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Viewpoints from the frontline of content.

Going off-script

By Ed Waller 20-10-2017

Despite the industry focus still being firmly on drama and digital at Mipcom this week, there were plenty of things said, done and unveiled along the Croisette to keep the unscripted format folks interested.

Just as new money, platforms and players were invigorating the scripted sector in Cannes, the same was happening in the entertainment format side of the business, as optimism and opportunity returns to a sector that was not so long ago in the creative doldrums.

New companies seem to be entering the market, for a start. Executive producers and format creators Victoria Ashbourne (Win Your Wish List) and Stuart Shawcross (Five Minutes to a Fortune) launched a UK production outfit called Hello Dolly, for example, to create and produce original entertainment formats for the local and international markets.

Another new format distributor was in town. Be Entertainment is the fledgling distribution arm of Belgian broadcaster Medialaan, which sold hidden-camera format Did You Get the Message? to RTL Group-owned Vox in Germany. The format debuted in Belgium on Medialaan-owned commercial network VTM earlier this month and was developed by Tim van Aelst, alongside fellow Belgian content creator Sofie Peeters.

Mipcom 2017

Formats sales were front of mind for 4K broadcaster Insight TV too, as the company began licensing its IP into local production by third-parties. It was in Cannes launching formats such as Thru and Street Art Challenge to buyers. Thru has teams getting from A to B in the straightest line possible, while Street Art Challenge has two graffiti artists from different cultures teaming up to create a new piece of public street art.

Plenty of other new formats were being licensed in Cannes too, reflecting that some networks are prepared to try new ideas, rather than reboot others from the last century. The Final Four, a new and as-yet untested twist on the talent show format from Israel’s Armoza Formats, saw some deals. ITV Studios Finland, Asian prodco Context Media and Istanbul-based Karga Seven Pictures acquired local rights, following earlier sales to broadcasters in the US and Russia.

Other attempts to reinvent the talent show format were evident along the Croisette, with a new Canadian show from music mogul Scott Borchetta unveiled this week. Production of the first season of The Launch wrapped recently in Canada and it will air on Bell Media-owned commercial network CTV in early 2018. Distribution is going through FremantleMedia veteran Jane Rimmer, head of Canada’s Insight Productions.

ITV Studios format Love Island, the toast of the UK’s summer schedules, was also in demand, as Sweden’s TV4 and Australia’s Nine Network joined ITV in the UK and Germany’s RTL2 in buying the format.

Banijay Rights picked up Secret for a Million from Russia’s NTV

And illustrating how geographically diverse the format supply lines are these days, no longer relying on the usual suspects in the UK or the Netherands, co-development and distribution alliances were forged with creators in Ukraine, Russia and Spain.

Russia’s NTV Broadcasting, for instance, signed a distribution deal for its new celebrity gameshow format Secret for a Million with Banijay Rights, while IM Global Television’s unscripted arm announced in Cannes a co-development deal with Ukrainian studio Film.UA Group. MGM Worldwide Television Distribution (MGM) also paired up with Spain’s Mediapro and Phileas to coproduce and distribute a new reality format called Married 10.

And amid accusations from some IP owners in South Korea of a return to the days of Clone Wars in China, some companies from the People’s Republic were in town to show they, at least, are playing by the rules of the international format business.

Beijing-based 3C Media, which recently picked up Talpa Media formats The Story of My Life and Around the World with 80-Year-Olds, began a major move into international format distribution. Following the creation of its joint venture with UK producer Andrea Hamilton to create Om TV last year, 3C was in Cannes this week launching Om’s new format Future Games on the global marketplace.

Love Island found buyers in Sweden and Australia

Future Games has already been picked up by China’s Hunan TV for a 12-part primetime run at weekends in 2018. 3C is also distributing UK indie Zig Zag Productions’ historical reality format Ancient Games outside the US and UK.

It certainly felt like some new money was being injected into the unscripted formats sector, whether it was a children’s channel like Universal Kids licensing two gameshows from FremantleMedia North America or UK-based online publisher Unilad picking up its first dating format, Date or Dump, from new indie Youngest Media and The Story Lab.

It might not be on the same scale as all the new money coming into the drama industry of late but it’s certainly a good sign for those in the unscripted sector.

Lisa Perrin

“There’s a real spirit of adventure in the non-scripted business right now,” said Lisa Perrin, CEO of Creative Networks at Endemol Shine Group, while previewing the company’s new BBC1 talent show All Together Now.

“There’s no doubt drama continues to be popular but there is always a place for entertainment. There’s a renewed interest and enthusiasm from broadcasters to take risks in order to find the next big entertainment hit. And underpinning this resurgence is an ever greater appetite for feel-good TV. In a troubled world, viewers are turning to entertainment for escapism.”

With fresh ideas being picked up by networks and new platforms and channels starting to license formats, it’s not just audiences that are starting to feel good.

today's correspondent

Ed Waller Editorial Director C21Media

Ed Waller is a media journalist working out of London, England.

He is editorial director for C21 Media, which publishes the leading international TV trade website and print magazines Channel 21 International and C21 Kids. He also regularly contributes to UK national newspapers including The Guardian, The Independent and The Sunday Times.

Ed previously worked at trade magazines Televisual Magazine and Asia-Pacific Satellite.