Israeli media group Keshet is an undisputed force to be reckoned with, and at this year’s Mipcom is betting on the Amazonian jungle for its next big hit.
Leading Keshet’s 20-plus Mipcom slate is “Welcome to the Wild,” a next-generation adventure reality format that takes the genre perfected by “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” and elevates it with docu-level immersion in the rugged beauty and tribal society of the Amazonian jungle.
“It’s the biggest show we’ve brought to Mip since ‘Rising Star,’” says CEO Alon Shtruzman. “The show is embedded in the Amazon, with the nature of the jungle and tribes that live there a big part of the show. Every adventure-reality show is about a journey, but in this case we are focusing on real, authentic places. It’s documentary in the middle of a reality show.”
The program, Shtruzman says, bears all the hallmarks of previous Keshet success stories including “Homeland” predecessor “Prisoners of War,” “False Flag,” “Girlfriends,” and “Master Class.” It works within an established genre and then pushes expectations right to the very edge.
“We brought sensitivity and values from the documentary space into the reality space,” Shtruzman says of “Welcome to the Wild.” “Yes, it’s ballsy and disruptive, but we think it’s also still very much within the known and loved genre of nature reality.”
Other shows on Keshet’s slate that Shtruzman is excited to unveil at Mipcom include “The Paper,” a gripping crime drama originally produced for Croatia’s HTV1 about power plays and corruption at a frantic news desk; and “The Feed,” a culinary travel show that uses Instagram, and fervent Instagrammers, to sniff out the best food in a destination. HBO has also greenlit an as-yet-untitled scripted drama from Keshet Intl. about the tragic events involving the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers in 2014. Michael Lombardo is producing.
Shtruzman has high hopes for the medical docu-drama “Residents,” a high-speed look at the daily lives of five surgeons that got its start with Keshet Broadcasting here in Israel; “Clues,” a slick, smart comedy in which one man’s wife and his mistress must form an unlikely detective duo; and “Boxed,” a docu-reality format that susses out conflict resolution by putting dueling pairs into a specially designed box with an expert mediator just outside.
The Keshet brand is both Israel’s leading local content house and an international powerhouse of genre-bending, convention-defying formats that have played a major role in proving Israeli television’s adaptability across the globe.
Keshet Intl., Keshet Media Group’s global distribution and production arm, has local production outposts in the U.S., U.K. and Asia and more than 70 formats in its catalog, including “Homeland” predecessor “Prisoners of War”; beloved BBC family drama “The A Word”; and the fourth wall-smashing interactive talent show “Rising Star.”
As the company grows, its Israeli execs at Keshet Media say they are just as focused on entertaining Israeli audiences as they are in finding formats that can make it abroad. At home, Keshet leads with its original programming across all genres, and its primetime Israeli catalog — half of which are rookies in their first season — includes drama “False Flag,” singing competition “Rising Star,” food battle “MasterChef,” satire “What a Wonderful Country” and the current affairs program “Uvda.”
“Our primary focus is on the prolific and diverse Israeli audiences,” says Karni Ziv, Keshet Media’s head of drama and comedy. “To travel well, storylines must be compelling to Israeli audiences but have universal themes.”
These shows matter, Ziv says, because of Israel’s viewers. Of the country’s 8 million citizens, only about 5 million regularly consume primetime TV, but its diversity, blend of Eastern and Western sensibilities and notorious impatience has led pundits to call the Israeli viewing public the ideal focus group for international formats.
Ziv points to Keshet programs like “The A Word,” which debuted here as “Yellow Peppers” before being adapted for the BBC, and “False Flag,” whose storyline — five citizens who wake up to find they are being accused in a botched Mossad raid — is as Israeli as falafel, as excellent examples.
“Our series embrace issues commonplace throughout the world, like family, immigration, questions of diversity and identity,” she says. “Very good dramatic and comedic stories with relationships at their core are extremely exportable as well.”