AMSTERDAM — Hot Swedish reality shop Strix Television broke barriers Aug. 21 when Jonathan Goodson Prods. and Paramount Domestic Television optioned nine of its reality formats for the U.S. market.
Programming from 13-year-old Strix has sold to more than 20 territories and been optioned to 27. But the new deal is the first time the TV production arm of Scandinavian media conglom Modern Times Group has broken into the U.S., the world’s most lucrative television market.
Among the formats to be developed are “The Bar,” now in its fourth season at Sweden’s TV3, which has been licensed or had options sold to 18 territories, the latest being Portugal where it mopped up 60% aud shares on commercial broadcaster SIC. In “The Bar,” male and female competitors live and work together running a bar while cameras record their dramas and conflicts.
Also included in the deals are new formats “Harem,” “The Farm” and “360 Degrees” as well as some of its older formats such as “Trading Places.”
Strix has, in fact, been breaking borders in the reality genre since 1996 when current managing director Ana Brakenhielm, then head of development, licensed “Survivor,” a format now owned by Castaway Prods. and sold to some 35 territories.
Strix chairman and founder Robert Aschberg recalls: “Ana had seen just a couple of scraps of paper with the ‘Survivor’ idea on it, called us and said she just had to have it. She was really stubborn about it, so we told her, ‘Make the deal.’ ”
Skein’s a ‘Survivor’
In 1997 Strix bowed “Expedition Robinson,” the first version of “Survivor.” Aschberg adds: “Even before we started producing it for Swedish Television (SVT), the show stirred up a huge commotion in the government and the press. It was the first of its kind, and people were outraged. They thought it was too exploitative.”
The show hits its fifth season on SVT in the fall. Final season last year picked up a 78% aud share.
Strix’s background as a game and talkshow producer has helped it get a fix on formats. Aschberg, a former journalist and one of Sweden’s most popular TV hosts, says: “You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner to come up with the ideas, but you do have to make them work. We have some unwritten but pretty strict rules for producing formats, and so far we haven’t flopped yet.”
Most of the Strix formats are produced inhouse. Brakenhielm says she has developed a gut feeling for the winners. “Sometimes I come up with the idea, sometimes someone else inhouse or even the broadcaster will, but the idea always comes first. Then we brainstorm how we will produce it.”
She adds she is hopeful the sale in the U.S. will result in Strix formats hitting the networks, but adds: “This deal is an option. I’m not taking anything for granted. It gives us a foot in the door.”
What’s next? Says Auschberg, “We’re busy trying to figure that out ourselves.”