RS West ’16: Taking formats to the second screen

During the "Upping the Game" session (pictured) at Realscreen West in Santa Monica, the second screen, social media and apps were put under the microscope.
June 13, 2016

During the “Upping the Game: Revitalizing Competition Formats” session (pictured) at Realscreen West in Santa Monica, California on Friday (June 10), the second screen, social media and apps were put under the microscope to examine how producers and buyers are incorporating the experience into reality and game competition formats.

The session – moderated by Apploff Entertainment president and executive producer Jeff Apploff – saw Pilgrim Media Group chief creative officer Johnny Gould discuss how NBC’s ill-fated format The Million Second Quiz managed to pave the way for the forthcoming wave of interactive game shows. The series saw contestants earning money for every second they occupied a “money chair” by winning trivia matches against other opponents.

Through a mobile app, home viewers had the opportunity to play against other and potentially earn a chance to appear as a contestant on the program. The game play, along with initial technical issues for the app, however, would cause viewership to decline rapidly.

Pilgrim Media Group chief creative officer Johnny Gould

Pilgrim Media Group’s Johnny Gould

“But on the heels of that, you’ve seen what they’ve tried to employ to be successful with other franchises,” Gould stated, adding that advancements in technology have opened the door for the long-contemplated reality entertainment series The Runner on Verizon’s video hosting Go90 service.

The series is produced by Pilgrim Media Group, Adaptive Studios, and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s prodco, Pearl Street Films, and premieres July 9 on Go90 after 16 years of development.

It marks a big swing for a budding interactive reality genre that hopes to engage, through evolving technologies, of a generation of people whose first screens. The series is not the traditional 44-minute program aired once a week, and will instead go live multiple times a day, every day, over the course of a month.

“The other thing that is really engaging is the entire country is welcome to play with $1 million on the line,” Gould said. “Any fan of the show who’s watching in real time can submit clues and win cash if their clue leads to capture of these runners.”

Michel Rodrigue, CEO of The Format People, explained that the international marketplace – particularly in Asia – is seeing digital-based series and platforms develop at a quickened rate, with China in high demand for content aimed at new platforms.

“What we could learn from [the Asian market] is the technology, the different aspects and ways to deliver the content. What [The Format People] are looking for is ways to up the game through apps, through social media. We find it’ll be the next thing for us to multiple the revenue streams,” Rodrigue stated, pointing to the successes of traveling culinary format Chef In Your Ear, which features an integrated app that showcases that night’s recipes and encourages viewers to cook along.

“An app is basically a tool and that’s it, but when we see the broadcasters and prodcos adapting it, I hope the adaptation will come from the understanding that there’s an event and we’re basically inviting them to the event,” added Eli Uzan, CEO of Israeli tech firm Screenz. “What we’re doing is allowing the audience to take part in the show – we saw it with Rising Star when we allowed the audience to be part of the show, but I think it’s just beginning of this field.”

Pilgrim Media’s Johnny Gould and DanceOn CEO Amanda Taylor on the “Upping the Game: Revitalizing Competition Formats” panel

For programming to be effective for the next generation, content producers have to not only find where the audience is – focusing on such social media and premium platforms as Facebook, YouTube and Go90 – but also look carefully at what audiences want, says DanceOn CEO Amanda Taylor.

“We get a lot of information through viral video and user generated content, recognizing who are the talent they’re following, what are the genres they care about, what are the formats that we can expand upon that we know work in short and micro-form content, and make that a larger format that can live on a premium platform,” she explained.

Taylor would later premiere a clip from the forthcoming Go90 choreography series Every Single Step from executive producer Nigel Lythgoe.

Good, innovative content will always find its intended audience, noted Talpa Media USA CEO Jay Bienstock, even if it’s a simple conceit like Discovery Channel’s survival series Naked and Afraid.

“The survival format had been pitched a zillion times, and no one could really crack it – let them go out there for three years and let them live on the water,” he says, jokingly. “And someone [said], ‘Just make them naked and that’s it,’ and suddenly that’s a brand new show that is really smart.

“It’s meeting the needs of this newer generation of people that are consuming content in ways that none of us have ever done before.”

(Photo by Nelson Blanton)

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