The next big idea in the world of formats will be an evolution of something existing, not a revolution, according to a panel of speakers discussing the future of formats at the 2014 Realscreen Summit.
Executives sitting on the ‘Format Focus’ panel, held on Tuesday (January 28), agreed that networks need to maintain a stable of series such as American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance?, but remain open to newer shows like Israeli singing competition format Rising Star.
The session, moderated by Eyeworks USA president Brant Pinvidic, included Armoza Formats CEO Avi Armoza, Core Media Group president Marc Graboff, Wall to Wall head of international Jonathan Hewes, Keshet International MD Alon Shtruzman, and Zodiak Los Angeles CEO Tony Yates.
“You have to have a bit of everything in the wheelhouse or you’ll get pigeon-holed as the company that’s only doing one thing,” said Yates, when asked what his group was looking for.
But networks are also hesitant to deviate completely from trusted brands.
Graboff, who served as president of West Coast business operations for NBC Universal Television Entertainment before coming to Core, said that buying a proven commodity is always a safer bet.
“The best part of having an asset like Idol is that it can be an enormous cash cow,” he told the audience. “My job is to diversify so we’re not too reliant on only one or two assets, but it’s hard in our business because you don’t know where the hits will come from.”
Graboff admitted that the Idol franchise “got hit a little bit” last year, but it is trying to restructure. The exec likened the show to an old house that has a solid foundation but needs the occasional makeover to keep it looking fresh. “The essence of the format Simon Fuller created is still there, and we’re not going to mess with that,” he said.
Similarly, Armoza said that rigidly formatted shows tend to travel better, and game shows and shiny-floor shows are “a better core as a business.”
Many executives also showed interest in international formats.
“It’s all about taking something pre-incubated internationally, where audiences have overlapped with audiences in the U.S.,” said Graboff. “The world is getting smaller… A company that looks globally, and is developing and exploiting content globally, is the future. Something that’s a worldwide phenom is something we’re looking to launch in the future.”
One such phenomenon discussed at length was interactive competition format Rising Star, which lets users vote for their favorite contestant using a smartphone application. The debut season was still airing in Israel when it was sold to ABC in the U.S. and ITV in the United Kingdom.
Shtruzman said the show was the most surprising success Keshet International has had in recent years.
“Rising Star has overshadowed all we’ve done in 10 years. It’s a big deal for us,” he said, adding that the group’s output is Keshet’s biggest commodity since the company has reduced acquisitions.
Armoza, who founded Armoza Formats in 2005, told the audience that if television is their business, it should look to the world as its market.
“We’re looking at Israel as a place to develop your show, but you should sell to the world market,” he said.
Graboff agreed, adding that networks should be open to shows from any territory. “Israel will stay hot for a while, but we’re all looking everywhere,” he said. “We’ll go to the moon for a format.”