Famous For Formats

With several hit formats under his belt, Mike Morley is chasing more
September 1, 2004

In an industry fixated on the future, Mike Morley lives by wise words: ‘I see everything that has been achieved as almost entirely worthless the moment it has been achieved. TV is all about tomorrow and what you’re planning to do.’

As chairman of Endemol’s newly formed Global Creative Team, Morley is all about forging ahead. The gct consists of a Holland-based Creative Development Unit and seven key managing and creative directors from across the globe. Morley leads the team in unifying ideas from more than 40 companies, with the goal of growing future hits at a quicker rate. Endemol is already famous for Fear Factor and The Games.

In addition to his role with the GCT, Morley is executive director of creativity, programming and licensing at Endemol, which operates as a global developer, producer and distributor of small screen entertainment. The company’s library contains more than 500 program formats and, adds Morley, ‘We produce more than 25,000 hours of original TV each year.’

Some of the ideas Morley has fast-tracked through the GCT, including two recent fertility-related formats – Sperm Race (now closing a deal with a German broadcaster) and Make Me a Mum (being developed in Britain and the U.S.) – have caused quite the brouhaha. But a peek at Morley’s cv proves he’s never cowered at the possibility of controversy. One of his most notable interviews, done more than a decade ago when he was with Central TV, was with a serial killer in a maximum-security prison. It was the first interview of its kind in the U.K., and it aired to a primetime audience of about nine million.

Another Morley-induced uproar occurred four years ago, when he brought Big Brother into Poland. ‘In Eastern Europe, television is divided into the time before Big Brother and the time after it,’ he boasts. In a largely Catholic country, the series had Hell’s Angels and housewives living together. Viewer response was so overwhelming that by the end of the first season, the telephone line systems in the country had to be changed to cope with the roughly three million votes being called in.

Morley hopes viewers get as excited about Endemol’s new music reality talent show, The Immortals. The show – fresh through the GCT – lets musicians win the rights to a legendary band’s name and its song catalog, but Morley stresses it’s not just an audition show where hopefuls sing for votes. ‘You’ve got to be brighter than that,’ says Morley. ‘Audiences want more than that now.’

Another project Morley is putting through the pipes is based on intuition and instinct, much like Endemol’s Deal or No Deal, where players open money-filled suitcases as banks offer them fees to quit. Contestants on If Only You Knew (w/t) choose from prizes hidden behind symbols. ‘I’ll be very surprised if by Easter of next year we don’t have a hit on our hands,’ says Morley of the show, which is on its way to mip.

He’s got bravado, but with almost two decades of TV experience, it seems justified. And from his post atop the GCT, Morley says the future looks bright. Not even threats to TV’s stability, such as TiVo, can shake his confidence. ‘I think TiVo is nothing more than a shit filter. All it does is allow the viewer to essentially filter out all the crap they don’t want to watch. If you’re making good television, you’ve got nothing to fear from it.’

He isn’t scared, he’s just looking forward: ‘If you work in TV, you’ve got the best job in the world. It’s a giant sandpit full of toys, and I just can’t wait to kick off my shoes each day and get in there and play with something new.’

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.