MIPTV ’16: A+E ramps up global formats push with Babcock

In an interview with realscreen, A+E Networks' newly appointed head of formats, international programming and production Hayley Babcock discusses her mandate to turn the company's U.S. hits into potential global formats.
April 4, 2016

She’s no stranger to international television markets, having worked with such companies as Fox, CBS International, FremantleMedia, Shine International, Sony Pictures Television and DRG. For this year’s edition of MIPTV, Hayley Babcock is once again in Cannes but in a role that represents not only a new position for her, but a significant move for the company that has brought her aboard.

The newly appointed head of formats, international programming and production for A+E Networks made her first public appearance in that capacity during a case study presentation at MIPFormats, in which A&E’s current prison-themed docuseries 60 Days In was cast in the light of potential global format to prospective buyers.

There are several other shows in the A+E catalog that the network group is similarly keen to exploit internationally, and Babcock’s appointment signals the company’s dedication to making major moves in the formats space.

She points to such series as the Leftfield Pictures-produced survivalist series Alone, currently airing on History in the U.S., as well as FYI’s Seven Year Switch, produced by Kinetic Content and A&E’s Fit to Fat to Fit from Renegade 83 with Gaspin Media as examples of the programming she’s bringing to the market as formats. They tick the key box necessary to transform a great show into a format – a captivating, constructed situation for participants to partake in – but they also share characteristics that she believes are unique to the programming that is spearheading A+E’s revamped formats initiative.

“It’s that thread of authenticity that runs through every one of these shows – shows that may look very different from each other on paper – that I’m really excited about,” she says. “By being disruptive, authentic and original, that’s how you set yourself apart.”

While some A+E properties have successfully made the jump to international formats – Pickers, Pawn Stars and Dance Moms among them – Babcock, who will report to A+E’s chief creative officer for international, Amanda Hill, says part of her mandate is to help the A+E nets identify at an earlier stage what content might be able to feed the mother ship’s formats pipeline.

“I’m part of the conversations at an early stage,” she says. “We will be looking at the development cycles of all the channels, finding out what they’re looking at greenlighting, and I’ll be able to say early on whether it’ll work as a format play for international.”

From the production standpoint, A+E is also keen to have someone on board to guide the process for clients. Plans are underway for an international production hub to help facilitate the roll-out of more local versions of Alone, and part of Babcock’s remit is to act as “brand policeman” and ensure each format’s DNA remains intact in its travels once the sale is made and shooting begins.

“The best way to make sure that happens is to have a production-to-production relationship with the client where you can teach them the lessons learned,” she says.

Babcock says there’s substantial interest for Alone in Europe, Australia and Latin America, and during the 60 Days In case study, it was revealed that a UK prodco is interested in the format. With A+E owning the rights to its content, she says the company has a “treasure trove” of formattable content at its disposal. And now, there will be extra muscle in place to further exploit those possibilities.

“The domestic channels are partners and, I think, are excited about this,” she adds. “Pickers, Pawn Stars, Dance Moms have been out there [as formats already], and the sales team that has been out there overseeing this to this point has done a fantastic job. I’m coming in to help build on that.”

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.