Satisfaction Group’s Arthur Essebag

Thanks to its various production companies, Satisfaction Group has an output of upwards of 1,000 hours of shows every year—across all types of platforms in a variety of time slots for a broad audience. Four years ago, the company acquired the French operations of Sony Pictures Television—Sony Pictures Television Production and Starling, specializing in the production of game and entertainment programs. A year later, it entered into a JV in France with John de Mol and Talpa. In 2023, Satisfaction Group acquired a stake in Yes Yes Media, formed a joint venture with James Corden’s Fulwell 73 Productions and created Satisfaction Iberia. Founder Arthur Essebag talks to TV Formats about what’s driving the spate of acquisitions and partnerships.

TV FORMATS: What’s your view on what’s working in today’s entertainment landscape?
ESSEBAG: We’re witnessing a surge in demand for unscripted content, driven by several factors. Firstly, TV channels and streaming platforms are increasingly allocating more slots to unscripted, accommodating the growing appetite of viewers for real-life stories and experiences. Unscripted is also powerful to pool wide audiences. Additionally, unscripted content offers quick production turnaround times and is more cost-effective compared to scripted series, making it an attractive investment for broadcasters. Moreover, the adaptability of unscripted formats across different platforms, including social media, allows for new exploitation streams and broader audience engagement.

TV FORMATS: What are you hearing from commissioners about their needs and wants?
ESSEBAG: Commissioners are expressing a strong interest in innovative and engaging content that resonates with diverse audiences. They value formats that offer fresh perspectives, foster viewer interaction and have the potential for multiplatform distribution. There’s also a growing demand for formats that leverage technology to enhance storytelling and audience engagement, reflecting the evolving media landscape and viewer preferences.

Besides, we are witnessing a back-to-basics momentum with an exponential demand for big quiz shows, including the revival of past big brands. The success of our recent high-end production The Floor (Talpa Studios) is only a confirmation of what is now a real acceleration of the genre. We have recently taped a new celebrity game show, a creation adapted from a board game, only confirming the persisting trend for family and co-viewing programs. I am also thrilled to host one of the most iconic formats in TV history, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, only to seal the trend “quiz one day, quiz every day.”

TV FORMATS: Tell me about the creative ethos guiding Satisfaction Group.
ESSEBAG: At Satisfaction Group, our creative ethos is rooted in innovation, collaboration and entertainment. We strive to create content that captivates audiences, sparks conversation and resonates across cultures. Our approach emphasizes creativity, originality and adaptability, allowing us to develop a diverse portfolio of formats that cater to various audience demographics and preferences. One of our best-selling formats, Anything Goes, adapted in around 40 territories, is living proof that we put first values that are universal and appealing to audiences regardless of their country or social background. Besides, our dedication to creating more disruptive content and more original creation is what drives our partnership with talented independent producers—“the more the merrier,” the more creativity we put around the table, the more originality it will trigger. This is our focus to bring forward and show the market with original creation coming from the talented teams at Satisfaction and at their partners.

TV FORMATS: How did the deal with Sony Pictures Television for the French operations come about?
ESSEBAG: The deal with Sony Pictures Television for the French operations was a strategic move aimed at expanding our presence in the French market and strengthening our content portfolio with valuable assets and iconic brands such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? or The Brainiest. This mutually beneficial arrangement grants Satisfaction with access to all unscripted Sony formats and grants Sony the benefit of our high-quality production and content adaptation for local audiences, such as the success of Dragons’ Den, especially with young adults.

TV FORMATS: Tell me about the partnership with John de Mol and Talpa.
ESSEBAG: Our partnership with Talpa, spearheaded by renowned media entrepreneur John de Mol, has been instrumental in our content strategy. We have a similar approach in terms of creation and production value. By joining forces with Talpa, we have access to a wealth of innovative formats and successful IPs that benefit our historic and strong relationships with all French broadcasters (TF1, M6, France Télévisions), facilitating the development and adaptation of hit formats, further enhancing our leading position.

TV FORMATS: What does the Yes Yes Media stake bring to the company?
ESSEBAG: The stake in Yes Yes Media represents a significant opportunity for Satisfaction Group to tap into new creative talents, innovative formats and emerging technologies. This synergy allows us to diversify our content portfolio, expand our reach in the global market and explore new avenues for audience engagement. This partnership aimed at sealing creative collaboration with one of the most creative people, Richard Bacon, is only driven by his ultimate passion in unscripted formats. [Richard Bacon is behind successful formats such as I Literally Just Told YouThis Is My House and The Hustler.]

TV FORMATS: What appealed to you about entering into a deal with James Corden’s Fulwell 73 Productions?
ESSEBAG: Entering a deal with Fulwell 73 Productions offered us a unique opportunity to collaborate with a talented and renowned production company with a proven track record of success in different genres (scripted, docs and unscripted formats) while opening a new international window to our formats. We were drawn to Fulwell 73’s creative vision, market expertise and global reach, which align with our strategic objectives of expanding into English-language markets and developing innovative content for diverse audiences. This alliance underscores our commitment to forging mutually beneficial partnerships with industry leaders to drive growth and innovation.

TV FORMATS: Tell us more about your recent expansion to Iberia.
ESSEBAG: Expanding into the Spanish-speaking markets with Satisfaction Iberia marks a pivotal moment for our company’s global growth strategy. Teaming up with Daniel Domenjó, a seasoned Spanish producer and host, underscores our commitment to delivering top-notch unscripted content to diverse audiences across Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

Satisfaction Iberia is not just about entering new territories; it’s about embracing cultural nuances, leveraging local expertise and fostering creativity on an international scale. With Daniel’s extensive experience, access to our formats and our proven track record in content creation, we are eager to make a significant impact in these vibrant markets.

Our focus with Satisfaction Iberia is to develop, adapt and produce a wide range of genres, catering to the diverse tastes of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking audiences.

This expansion aligns perfectly with our overarching goal of international consolidation and innovation. By expanding into the rich audiovisual landscape of Spain, Portugal and Latin America, we are solidifying our position as a global leader in unscripted entertainment.

TV FORMATS: What is at stake with your Keshet International deal?
ESSEBAG: The partnership with Keshet International represents another major opportunity to complete the expansion of our footprint in the non-scripted formats space. In our alliance with Keshet International, a renowned global player, we are poised to revolutionize the landscape of non-scripted content. This alliance is not just about collaboration; it’s about synergizing our strengths to create a global powerhouse of creativity and innovation involving our other partners and fostering the circulation of IPs on our respective territories. With Keshet’s expertise and resources, coupled with Satisfaction’s track record of success, we aim to co-create compelling IPs that resonate with audiences worldwide. Moreover, it opens doors to new markets and opportunities, enabling us to leverage our combined strengths to secure high-profile commissions and drive growth. In essence, the Keshet International deal is a bold step forward in our quest to become the ultimate destination for independent producers.

TV FORMATS: Overall, what’s driving the spate of acquisitions and partnerships?
ESSEBAG: The spate of acquisitions and partnerships is driven by our strategic vision to expand our global footprint, anticipate market needs, diversify our content offerings and enhance our competitiveness in the ever-evolving media landscape. By forging alliances with industry-leading partners sharing the same vision, we can leverage our respective expertise, resources and market insights to develop and distribute high-quality content that resonates with audiences worldwide. These collaborations enable us to stay at the forefront of innovation, capitalize on emerging opportunities and drive long-term growth and success.

TV FORMATS: What are the combined strengths that position the company where it is today?
ESSEBAG: The combined strengths of Satisfaction Group lie in our creative excellence, strategic partnerships and commitment to innovation. While keeping our agility and fast decision-making at the core of our DNA, we have a proven track record of developing and producing compelling content that entertains, informs and inspires audiences across the globe. Our extensive network of partners, including Sony Pictures Television, Talpa, Keshet International, Fulwell 73 and Yes Yes Media, provides us with access to a diverse range of talent, formats and resources. By harnessing these strengths and embracing emerging technologies, we are well-positioned to lead the industry forward and continue delivering value to our audiences and partners alike. Keeping this fast but mastered pace, we are now in parallel building a strong digital strategy, fostering our IPs and giving a new life to our catalog.