MIPTV ’19: What to look for in a format executive

CANNES – In this era of digital disruption, the content industry has experienced a shift in its priorities when it comes to hiring and managing executives. The newly emergent FAANGs ...
April 9, 2019

CANNES – In this era of digital disruption, the content industry has experienced a shift in its priorities when it comes to hiring and managing executives. The newly emergent FAANGs – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – are interested in talents from established players, but the ways in which they’re chosen and the reasons why can vary drastically from traditional habits.

During a session titled “Finding the New Formats Executives,” industry executives explored the skills and talents that new and legacy players are looking for, and whether there’s more weight placed upon actual experience when searching for those rising executives.

Avril Blondelot served as moderator of the panel. She is head of content insight at Eurodata TV Worldwide, which provides content and audience insights for global media professionals in television and film.

Panelists were Bo Stehmeier, president of Red Arrow Studios International; Joanna Reesby, managing partner at London-based recruitment agency Mission Bay Limited; and Floris Asche, vice president of creation and development at Fremantle-owned multichannel network Divimore / UFA X.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the panel:

The next form of premium

The non-scripted industry is in the midst of a premium factual revolution, pumping out series after series of hit programming in the vein of Netflix’s Queer Eye and A&E’s forthcoming The Clinton Affair, the latter from Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions.

Red Arrow’s Stehmeier, however, believes that budding formats executives have become just as vital to the survival of unscripted television, injecting fresh ideas into the industry to become the next form of premium.

“What you need are “uber-connectors” – they connect between different business models, technologies and rebirth ideas. In order to connect with your client, you need to be quite flexible,” he explains.

Stehmeier also emphasized an increasing importance on formats executives’ ability to understand cash flow, noting that senior management across the scripted world have begun juggling very complex financing structures. “Having a lateral thinking person who can sell an opportunity but also sell it to different types of business models is becoming more and more important.”

What makes an uber-connector?

With “uber-connecting,” it’s not only about being able to communicate, but having to work very fast. In years past, working through from development to marketing a series could take up to a year.

The industry, however, is moving from a world that is, according to Stehmeier, masculine, where creators can own their format as well as the revenue streams before taking it out to market.

“We’re moving into a space which is much more feminine where it’s about collaboration and pulling your stakeholders together very fast to bring the project alive, and if it doesn’t happen you just let it go,” Stehmeier says. “That’s a very different type of executive who can succeed in this environment.”

Standing out from the crowd

What resonates when employing people is a capacity or interest in being curious. When you are in a world where the business models are stagnant, organizations hire for a specific skillset that is repeated. When a company is in a world where it’s transitioning, however, managers cannot hire for the skillset in perpetuity because it’s constantly changing.

“Having somebody on your team that constantly picks up everything to ask ‘how do we do this?’ – if you can bring that naturally to a job, it’s what we’re looking for,” says Red Arrow’s Stehmeier.

For Divimore’s Asche, it’s about hiring rising talents from a TV background and who want something more engaging or challenging.

“We still reach out to a vast variety of younger creators and format executives that haven’t done this job before, and we give them the opportunity because we know that if they try and do this same thing for TV, it’ll take 10 years to be recognized,” Asche explains.

“We’re looking for people who are experienced and open to new things, and using data in their day-to-day lives,” he adds. “Data is the basis of all the format work we’re doing for platforms. If something doesn’t add up with data, we have a problem and we have to see if we can adapt to that.”

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.