Western European commissioners are driving a boom in unscripted format production, with a “huge” uptick in commissions over the past year, according to new research from Ampere Analysis.
The London-based media analysis firm found European format commissioning activity reached a high in July with 30 unscripted remakes announced in that month alone.
Though COVID-19 has fueled a desire for unscripted formats as scripted productions were delayed, Ampere Analysis found the demand for formatted shows began before the pandemic forced productions to shut down.
From September 2019 to September 2020, Western European commissioners ordered 194 new shows based on formats.
While format activity is still largely propelled by linear broadcasters, Ampere found streamers are increasingly turning to formats for their original productions.
Over the past year, linear channels globally have commissioned 263 shows based on formats, with streamers adding a further 36.
When it comes to Netflix, Ampere’s analysis found that the global streamer is exploiting its presence in localized production in order to target international markets with original unscripted formats on a larger scale, utilizing the “production hub” strategy employed by other global producers to churn out localized adaptations of formats.
The firm pointed to Sing On, which has three localized versions (in Spain, Germany, and the U.S.), all filmed on the same set in the UK.
Each version of the competition format has been produced with local contestants and hosted by a well-known personality from the particular country.
“Our recent research has shown that Netflix is beginning to invest in its original unscripted formats on an industrial scale,” Alice Thorpe, analyst at Ampere, said in a statement. “It’s now leveraging what is essentially a global studio infrastructure, which means they can push out carbon copies of their Originals localized to different territories, while keeping costs down.
“Netflix’s experimentation with its release strategy for reality dating show Love is Blind (which is being remade for the Brazilian market) helped secure it as the second most popular show globally on the platform in its finale week. It’s likely we’ll see increased experimentation with Netflix’s release strategy of its unscripted formats in the future.”
IMPACT ON SCRIPTED
Still, unscripted remains a relatively small piece of the overall streaming content pie, with Ampere’s research finding four out of the top five favorite genres among SVOD subscribers in Q3 2020 were scripted.
Amid the production shutdowns imposed by COVID-19, SVOD providers’ focus on unscripted content had an adverse impact on the volume of content from those genres ordered, Ampere found.
Netflix, for instance, commissioned an unusually low number of such titles, with just five original series hailing from the five most popular genres.
Likewise, although Apple+ launched in 2019 with a slate of originals from popular genres, Ampere said the streamer shows evidence of building a more varied catalogue, with an increase in commissions from other genres.
Olivia Deane, Ampere analysts, said: “As a global lockdown triggered a strategy change for commissioners, SVOD providers have turned their focus to unscripted content, which has been easier to make within COVID-19 constraints. However, despite an uptick in unscripted content, subscriber preference for scripted titles has remained strong. SVOD players face a delicate balancing act if they want to continue producing high volumes of original programming, while meeting subscriber appetites for high-quality scripted content.”