Timur Weinstein, NTV Broadcasting Company’s general producer, talks to TV Formats about how NTV’s crime dramas are being adapted as scripted formats.
NTV’s catalog has more than 2,500 hours of content and more than half are crime dramas. “We are the top producers of criminal genre series in Russia, which means a great selection of amazing formats,” says Timur Weinstein, NTV Broadcasting Company’s general producer. “Every year we bring up to 500 hours of brand-new projects with us. So just imagine how many original stories and new untapped cases are waiting to be adapted and distributed worldwide. International audiences are hungry for new original ideas and content, so our shows travel to India, Israel, France and many other countries.”
He adds that the marketplace is looking for original stories that are rooted in local culture, but have universal values—making them ripe for adaptation. “NTV projects feature lots of action, strong characters and unpredictable plot twists, and it makes them easily adaptable for any market,” Weinstein says.
“We all know that crime dramas hold the highest share of demand worldwide; people always want this kind of content,” he continues. “What they also want is originality and our series have just that. We love to create mixed-genre projects where the viewers are exposed to unpredictable twists, where they cannot guess what happens next. We achieve that by experimenting with genres.” For example, by blending thriller elements with a melodrama like in Shadow Behind or thriller with crime and fantasy elements as in Beyond Death.
“To make our shows stand out even more, we use top experts who help us shape the stories to make them realistic and believable,” Weinstein says. “We use real-life cases directly or create series that are based on true events. For example, Death Highway, bought by Armoza Formats, has originated from a real criminal case about a GTA gang attacking motorists on the M4 highway.”
The popularity of crime dramas in the scripted-format marketplace comes down to the characters, he says. “Criminal dramas have the best way of showcasing different sides of human nature, and this is what we do well: create strong characters. Action and crime usually push the characters to the edge, they reveal the darkest personality traits and that keeps the audience hooked.”
NTV’s Paper Pusher tells the story of a small, quiet man who, when put under pressure, turns into a really strong, even ruthless person. The series scored a 17-percent viewing share and a second season is on the way.
Meanwhile, Dinosaur takes viewers on a rollercoaster journey, where an old criminal who’s always been a lone wolf, transforms into a loving family man. He has to choose between his criminal ways or his family and, at the same time, he has to be a role model for his granddaughter. “The skillfully intertwined character’s personal issues and the strong action component made the series super popular,” says Weinstein. “its ratings skyrocketed to 20.7 percent, leaving behind all other channels.” Season two is in production.
Some of NTV’s scripted titles that have been licensed as formats include the mystical thrillers Sleepers and Death Highway, and the criminal dramas/thrillers Schubert and The Crow. Weinstein teases that there are a few others that NTV Broadcasting Company isn’t ready to talk about just yet. “We are planning to announce several new format licensing deals with major international distributors in France, Poland, the MENA region and India. This is really exciting and will give our crime dramas an even bigger international footprint.”
As for target markets, the scripted-format sales have been most successful in Europe, notably in Eastern Europe, but lately there has been strong interest from Asia and the MENA region.
For MIPCOM, NTV Broadcasting Company is looking to further its scripted-format business with deals on Invisible Target, about a man with a photographic memory who works for a powerful mafia cartel that murders his beloved girlfriend when he tries to run away. He secures protective custody from the authorities in return for his testimony against the cartel, but his old life is hard to escape. Paper Pusher and Dinosaur are also in the spotlight for format adaptations. As is Reluctant Hero, about a man with an inoperable brain tumor who has nothing left to lose and attempts suicide. The police offer who saves his life comes up with a proposal: he is to take part in risky operations, since death is already inevitable. However, when the man learns his tumor has shrunk, he now literally has to be a hero to stay alive.
“Good series always tell a great story about human nature and human relations, and that’s why dramas travel so well—we all speak the same language when it comes to emotions,” says Weinstein.