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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

GWR Studios

Programming Profile

Guinness World Records breaks new ground with GWR Studios

09-01-2023

Kathryn Hubbard, head of content licensing at Guinness World Records, discusses the recent launch of GWR Studios, the new shows in its production pipeline and the company’s plans for this year.

 

What is the strategy behind the recent launch of GWR Studios?
Guinness World Records has been producing content for television since 1998, with programmes being produced in 21 territories worldwide and distributed to over 150. Over the years our output has expanded to include producing content for digital platforms as well as for our own social channels, which have grown massively – we have over 22 million followers on TikTok and cumulatively our channels receive 4.6 billion views per year.

 

Launching GWR Studios has allowed us to consolidate our in-house production experience under one roof and to put greater focus on creative development of new formats and different ways in which to celebrate our record holders and their incredible stories.

 

How does GWR Studios work with other producers and distributors?
Previously, we have worked with third-party producers and licensed out our brand and formats. However, in the last five years our involvement within these productions has become so integral that we are now seeking direct commissions ourselves from broadcasters.

 

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Kathryn Hubbard,
Guinness World Records

We have an amazingly talented in-house production team that can be scaled up on a per-project basis and unique talent relationships, plus we have distribution already set up and ready to support these productions. We are actively in talks with other producers about developing projects together and have some incredible pieces in the pipeline.

 

Guinness World Records may be known for record-breaking but having our own studio means that we can look behind the record attempts at the stories and the individual; go back through our archive and develop documentary series on stranger-than-fiction stories, character-driven escapades and even one-off special death-defying stunt shows. GWR Studios means we are in the driving seat. We are open to working with other producers on any great idea and love to collaborate.

 

Guinness World Records: Cymru
Guinness World Records: Cymru

How do you include world record holders in your shows?
Our record holders are at the heart of every piece of content that we produce and we work with them in a variety of ways, depending on the genre of programme. At one end of the scale we work with explorers like Fiann Paul – this month he embarks on The Shackleton Mission, an epic 800 nautical mile journey which, if successful, has the potential to break several world records as well as set some new ones.

 

We also film on location frequently – for example, our Local Heroes format is all about celebrating record holders’ links to their local culture and traditions. For the past two years we’ve worked with Orchard Media & Events and S4C on Guinness World Records: Cymru, which celebrates Welsh record breakers, with the content being broadcast around St David’s Day.

 

In addition, we bring record holders into the studio for our shiny-floor format. For the last series of our Italian show Lo Show Dei Record (season eight), around 70 record holders flew to Milan to be part of the show. We’re currently in pre-production for the next series and anticipate over 100 taking part.

 

Last but not least, we are lucky enough to have access to the user-generated content sent in by record holders as part of the evidence for their record attempts. This footage works really well for clip shows and is a really useful source of additional content for other formats as well.

 

As well as working with existing record holders, we also have researchers scouting for talented individuals with record-breaking potential and working with celebrities.

 

What are GWR Studios’ activities in the shiny-floor format space?
So many of our record holders have skills with a real ‘wow’ factor – feats of strength, speed and daring which have an immediate visual impact, making them ideal for a primetime variety entertainment format. We’ve had great success with our Italian show Lo Show Dei Record, which will return to Mediaset for a new series in 2023.

 

Guinness World Records: Gone Viral
Guinness World Records: Gone Viral

The unique selling point of our shiny-floor show is that it cannot be replicated. There are so many versions of the talent show on television but to do a Guinness World Records show, you need us. For your talent to truly be deemed the best in the world and hold the globally recognised Guinness World Records title to prove it, you need to work with us. We will only work with one broadcaster in the territory on this format at a time, so there will be no other versions to compete against. There is built-in jeopardy in the format – will they or won’t they break the record? Often a contributor overcomes the odds and expectation of the audience to achieve the record when it seems they won’t succeed.

 

What is your strategy regarding branded content?
Branded content is a relatively new area of development for GWR Studios and has significant potential for brands that wish to align themselves with record breaking but may not wish to attempt a record themselves. Our record holders have such a broad range of talents, we can help pair record holders with brands that have an affinity with their values or attributes.

 

For example, technology brand Anker wanted to create an unmissable event that would celebrate the launch of its super fast Nano II charger, so we partnered them with ‘real-life Ironman’ Richard Browning for a set of speed-based challenges that were broadcast ‘as live’ across Anker and GWR’s socials.

 

We’ve also worked with the fashion brand Diesel. They share a passion with GWR for celebrating uniqueness and worked with some of our most distinctive record holders, using them as models for an Instagram campaign.

 

Best of the Best
Best of the Best

We are also interested in working with brands to fund longform content and this year we had phenomenal success in South Africa with our series Stumbo Records Breakers. Stumbo Lollipops funded this 10×30’ series which highlighted the amazing diversity of South Africa’s townships and communities, and records were broken in chicken feet eating, bungee jumping and mass participation Amapiano dancing. Stumbo sold out of lollipops completely by the airing of the third episode, so I guess that’s a good marker for success! This series will be available to license in 2023 and we are open to discuss pre-sales.

 

How is the market for clip-based shows changing?
During the pandemic, clip shows were easy to produce and we were fortunate to have access to thousands of hours of archive footage – from our TV shows and GWR-produced original content through to the user-generated content that is submitted as evidence for record claims. And since record breaking covers a huge range of topics, we were able to curate clip series across a wide range of themes. Feats of athleticism and unusual sports skills are perennial favourites.

 

Guinness World Records: Gone Viral (20×30’) is a clip show format that can be used to showcase all sorts of record-breaking topics – for example, animals, science or human bodies. Team Whistle has commissioned a sports-inspired series of GWR: Gone Viral, featuring amazing sport and fitness feats, all served with a unique Guinness World Records twist. Each episode focuses on a different skill, such as jumping, skipping or skating, and features record breakers from all over the world showcasing their extraordinary achievements. Simple captions make this series easy to adapt for local audiences.

 

This year we added a further 10 episodes to our in-house clip show production Best of the Best (22×30’), with episodes themed around record categories as varied as Hair & Nails, Ball Skills and Awesome Collectors.

 

Best in the World
Best in the World

Clip shows always find a home if they are of good quality – perhaps not in primetime but there is a market for programmes that are evergreen, repeatable and enjoyable to lean back and watch. Now, with the proliferation of VoD channels, clip series are really coming into their own again. GWR: Gone Viral was commissioned by Team Whistle for their AVoD and FAST channels. This high-quality series is full of the viral hits that we spend our lives scrolling through and enjoying on our mobiles, so now they can be enjoyed on all devices. This series is now available to license globally.

 

Best in the World (40×15’) – our most recent series for CBBC, produced by Electric Robin – also follows the clip show format and invites viewers to play along at home to predict the winner or guess what happens next. This series is a high-intensity, gamified clip show, full of interaction pieces with the audience and comedic narration by Nick Frost. This series will be available to license outside the UK in 2023 and we would be open to pre-sales.

 

What are your activities in shortform content and how is demand for this format changing?
We’ve had a lot of success with shortform on our social channels so we know there’s an appetite for it, and over the past few years we’ve built a really strong library of content that can be adapted for different short formats. The back stories of our record holders are absolutely fascinating, and shortform is the perfect way to showcase the emotion and inspiration behind their incredible record-breaking achievements.

 

For example, Guinness World Records: Shorts (10×10’) is a series of heart-warming short films about some of the most amazing people on the planet and the stories behind their world records. Here you’ll find the story of Naseem and her siblings who all have albinism, which sets them apart in looks and health but also unites them and gives them a unique perspective on life. Also featured is the extraordinary story of Zion Clark, who, despite being born without legs, has forged a successful career as an athlete on his hands. This series is available to license globally.

 

Guinness World Records: Shorts
Guinness World Records: Shorts

How is the growth of streaming and FAST changing your content strategy?
We are looking to launch our own Guinness World Records FAST/AVoD channel in 2023 and up until this point have done some licensing deals in this space. For the most part we have concentrated on our kids’ content and building out a GWR Kids shortform channel across several major kids AVoD platforms, such as Kidoodle, as this visibility is important for our publishing arm.

 

Plans to launch our main channel were put on hold during the pandemic but it is full steam ahead for 2023 and we are in talks with platforms already. As a globally recognised brand, we have high hopes for the success of this channel, and it will be a mix of both our longform English-language content as well as our shortform content edited into programming blocks. With the success of channels such as People Are Awesome, which have a similar ethos to our shortform, we are very excited to offer our own blend of extraordinary people, achievements and inspirational stories.

 

What are your plans for the rest of 2023?
We have the new CBBC series Best in the World available to license later in 2023 as well as our new South African series Stumbo Record Breakers, so we will be looking for pre-sales. Furthermore, Guinness World Records: Gone Viral has had so much interest and so we will be continuing to license this series out not just to VoD channels but also to mainstream broadcasters.

 

We have several productions already lined up in 2023 with third-party producers, and many projects in development, so it will be an exciting year of pitching to networks and broadcasters and getting our first direct GWR Studios and coproduction commissions over the line.



More programming profiles

  • 03-06-2024

    PietzschKaren Gilchrist
    VP, TV and digital, global brand and digital team
    Guinness World Records

     

    Please tell us about your main objectives over the summer.
    Our objective is to find homes for two amazing kids’ series we made last year. The One Thing (produced for DaVinci channel) is a 26×15’ co-viewing series that explores the skills honed by record holders and how they go about becoming the best in the world. Our Guinness World Records (GWR) presenter tries to learn a skill or life lesson in the hope they can take away ‘The One Thing’ from this amazing encounter. The show launched on Da Vinci in January of this year so we are now actively looking for partners to acquire this great live-action series.

     

    We have also been re-editing our BAFTA-nominated series Officially Amazing which ran for seven seasons between 2012-2018. Hosted by the engaging and energetic Ben Shires, this smash hit, fast-paced kids’ show features the funniest, scariest, most amazing record attempts from around the world. The series has been cut down into five seasons of 30’ episodes and refreshed and re-invigorated for a new audience in 2024. The ABC in Australia will premiere this series in June.

     

    What is the company’s mission and strategy in the kids’ content space?
    The company has a very clear ambition to allow more kids to watch, learn about and experience world records at first hand, whether that’s having a go at an individual challenge, or maybe participating as part of a school group. We believe all kids have the potential to do something amazing, and through us they can explore and find out what they are good at, practice and have a go. It’s not about getting the record necessarily, but the journey of setting a goal, working towards it and finding out what they can achieve.

     

    Over the past number of years, we have created a swathe of records that can only be attempted by kids. Of course, though, not all kids want to participate, but there is inspiration in watching other kids achieve best-in-the-world status, and so we are committed to telling the stories of our amazing young achievers and celebrating them across our content, whether that’s in print, digital, at live events, or on TV.

     

    What new shows are coming down the line that you’re particularly focused on?
    The launch of GWR Studios in 2022 has given us the opportunity to work on more productions independently as well as co-developing ideas with international producers and broadcasters.

     

    Previously, we would license our brand for record-breaking shows, but GWR Studios has enabled us to partner more creatively as we have built such an experienced and talented team. We are in several early development conversations at present which are very exciting. Nothing more can be said at this stage, but we hope to have an announcement later on in the year. We are in development on several large scale shows with production partners around the world, like our highly successful Italian series Lo Show Dei Record, made with Banijay Italia. We have a raft of paper formats that we are in conversations about, following the success of GWR Shorts and The One Thing.

     

    How is the company making use of opportunities in the social media and digital space for its kids’ content?
    We’re putting a lot of effort into growing our kids’ YouTube channel and in the last year alone it has grown 366%. Kids are so important to the brand as a whole; they are the main audience for our number-one selling book and we create dedicated content for them on our kids website too.

     

    We make it our mission to be everywhere kids get their content, so the social and digital space are increasingly important. This is also why we have developed partnerships with VoD platforms such as Kidoodle, why we are working with providers of content in the classroom and why we have worked with various YouTubers and influencers in recent years.

     

    We are also exploring opportunities in the kids’ gaming space. Wherever kids are spending their time, we want to be there.

     

    What is the biggest issue facing the kids’ industry and what is your company doing in response to it?
    Budget cuts across the whole industry leads to fewer commissions and acquisitions. There’s less inclination for risk taking, with broadcasters tending to focus on certain types of content which has been successful for them in the past.

     

    The eclectic mix of kids’ viewing patterns away from broadcasters has also meant that unless properties have a solid onward value as a brand then they are less likely to be picked up. In response to this, we are ensuring we provide content in different places and in different forms that reflect what and how kids are choosing to watch. It’s important to be nimble. We have a team of data analysts who help us reflect on how we can improve our performance.

     

    How can kids’ content companies survive and thrive during the economic crisis?
    It’s important to be open to new opportunities, to be nimble and agile to try to capitalise on the latest changes in kids’ viewing habits and how they are spending their time. We also feel that content creators, whether companies or social creators, should be open to working together more openly and flexibly on projects. But as ever, ultimately, it’s about creating great content kids will love. That fundamental requirement hasn’t changed, we just have to be more creative about how we do it.