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Media Ranch

Programming Profile

Media Ranch gives formats market extra Horsepower


Media Ranch’s Sophie Ferron outlines the company’s unique business model and talks through her expansion plans and the shows her team will be focusing on at Content London 2021.


After attempting for several years to make inroads into the US market, Media Ranch’s progress in this area has recently accelerated, due in part to the events of the past 18 months or so. In fact, the French-Canadian exec producer-distributor’s business has taken off in America, rising from just one co-development deal to 18. And it could have been more.


“The only reason we don’t have 30 deals already is not for lack of premium content but lack of hours in the day,” Media Ranch’s president and founder Sophie Ferron tells C21 of the colossal demand that is coming from the US.


Sophie Ferron, Media Ranch

Several factors have contributed to the steep uptick in the company’s American business, says Ferron: an equally steep rise in demand for innovative, quick-turnaround formats; signing with Hollywood talent agency ICM Partners for US representation in March 2020; and, crucially, Media Ranch’s growing reputation as a specialist among specialists in the field of unscripted formats.


Of the US agreements that have been officially announced, US network The CW inked a co-development deal with Media Ranch for the eco-competition format Racing to Survive, while production company Wheelhouse Entertainment signed on to adapt and produce House Party: Just Dance in the US.


The latter project is based on Ubisoft’s music video game franchise Just Dance, which has sold more than 80 million video games globally and garnered over 12.3 billion views on YouTube. Wheelhouse will spearhead the adaptation and co-exec produce the show with Media Ranch.


Both projects were developed through the Horsepower initiative, a formats incubator founded by Media Ranch in association with Canada’s Quebecor Content in 2018 and with France’s TF1 which joined in 2021. Horsepower is becoming an increasingly important source of new intellectual property.


Ferron describes Media Ranch’s business model as “a bit of an anomaly,” with the company performing a number of functions, including: creating new formats based on clients’ needs; helping companies tailor their formats to enhance their international viability; representing and selling formats from its growing library; and executive producing projects (Ferron notes that the company no longer physically produces).


In particular, Ferron says Media Ranch is “leading the trend in pre-development,” whereby a producer, network or platform will approach the Montreal-based company asking if it has a format from a certain genre. Media Ranch will then either find something from its existing catalogue, or create the format from scratch, depending on the client’s specific needs. “Whether it’s a proven or paper format, we’ll find it for you or create it. We are your R&D,” she says.


Of course, it isn’t only the US where demand for fresh formats has exploded in recent years. The streaming wars have accelerated the need for new IP the world over, as digital platforms increasingly need new and exclusive formats to keep their original content libraries stocked.


Love Van
Love Van

While it has made strides in the US market, Media Ranch has also continued to build on its already flourishing business in Europe and Asia.


In South Korea, for instance, Media Ranch has an agreement with prodco and distributor Something Special to exchange formats. It also has a multi-year first-look agreement with South Korea’s SBS-backed FormatEast for formats created through the Horsepower initiative. Meanwhile, in Denmark, Media Ranch has an exclusive agreement to represent Danish Broadcasting Corp’s unscripted formats catalogue globally.


Deals such as these are allowing Media Ranch to gain a foothold in international markets and keep its finger on the pulse in the fast-changing formats market, says Ferron.


Another of its Horsepower projects, a Gen-Z dating show called Love Van, in which singles look for love on a cross-country rally in their live-in vans, is being developed by France’s TF1 and Quebecor Content. Love Van is the latest in a string of Horsepower projects garnering international interest.


The IP incubator, which earlier this year completed its third iteration, is growing in significance, says Ferron, especially as the formats market becomes increasingly globalised. While a fourth iteration has not been announced, there are hopes that an expanded version of the program will throw the doors open to an even wider pool of international creators and ideas.


“Even when working through a translator, creative people tend to work really well together, even though it might be a different culture,” says Ferron of her work with unscripted creators and producers from across the globe.


“Basically, right now, broadcasters and producers are looking for new formats everywhere. They are interested even when it’s something they haven’t seen, because people are more open to the world than they ever were,” she says.