TV Real Festival Spotlights Formats Landscape


Day two of the TV Real Festival opened with Fremantle’s Vasha Wallace, Banijay’s James Townley, BBC Studios’ André Renaud and All3Media International’s Nick Smith weighing in on trends in non-scripted entertainment formats.

The session with Wallace, executive VP of global acquisitions and development at Fremantle; Townley, chief content officer of development at Banijay; Renaud, senior VP of global format sales at BBC Studios; and Smith, executive VP of formats and licensing at All3Media International, can be viewed here.

TV Formats’ Kristin Brzoznowski, moderator of the session, kicked things off by asking the panelists their thoughts on the state of the formats business at present.

“Commissioners who are always risk-averse are even more cautious,” Renaud noted. “You have companies trying to spend less, you have more people seeking content with their families, and this translates into cost-effective game and quiz shows that suit families. More people are watching with their parents or their children, and I think that’s why you start seeing a surge in reboots. People are seeking nostalgia. They’re also looking for new shows still, but I think they want the scale of a prime-time slot but the budget of a secondary slot.”

There has been a slowdown in the number of formats traveling in the last 12 to 18 months, Wallace noted. “But equally, if the show’s right, a broadcaster will buy it. Sometimes it’s not just about the show; it’s about having production solutions in place and having a story that will convince them to get them over the line.”

“In this challenging market, there are opportunities across the board,” Townley said. “There are budget restrictions, but if you have the ability to make your productions as efficient as possible and when you’ve got catalogs that are built on incredible IP, there is enormous confidence that the market gets from that. We’ve seen a lot of our superbrands, whether it’s the MasterChefs, the Big Brothers, the Survivors, consolidate incredibly well off the back of Covid as well as during Covid.”

Smith agreed, referencing the launch of The Traitors mid-pandemic and continued traction on some of All3Media International’s megabrands. “Broadcasters and platforms need local content. There is a risk-aversion of trying new stuff. That’s the challenge. But things that work or work in other countries, there [are] still definitely buyers that are willing to push the button on those.”

Balancing out the prominence of superbrands with new IP is key, Townley said, “because the audience wants fresh and new with their warm, favored, delightful tentpole programming that they make an appointment to view.”

“On one hand, you’ve got the big swings; on the other hand, you’ve got the cost-efficient side,” Wallace noted. “I think the middle, that slightly more expensive mid-week show, maybe an entertainment format, you just don’t see them. They might be a great show, but they’re not getting enough viewers to justify it.”

The session then addressed the role that streaming platforms are playing in the non-scripted format business today.

“When you look at the streamers—taking Netflix out of it—they’re all playing in the traditional format space now,” Smith said. “They’re licensing formats for individual territories. Even with Netflix commissioning something like Squid Game: The Challenge, you don’t really get much bigger swings than that. It gives confidence to the whole industry.” Streamers have also allowed edgier shows like Naked Attraction to find international homes; the format is in ten territories, Smith said.

“In Europe in particular, local streamers are increasingly important,” Wallace said, referencing Videoland in the Netherlands and RTL+ in Germany as examples. “Those platforms will commission local shows in a local language. They’re often attracting young audiences as well. It’s good for us as producers, but it’s also good for the audience.”

“Streamers, for us, have been incredibly helpful too,” Renaud said. “Dancing with the Stars in the U.S. and Canada was the first live event for Disney+. Love Productions’ Great Bake Off has also been on [Prime Video] in Japan and Spain. It’s on Max in Mexico and Colombia. Streamers are also looking for brands that have a wide appeal and reach; things that celebrities could go on or things that they can do that become noisy and showy. They really do overlap more now. For us, The 1% Club is going out on [Prime Video] and FOX in the U.S. Reach is what’s so important now.”

Streaming platforms are “getting more and more robust with their commissioning strategy,” Townley said. “There seems to be a significant focus on that local for local, but then the local that can potentially go global, where you have those big swings like Squid Game. They’re quite nicely balanced because they’re looking at global catalogs. Whether you call them reboots or dormant formats or sleeping giants, they’re always looking at the catalog about what potentially can be refreshed. At the same time, they are also taking those swings on big, brand-new, fresh IP.”

Streamers have also allowed fans to consume multiple versions of a format. “We have streamers to thank in some respects for bringing different versions of things around the world in a way that also helps them,” Renaud said.

“It allows you to build the brand a lot stronger,” Smith added. “It wouldn’t have been common for reality shows to be sold all around the world. People make their own reality shows. You want to see people from your own country speaking your own language. But now, if you’re a fan of a particular show, whether it’s The Traitors or Love Is Blind or whatever it might be, you love that show, so you want to see the other versions. That’s been a huge boon for everyone in the formats business.”

On how they are finding breakout new concepts, Townley spoke about the scale of the Banijay footprint and the ability for those outfits to collaborate. “When you’ve got the best part of over 120 labels, there’s always going to be co-development,” he said. “There’s always going to be that cross-pollination. We have lots of internal creative incentivization, but also big creative funds focused on new IP. The new IP world needs as much help as it can get. We’re really keen to get behind those embryonic ideas that we feel have international potential.”

It’s a similar approach at Fremantle, Wallace said. “We spend a lot of time talking to all of our production companies around the world, and they spend a lot of time talking to each other. We just had a big development session in Germany. Because we are a global company, we have abilities to work with different people in different countries in different ways and try and come up with the best offering possible for your broadcasters and your audiences.”

“We operate in a federal model, which means it’s a little bit challenging for them to work together because they are competitors in the marketplace,” said Smith on the approach at All3Media and its various U.K. labels. “Something that we’ve done recently is a partnership with TBS in Japan. All of our labels are able to submit ideas, and TBS can select what works best for them within our group. That has been a fantastic experience for us in terms of co-development. You need to work with people that bring something that you don’t have within your organization.”

BBC Studios is also co-developing with Japan, partnering with Nippon TV and Empire of Arkadia on Koso Koso. “It needs to be things that both parties are bringing to the table that complement each other,” Renaud said. “Koso Koso was actually a BBC Studios idea, but Nippon TV absolutely made it exponentially better. And for us inside the U.K., we combined our own production units. We had factual entertainment and entertainment. Our international production units are all now into one group called global entertainment. As part of that responsibility to continue investing into the U.K. media sector, we also are backing indies like Rebel Rebel Pictures and Mettlemouse Entertainment.”

On where hit formats are originating, Renaud went on to note, “The most traveled formats still come from the U.K. and the U.S., although those numbers are getting pressured; the Netherlands is third. Those two markets are also extremely challenged for commissioners and getting things over the line. So, sometimes you’re saying, I’m going to put a bunch of energy in developing into those markets, and sometimes those shows don’t land, and they can also reverse backward and travel out to your Israels and Mexicos. These really great ideas can then also make their way into commissioning in the U.K. and U.S. as well. That’s the joy and power of it.”

Smith added, “We’re all keen to work with the best independent producers or producers that don’t have a distribution arm. We’ve all picked up formats that we believe in that can travel around the world.”