and Nippon TV has signed several other scripted-format deals in this market. “The Turkish audience loves to watch series with a female lead and a strong melodramatic plot, which fit our storytelling strength,” says Akehi. “At Nippon TV, our Wednesday prime-time 10 p.m. slot is dedicated to creating great stories targeted at the female audience. ***Image***Not only do we air the series, it is immediately available on Hulu Japan, as well as other digital platforms. We monitor social media posts about the reaction that the viewers have and incorporate to strengthen the story as we go along. This gives our creators an authentic, high understanding of what the viewers want to see. This has built up over decades of creating dramas within Nippon TV, and I believe that is why our stories are so good and lasting.”

Mother (Turkish title Anne) was an instant hit, and has now been distributed to nearly 40 countries worldwide. “We heard that everybody in Turkey cried when they saw Anne, but now believe that everybody in the world cries when they see Anne,” Akehi says. Anne received the 2019 honorable award from the Turkish government as the most exported TV series of the year 2018.

Kadin, theTurkish adaptation of Woman –My Life for My Children–, started airing immediately after Anne ended, “in order to keep the momentum going,” Akehi says. “We heard that viewers were at a loss when Anne ended, but MF Yapim had predicted that phenomenon in advance and had acquired our format, Woman –My Life for My Children–. Even more well-received than Anne, Kadin became number one in the ratings and successfully continued to attract many audiences to reach its third season. The international distribution is even expected to exceed the international success of Anne.”

MF Yapim and Medyapim have already lined up deals with Nippon TV to adapt OASIS -a love story-, My Son and Abandoned as well.

Alongside the Turkish deals, the company has found recent success in Thailand with its scripted formats. Abandoned was adapted by JSL Global Media, marking the first time a Nippon TV scripted format was adapted in Southeast Asia. The Thai adaptation aired on LINE TV in spring 2019 and became an instant hit with the viewers in Thailand. It went on to be recognized as the best drama for family and society at Thailand’s Maya Awards 2019.

Abandoned is set in a children’s home for girls abandoned by their parents. “JSL Global Media shared that it was so rare in Thailand that this type of drama would be incredibly well-received, being that it was so different from any other local series,” says Akehi. “The feedback from the audiences had been great, and they are proud to say that what they had achieved was something extraordinary in their country’s content creation history.” She adds, “We expect more of our series to be adapted by Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries.”

Nippon TV’s success with scripted formats should not overshadow the standouts in the entertainment arena, though. It is home to Dragons’ Den/Shark Tank, widely regarded as the top business reality TV show. “We just announced with Sony Pictures Television that it now has 40 versions, airing in 186 countries,” Akehi shares. “Since launching in 2001 as Money Tigers on Nippon TV, the format has become a phenomenal worldwide success.” The show continues to find new audiences too, airing for the first time in 2019 in Hungary on RTL Klub, Thailand on Channel 7 Wandee Media and on Switzerland’s CH Medien TV24, with the format being developed in further territories, including Bangladesh.

“Our mission has been to create the next standout format, and our latest, BLOCK OUT, developed with Red Arrow Studios, was created and instantly became popular in Asia, namely Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia,” says Akehi. Exciting, action-packed, hilarious studio game shows are always in demand, and just like our scripted formats, these genres are our forte as well. We have plans on announcing more territories to create local versions of BLOCK OUT in the coming months.”

Nippon TV revealed another one of its latest game-show formats, Red Carpet Survival, at MIPCOM 2019. It, too, has already garnered interest in major markets. Sokkuri Sweets and Beat the Rooms, which were recently made into formats, are also in negotiations for international adaptations. “We try to do our best to make each format work in the local territories and extend our full support to our partners, which we believe makes a difference,” she adds.

The team at Nippon TV is well aware of the fact that the international marketplace is steeped with long-running successful formats, leaving little room to break through. “As we are in constant negotiations with many partners for both scripted and non-scripted formats, we have learned that there is still demand for something with a new perspective,” Akehi says. “Together with our global partners, we are trying to dive in to that specific space.

“Our corporate strategy is putting more emphasis on international developments,” she continues. “These adaptations give our national creators so much confidence that their ideas and hard work will also be successful internationally. Our division is the nexus that brings these unique ideas to the world and we will keep going strong in 2020, too.”