CANNES — In Unscripted Entertainment everybody may still be waiting for the Next Big Thing – the water-cooler new format. That doesn’t mean, however, that it unscripted is currently dead in the water, Avril Blondelot, Eurodata TV head of content insight, said at a presentation at Cannes’ MipDoc on Sunday.
Despite broadcaster feeding fever for high-end drama series, unscripted entertainment currently still accounts for 35% of primetime schedules in 11 key territories surveyed by Paris-based Mediametrie, in its Entertainment Report for 2018, Blondelot noted at her presentation, entitled The Future of Viewing Trends.
2,795 entertainment programs launched in 48 territories worldwide last year, according to a New on the Air (NoTa) study. Furthermore, in the 11 countries analyzed by the Entertainment Report — Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, U.K., U.S. — for three out of four channels, entertainment improved their main channel market share, Blondelot added.
Reality competitions — think Fremantle’s “Got Talent,” BBC Studios’ “Strictly Come Dancing,” Talpa Global’s “Voice” — remain the most-watched entertainment genre in primetime, though many unscripted formats are now over a decade old. But the winds of change are coming.
“There may be no Next Big Thing but there is a new approach to big formats which turns on how to go global, Blondelot argued. This consists in global contests. Two examples which she instanced at Cannes were “Eco Challenge: the Expedition Race,” from Japan’s NHK, which has 50 teams from over the world competing with one another; China will air “The World’s Got Talent,” another global contest.
Factual entertainment remains the most prevalent broadcast genre in primetime, made up mainly of original creations often boasting strong characters, according to Blondelot.
Digital is also increasingly important for entertainment. “That’s been the case in China for a long time for regulation reasons, but it’s growing in many countries across local digital platforms and U.S. global platforms, where entertainment’s presence tripled in 2018,” she added, citing Netflix’s “Nailed It!” and Facebook Watch’s “Confetti.”
In general, digital entertainment remains “still very small on digital platforms compared to its presence on linear, said Blondelot. But convergence is at work. “Online and linear used to be seen as opposites. They’re converging. Linear platforms content can be replayed. Scheduling is increasingly important for Netflix.”
Daily entertainment soaps — “Les Marseilles Australia,” “Les Princes et Les Princesses de L’Amour” on W9 in France — represent a very niche TV viewing option, but can command high online viewing on broadcaster VOD services, said Blondelot.
Science, sports and culture are three stand-out factual entertainment topics. Shows featuring experiments have increased some 57% in popularity from 2016 to 2018, whether illustrating science, health, psychology or technology, Bondelot said.
This is true of China’s “Go to Space” and “Space Challenge,” as the country ramps up its space program. She also cited “Operation Live,” sold by ITV Studios Global Ent. and a big hit on the U.K.’s Channel 5. Allowing viewers to watch grisly medical operations, it was 73% up on the channel average for its first three episodes.
Media Ranch’s “Manipulator,” airing on Denmark’s DR1, 38% up over four episodes, has an expert guessing if people are lying to him. In China, Ten Cent’s “Player One” has a jury analyzing celebrities’ actions in a strategy game.
Exploring for instance the secret lives of athletes, factual reality, represents 42% of sports-related entertainment shows.“Sports can be very spectacular but another way to approach it is the human story behind sports,” said Blondelot, citing BBC Three’s “Britain’s Youngest Football Boss,” sold by ITV Studios Global Ent.
“Zuku HK,” about training loners with no sports aptitude to become ace handball players, punched 140% higher than its slot average among 19-50s on Denmark’s TV 2.
Bucking views of predominant popcorn viewing, YA culture programs – think TV3’s “Katalonski” in Catalonia, about foreigners trying to learn Catalan, or “Mumbo Jumbo” – score 15% better ratings than ”arts” and “cultural” entertainment programs in general.
Aired on NPO1 in the Netherlands, “Project Rembrandt,” asking people of all ages to paint in his style, performed 40% better than slot average. CCTV’s “New in the Palace Museum” was 70% up on China’s Beijing Sat. “Mumbo Jumbo,” broadcast on Sweden’s TV4, had a 41.5% market share.
Reality comedy is also putting in strong performances, Dutch channel NPO3’s “Experimensen,” featuring comic scientific experiments, beat slot averages by 25%; “La Scoumoune,” a French parody of physical gameshows where the winner is the contestant with the worst luck, was 75% above slot average for France’s C8.
In further instances of the build of comedy in unscripted, ABC Australia’s “Tomorrow Tonight,” a news show send-up, performed 142% better among 18-49s, Blondelot said.
Among commercial targets, comedy was the No. 2 of top three entertainment sub-genres in mid-2018, not much behind talent tests. “Comedy works a lot, in scripted and unscripted,” Blondelot concluded.