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Smart thinking from the people running the content business.

Siobhan Crawford's summer survival guide

Experienced format exec Siobhan Crawford, formerly with DRG, Zodiak and Primitives, brings her monthly column to C21, starting with a summer survival guide for a challenging market.

Siobhan Crawford: there are no fairytales in Formatland in 2024

Repeat after me: no one is doing better than I am, no one is doing better than I am. Got it? No? Well get it because this is how you will save your sanity this summer (or year!) when the Nordics run off to their summer homes and the rest of us are wondering if we are doing something wrong because we only received five emails that day. The US is on a slow, Europe has limited money and the UK… pass. The prime directive for everyone at this time is duck and cover until further notice.

Formatland is no fairytale, that’s for sure.

So far, this year has been a bust; Fremantle and All3Media are cost-cutting and streamlining, entire Warner Production country offices are closing, Nine has to lose another 5% of its workforce, Newen are closing sales teams, Fox and NBC slow-rolling development and commissions. Reboots flood the market (which only the groups control rights to), indies are closing every week or clinging on to that one commission that tides them over. 2024 has been the kick in the balls no one asked for or deserved and the idea we have to ‘survive to 25’ is something over-achievers like me cannot accept.

Surely there is more I can do, something I can control or change. Find a gap no one else has… and this is the problem. From the talks I have had people are taking it personally and worrying about their performance, rather than the context. If someone is doing well then it screws with the mostly accepted ‘crap state of the market’ argument and instead people question if someone else can do that, why can’t I? Maybe it is me and not the market?

This is completely normal. You are not behind or underachieving, someone just has some magic beans to use up, or maybe they waited 13 years to have that one UK commission and our only job is to cheer them and hope the cheer comes full circle back to us.

One thing is for sure, we won’t be advising our kids to get into TV. AI maybe. For the rest of 2024, I think we can make some predictions safely: Talpa style content will continue to dominate, Spain will continue to lead the way in unscripted for the next nine months and English-speaking territories will suffer the most. Paper will be dead until October 2025 at the earliest.

The rise of the consultants continues, the market will continue to contract and adjust with some management buy-backs/new acquisitions/indies closing and the incessant launch of new two-people-indies. I expect no news from them for at least nine months.

Will Mipcom underwhelm this year?

Mipcom will see us gather once again, but I fear we will be underwhelmed by the content offerings. FAST will go from saviour to problem as content creators start querying their financial returns and MipTV London, well, I predict RX France will need to throw a huge free party (a la Global Agency style) for all industry personnel to really bring us into the fold and give us the ‘Cannes feels’ in cold London. And they should.

You know when they say to put your own oxygen mask on first? That is 2024. What will get me to survive to ‘25? A US commission. The promise to make it to Conecta9. Good people. Cake. Probably in that order. So when I say ‘duck and cover’ I mean you need to focus on you and your corner of the world. Seek your niche and hone your skills, make more connections, because knowledge is power in this industry.

To increase your odds of getting a commission you need to know how to shape and build a format and make it unique, know who the buyer and the audience is and who will help get you there.

To increase your odds of getting distribution of a format you need the best connections and strategy, deepest research and newest news (and best reputation so they prefer you over a Banijay advance). To increase your odds of surviving you need to celebrate others so there is good will for you in the industry (no one wants to help a dick), you need to enjoy the hunt and not just the results, and finally you need to filter out the noise.

And as will now be tradition, we are also going to set the tone for the column: Katy Perry’s Wide Awake… sadly, yes we are all wide awake. This is true reality television.