Wall to Wall & Twenty Twenty’s Leanne Klein

As managing director and head of Wall to Wall, Leanne Klein runs the business alongside her role as managing director and head of Twenty Twenty—both Warner Bros. International Television Production companies. Her teams have delivered such recent hits as First Dates, which has spawned successful spin-offs. Klein shares with TV Formats her view on the current format landscape.

***Image***TV FORMATS: How has the format landscape fared over the last couple of years, relative to other genres?
KLEIN: With all the uncertainties of the past two years, formats, in our experience, have proven to be remarkably resilient. Regular refreshes and brand extensions help their longevity, but the core formats with loyal audiences have proven to be much-needed mainstays in the schedules around the world. New titles can, of course, take time to bed in, but the most distinctive ones, with a fresh tone and sense of authenticity at their heart, have taken hold quickly. We’ve found success with a mixed portfolio of well-established titles and new spin-offs from them, alongside brand-new formats.

TV FORMATS: What format genres have been most popular as of late?
KLEIN: Dating is a perennial, especially when trying to capture that elusive younger viewer. And some buzzy newer titles like Too Hot to Handle and FBOY Island have come on the scene and injected a different sort of energy into the genre. Meanwhile, one of our shows, Twenty Twenty’s First Dates, has now clocked up more than 5,000 episodes in 27 territories—prime time in some, a daily strip in others—and has reached even wider audiences with the introduction of a raft of spin-off titles like First Dates Hotel, First Dates Cruise and the latest hit spin-off, Teen First Dates. At Wall to Wall, we have an exciting new series with its own spin on dating in the pipeline, due to be announced this fall.   

TV FORMATS: Are you seeing more of an appetite for prime-time, access-prime or daily-strip formats?
KLEIN: Our focus in the U.K. has tended to be more on prime, but our formats have proven to be incredibly versatile to fit the needs of local broadcasters and platforms. With titles like Wall to Wall’s young-skewing makeup competition Glow Up (for BBC in the U.K. and Netflix globally, but with local versions produced in five non-U.K. territories), the nonlinear, non-schedule performance is at least as important as how it plays in its terrestrial slot.

TV FORMATS: What have been some of the most successful series from Wall to Wall and Twenty Twenty that have traveled internationally?
KLEIN: Wall to Wall’s celebrity genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? is in its 19th season for the BBC and has a family tree of its own, with local versions made in 18 other territories, totaling some 770 episodes so far. Our experiential history brand Back in Time is in its 10th U.K. season and has also rolled out in several territories internationally. First Dates, of course, is the biggest of them all; it’s one of Warner Bros. International’s top-selling titles around the world.

TV FORMATS: What’s your sense of broadcasters’ willingness to take risks with formats these days: are they sticking to what’s known or open to new concepts?
KLEIN: Our sense is that they’re very much open to new ideas. Of course, the reassurance of long-proven success is powerful, so the bar is set high for a new concept to get taken on and to prove itself among those big hits. But you just have to look at some of the great, innovative new shows that have made it in the past couple of years—whether from the U.K., South Korea, Israel, the Netherlands or elsewhere—to see that the appetite for the next big format isn’t going away.

TV FORMATS: As you look at the year ahead, what trends do you see emerging in the format business?
KLEIN: Production- and financing-wise, new models are emerging and new collaborations between funders are already being seen, which is opening up some exciting possibilities for us.

Tonally, there’s a zeitgeist for more optimism and positivity in formats; less of the mean, but still full of drama. One of our new titles that has gone into production for BBC Three in the U.K. that epitomizes this tone is Warrior Island, which is all about young people undergoing a grueling regime to transform themselves in body and soul. It’s got all the narrative hooks and drive (and sunshine paradise location) of a reality-challenge show, but it’s underpinned by some purpose and real-world issues that audiences are really going to relate to.