RSW ’14: In search of the new format hot spots

China, Ireland, Israel, Denmark, Turkey and Japan are among the territories buyers and sellers identified as global format hot spots during a panel at Realscreen West on Thursday (June 5). (Pictured: Star China's Vivian Yin)
June 6, 2014

(Photo: Rahoul Ghose)

China, Ireland, Israel, Denmark, Turkey and Japan are among the territories buyers are looking to for hit unscripted formats.

During the “Global Format Hot Spots” panel at Realscreen West on Thursday (June 5), format buyers and sellers identified key markets that are producing talent shows, singing competitions and game shows that are being picked up everywhere from Kazakhstan and Iceland to Myanmar and Cambodia.

Michel Rodrigue, CEO and partner of The Format People, began the session by presenting research from the Format Recognition and Protection Association (FRAPA) that charted the growth of the market from 2004 – when the UK, the Netherlands and the U.S. had 70% of the global market cornered – to 2008. By then, players in Australia and Argentina had started to muscle in on the action.

FremantleMedia’s SVP of global acquisitions and development Vasha Wallace followed that with internal research showing that in 2013 the UK and U.S. were the top two producers of formats. Out of 102 formats adapted globally, 24 formats originating in those respective markets were adapted internationally.

Meanwhile, international adaptations of Dutch formats dropped 9% as competition from emerging format markets such as Norway and Israel grew.

“Globalization is having an impact,” Wallace said, adding that Got Talent is FremantleMedia’s biggest seller thanks to countries that 10 years ago didn’t have the production capabilities to do a shiny floor show of that caliber. “It’s not about selling a show in a few countries. Now it’s about creating a global brand.”

Another format traveling well internationally for FremantleMedia is Bring on the Games, a wacky game format that originated in Japan and started gaining prominence abroad after clips from the Japanese version went viral on YouTube.

Billy McGrath, the owner of Irish producer Sideline Entertainment, credited the Irish market’s recent renaissance in format creation to the increasing number of commercial channels popping up in Ireland, the country’s proximity to the British market and a recent ruling allowing producers to keep intellectual property rights. Commercial broadcasters such as RTE have also ramped up investment in original formats.

“We have more confidence to invest in our own ideas and sizzle reels,” he said.

In recent years, China has become a major buyer of international formats after local adaptations of The Voice and Got Talent attracted big ratings.

Before that, the Chinese market had a reputation for ripping off foreign formats but local successes with international formats have led to change, Star China International Media’s chief representative and deputy general manager Vivian Yin (pictured above) told the panel.

However, Chinese regulators responded by limiting the number of international formats a channels can buy to one per year. “For me it’s a double-edged sword,” said Yin. “It limits imports but it stimulated national creativity in China.”

Earlier this year, Star China brought the singing competition Sing My Song via distributor ITV Studios Global Entertainment to MIPCOM and touted it as the first Chinese talent show format to be exported overseas.

The format pits singer-songwriters against each other in an original songwriting competition before a panel of celebrated singer-songwriters and producers looking for material for their next albums. The original version aired on CCTV-3 and racked up a total audience share of 37% in China and drew 480 million viewers over its course.

Yin said the idea to do a songwriting competition arose because singing competitions are so popular in China – there are 13 on the air – that you practically cannot channel surf without coming across a wannabe performer belting out a cover song. “We just identified a hole in the market,” she said.

“There is a huge demand to do co-development,” she added. “We are open to explore new relationships with our American counterparts.”

Israel is one of the most competitive television markets in the world. Television is relatively new in the nation –  the first commercial broadcasters began operating in 1993 – and there are 15 film and television schools, Armoza Formats CEO Avi Armoza said.

After showing a reel of talent show formats including I Can Do That and Si Puo Fare, Armoza explained that his company will strategically hold back on landing U.S. commissions. If a show flops with American audiences, international buyers might get cold feet.

“If you say I have an American commission, they say let’s wait,” he explained. “We try to market to other countries and then market to the U.S.”

If international buyers see a format on U.S. television that is produced with high production values and a beautiful cast, the bar is immediately set high, said Karrie Wolfe, SVP of development for Red Arrow Entertainment Group-backed producer Kinetic Content.

She added that Israel, Turkey and Denmark are format hot spots on her radar.

Kinetic is producing a U.S. version of the Danish format Married At First Sight for U.S. cable net FYI. “Americans want to see formats from Denmark right now,” she said, adding, regarding the Israeli format machine, “Once a network buys an Israeli format it’s a domino effect around the world. You can’t deny that.”

She also pointed out that hot spots pop up because of specific companies and individuals who foster relationships with buyers and used the pan-European success of Turkish distributor Global Agency as an example.

“Global Agency took products and sold them really well,” said Wolfe. “Now I can’t even meet with the owner because he’s off at some big meeting. A lot of credit should go to people putting those territories on the map.”

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