Last month, RTL Group announced the launch of a new creative unit, Format Creation Group (FC Group), which will develop non-scripted formats exclusively for RTL broadcasters and streaming services. Jointly financed by RTL Group’s major broadcasters, FC Group will focus on the development of factual-entertainment formats and reality shows, working closely with these broadcasters to reflect their needs in the local markets. Heading up these efforts is Matthias Scholten, managing director of RTL Group’s FC Group, who spoke to TV Formats Weekly about the overall vision for this joint collaboration to bring about “the next big thing.”
TV FORMATS: What led to the creation of FC Group?
SCHOLTEN: The international “Total Video” industry has become increasingly marked by a growing appetite for exclusive content. The Format Creation Group was launched to meet this demand by developing innovative format ideas and intellectual property fully owned and controlled by RTL Group. The unit will focus on the development of factual-entertainment formats and reality shows and will work closely with RTL broadcasters to reflect their needs in the local markets.
Successful programs in the Netherlands also often work well in Germany, France or Spain, and conversely, a format that flopped in one country is generally also likely to flop in another European country. At FC Group, we can learn from the different experiences within the RTL Group broadcasters to become ever more innovative.
TV FORMATS: How will FC Group be working directly with RTL broadcasters?
SCHOLTEN: FC Group will be jointly financed by RTL Group’s major broadcasters Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, Groupe M6 and RTL Nederland and thus, be an add-on to the development teams from RTL broadcasters. The development teams within the broadcasters are close to their own daily fires and rightly have their focus on the time slots of their own channels—we will bear this in mind.
Above all, it takes time to develop a show properly. I want to come up with formats that will surprise the broadcasters and pique their curiosity. We hope to co-develop with the country teams; this is a joint effort to create value for every country. I am convinced that this project will really involve working in close cooperation alongside the teams within the broadcasters.
We will focus on big entertainment as a whole. The FC Group will also be reactive to what countries are looking for, whether that be a new Saturday night dating show, a new quiz or music format. We will also aim to develop our own originals and surprise everyone with unique new concepts. All in all, it will be a blend of our own creativity and the needs and briefings from the respective countries—a truly joint approach.
TV FORMATS: What are the resources that FC Group will be tapping into to bring about these bold and creative new ideas?
SCHOLTEN: We are now in the process of forming the team, and then we will turn toward developing the initial projects. I will build the team up from scratch, as my personal network is in the Netherlands, and the FC Group will be based in Hilversum—starting as a small team of format creatives, graphic designers and video editors with the ambition of becoming an international team in the coming years.
TV FORMATS: In general, how are the models for developing formats shifting in today’s marketplace, and why is it necessary to tap into new creative alignments, such as FC Group, to bring about new format ideas?
SCHOLTEN: In the past, craftmanship and gut feelings were the most important elements for the development of a new idea. While I’m glad that expertise still plays a huge role in the creative process, we also cannot underestimate the importance of data insights as a source of inspiration going forward.
There are romanticized tales of a “one-man show” in the world of format development, but my experience is that we now live in a “network era,” where the best ideas are developed together—the creatives, the broadcasters and the producers coming together to produce great content.
Inevitably, there is always a firestarter, a person who enters the room and sparks that first idea. A book they read, a movie they watched, an exchange they had—from there, the conversation starts, one sentence at a time and then an entire concept begins to form. In terms of creativity, I can say we are very ambitious; we want to come up with the next big thing in the industry!
TV FORMATS: What are the main benefits you see from forming a creative unit like this one that works across borders to develop new non-scripted formats?
SCHOLTEN: The most important element is to be in control of the intellectual property, that is to say, the format rights. In these increasingly competitive times, production companies may decide to pull their successful shows from our broadcasters or increase the prices every season. With many new streaming services in the market, it will become more difficult to get the proven successes for our TV channels. Thus, we are exploring all possible ways to develop and own new hit formats.