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Star of Wonder: Keshet’s Interactive Talent Show Sets Israeli TV Records

Adaptations of 'Rising Star' format from 'Homeland' producer in works at ABC, ITV

Star of Wonder: Keshet's Interactive Talent
Photo by Ronen Akerman

In many places in the world, Christmas Eve is a time for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. But in Israel, a tiny country with a Jewish majority, Dec. 24 saw the birth of a different kind of star.

Evyatar Korkus, a 20-year-old crooner from the hard-knock central Israeli city of Lod, on Tuesday became the first winner of “Rising Star,” a singing competition from Israel’s fast-growing Keshet Intl. that has smashed nearly every television record here and is poised to make a big splash next year in major international markets.

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The program, which premiered during the Jewish High Holidays with a whopping 37 rating/49 share — the best-ever TV numbers seen during Israel’s holiday season — adds a technological twist to the long-honed model of singing hopefuls and celebrity judges.

Viewers at home logged on to an integrated smartphone app while watching the show to vote in real time for their favorites. Singers onstage watched their fates hinge on a tally of live home votes, thus smashing the fourth wall between the audience and the show and looping viewers in in a way never seen before. The show, from the prolific producers of “Homeland” and other successful TV exports, has already been licensed for adaptation by ABC and the U.K.’s ITV, among other territories.

” ‘Rising Star’ is more than just a format. It’s a whole new TV experience that manifests the audience’s demand for more influence and involvement,” said Alon Shtruzman, managing director of Keshet Intl. “The era of the all-mighty judges is over.”

From the minute it premiered in Israel, Rising Star has became a hot commodity on the international market, selling for Germany (RTL), Russia (Rossiya 1), France (M6), Italy (Toro), Scandinavian territories (Nordisk), Hungary (TV2), Spain (Antena 3), Brazil (Globo) and Portugal (TVI). Keshet promises that several more deals are in the works.

In its 14 weeks on air, “Rising Star” averaged a 34 rating/44 share, and it held the No. 1 spot in the weekly charts for the last eight weeks. Nearly 90% of Israeli households tuned in at some point during the season. More than 10 million votes were tallied in through the integrated app, a staggering number for a country where the television viewing audience numbers just over 5 million. The finale set brought in a 40 rating/58 share.

“ ‘Rising Star’ changes the viewing experience as we know it,” said Ran Telem, Keshet’s VP of programming. “The live every-second drama is the basic and crucial ingredient that was the heart of this season.”

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Korkus on Tuesday beat out the beloved Singing Rabbis, aka the Gat Brotheres, a duo of ultra-religious siblings who won over audiences with their combination of pious dress and proficient electric guitar playing.

The finale, which was held on a set filled with screens showing both the inhouse judges and voters at home, had the second-highest share of any talent show ever shown in Israel. Only “Master Class,” a kid-centric competition that allows pint-sized vocalists to compete without criticism, earned more with a 48 share.

“Rising Star” was 25% ahead of last year’s final season of “A Star Is Born,” the Israeli version of “American Idol,” and 15% higher than the best-ever average for the Israeli version of “The X Factor.” Its finale numbers delivered a larger audience than the turnout for television coverage of Israel’s most recent election.

“We have managed to translate it to a TV show that touches everyone,” said Shtruzman. “Ten years ago a nice idea with good creative was enough to make an international format. Not anymore.”