Story Productions on Adapting to the Times

In the last few years, formats have been evolving and adapting to the new streaming world, posing both challenges and opportunities for producers. “Over the past couple years, exciting new dating shows like Love Is Blind and Too Hot to Handle have enjoyed huge success, while older formats like Queer Eye have been reinvigorated for a brand-new generation of fans,” observes Susanne Funder-Mikkelsen, founder and managing director of Story Productions. “It’s been an interesting time for producers who are cultivating formats that have great potential to resonate with viewers both on linear TV and SVOD.”

To successfully break through in what is a crowded marketplace, formats must be “louder, more visual and have a dynamic narrative,” Funder-Mikkelsen says. “It’s about telling a good story in a new and unique way.”

She adds, “Within the unscripted format, it’s important to develop something real that real people can relate to. Viewers are gravitating toward honest experiences with raw emotion and reaction, and they’re returning episode after episode to recapture that authentic feeling.”

Story Productions has focused on creating content that’s centered around fresh social experiments within unique settings that follow minimal sets of rules. “This type of format is not so controlled (which can be nerve-wracking for a producer), but the beauty of it is that you can’t foresee the outcome, which makes it interesting to watch season after season,” Funder-Mikkelsen says.

Among its latest projects is Love Raft, a Danish social experiment that combines epic landscapes with the raw human connection that happens in the wilderness. “Dating shows have become such a hot, trending genre because they have this incredible power to hook viewers, getting them to sympathize with engaging characters whose real-life dramas manifest directly on the small screen,” says Funder-Mikkelsen. “Love Raft will take a reliably addictive genre and steer the tension in an uncharted direction by immersing its cast within the unpredictable forces of nature. Ten daters will split into prospective romantic pairings for a ten-day journey down a river on self-made rafts. Introducing them to the unrefined, organic activities of rafting, fishing and being in nature, Love Raft creators will encourage love to develop in the most natural of settings—stripped from outside influences and routines to form authentic, meaningful experiences where emotions become unfiltered and intense. The show will concoct a unique test that fuses romance with nature to see if we can open our hearts to falling in love.”

To tee the show up for international success, Story Productions teamed up with Magnify Media, which is taking Love Raft out to the global market. “Love, after all, is a universal emotion expressed throughout every part of the planet,” Funder-Mikkelsen says.

Dating shows have the power to captivate universal audiences “because they are mirrors to the familiar drama unfolding around every one of us,” she adds. “We are drawn to the magic of romantic love that develops right before our very eyes; it is absolutely addictive! By positioning dating within the sheer beauty of nature, we’re creating a love potion that will intoxicate our viewers worldwide and will spark authentic connections among our daters. Being in nature can extraordinarily benefit our personal health and well-being and our relationships to others. Love Raft will be a testament to that; it will help us explore parts of ourselves, cultivate openness and inspire more nuanced social interactions with others—it may even ignite true love.”

Looking ahead, Funder-Mikkelsen and the Story Productions team have their eyes on the developments in the streaming space and what that means for the format business. “More streamers are seeing the potential in formats, so we are looking toward a future with more clients who regularly want to launch big new formats,” she says. “They expect high-end content, so we constantly must be developing with that in mind. It’s going to be fun!”