Nehama Cohen, Armoza Formats’ head of development, talks to TV Formats about the TV singing competition format The Four that has so far aired in eight territories.
Armoza Formats’ The Four kicks off in the exact opposite way that you might expect a TV singing competition to start: by crowning four finalists. The chosen finalists’ goal for the rest of the season is to then hold onto their spot at the top and avoid being dethroned by the seemingly endless current of “challengers” that vie for their seats. It’s this fresh, seemingly backward structure that sets the music format apart from the rest in a market thick with titles that promise to find the next singing sensation, a charge brought about by star-making global megahits like Idol and The Voice.
“Singing competitions have always been such a strong and successful genre in the TV industry and a genre that viewers will always connect to,” says Cohen. “We gave a lot of thought as to how we could create a new and fresh show that would provide viewers with a different experience without destroying all of the elements they already love in singing competitions.”
The format also features another unique element: there are no stage auditions. “In these [auditions], you have many characters to remember and it takes a few episodes before the actual competition starts and when the viewers can become emotionally engaged in each contestant,” Cohen says. Since the audience knows that the four chosen singers have been selected by industry experts, they can immediately connect to one or more of them, knowing that they are talented performers who are bound to put on a great show. The audience still has to stay on its toes, though, as—unlike competitions with a more structured elimination schedule—any one of ‘The Four’ can be knocked out of their spot at any moment. “Essentially, it’s like the reality version of Game of Thrones, where no one is safe, and everyone is competing to overthrow the current owners of the throne,” Cohen says.
The show’s unique format also provides the aspirant champions in the four lucky seats with a certain measure of control over their destiny, one that they wouldn’t be afforded on other competition shows. “The contestants aren’t competing against hundreds of other singers, so they are able to have true control over their own path on the show,” Cohen contends. “Each new contestant knows who their four potential competitors are and this enables them to assess the best strategy to get a seat—decide who to battle and what type of performance you need to give to win over the crowd. By giving the power back to the contestants, their voices come through clearly, showing viewers a clear picture of who each contestant is and engaging them with the show on a deeper level.”
The Four also offers viewers and contestants alike a taste of what it’s really like in the notoriously cut-throat entertainment business. In an effort to prepare the finalists for what’s to come should they “make it” in the music industry, the show ensures that the contestants learn that they could be on top of the world one day and relegated into dreaded irrelevancy the next. “To continue to stay on top, your fans must continue to like you more than the ‘next big thing,’” Cohen says. “The Four does this by showing that no one is really safe in the industry and that you need to keep performing your heart out to be the best, by out-singing the ‘new kids on the block.’”
Since its launch in 2017, The Four has aired in eight territories—including for two seasons on FOX in the U.S., featuring the likes of Sean “Diddy” Combs and DJ Khaled in the judges’ seats—and been commissioned in several more. Last month, Armoza Formats closed a pan-Balkan deal that will see the show air in Macedonia and Bosnia, as well as in Serbia and Montenegro on PRVA come the fall. New commissions have also recently rolled in from Greece, Spain and Poland, and previously from Russia, Canada and India, among others.
There’s strong momentum right now for the show in LatAm, too, Cohen says, with Brazil’s Record TV recently ordering a second season of the show after a successful freshman run, and The Four’s Peruvian version has been going strong for four seasons, including one season of the spin-off The Four: Dance Battles. Canal 1 in Colombia has come on board for the series as well. “Based on the path of The Four’s success, we feel that in the coming year the most likely territories to join in the success of the show will come from Europe and Asia” in addition to LatAm opening up, Cohen says, “And we are already working with new partners in these territories to make this a reality.”