Expectation Entertainment has not only met expectations but exceeded them in the two years since it was set up, but given the track-record of its co-CEOs perhaps this should not be such a surprise.
The company, led by Peter Fincham, formerly controller of BBC One and director of television at ITV, and Tim Hincks, latterly president of Endemol Shine Group, is making 13 series this year, spread across all genres, with more set to follow.
Its series include “The Big Narstie Show,” a chat-show hosted by a grime artist, ordered by Channel 4, “Superkids: Breaking Away from Care,” a documentary series about kids in care who take part in a public performance, again ordered by Channel 4, a coming-of-age sitcom about a gay school-kid, “In My Skin,” produced for the BBC, and cookery challenge show “The Brigade,” another BBC show.
Speaking Sunday at MipFormats, which runs as an appetizer to this week’s MipTV television market and conference in Cannes, Fincham underscored the point that his and Hincks’ past glories were of little value without fresh ideas for shows to pitch to broadcasters. That said there was an expectation that their new company would have lofty ambitions.
“We had been on the bridge of some quite big ships. So were we just to put together a little rowing boat, and sit facing each other, it might have felt a bit weird. I’m not sure if we could still remember how to row. So, we needed to have some ambition,” Fincham said, having explained that it had been his wish to return to his roots as an independent producer.
Expectation was conceived of from the get-go as a multi-genre production company, which set it apart from most production start-ups, and Fincham and Hincks recruited a large team of execs experienced in all the different genres so it could hit the ground running. Apart from the commercial potential of this approach, it had other benefits. “It created an interesting culture where you have people in scripted and non-scripted making coffee in the same kitchen as it were,” he said.
Although the founders had developed an ambitious business plan for the company, there was no guarantee that they would be able to fulfil the promise. “When you start an independent company you don’t know what you are going to make. People talk about strategy but strategy is really opportunity,” he said. “It is the talent of the people that you work with and the ideas that everybody have [that count]. And we thought that could be a more interesting brew if it was multi-genre, and I think it has turned out to be.”
The risk-taking nature of the venture didn’t deter Fincham. “A production company is a bit of a stab in the dark, but all the more exciting for that,” he said.
Fincham was reluctant to see his shows as formats, although that is clearly what many of them have become, including “The Brigade,” which DRG is selling at MipTV. “I don’t think viewers sit at home thinking I am watching a format. Where does a format end and a program begin?” he said. “The word ‘format’ to me can imply a scientific laboratory in which people in white coats try to devise the perfect format, and I don’t think it works like that.”
He added: “Think of a production company as an environment – like a greenhouse – in which things can grow. Some of them will be programs that are wonderful to make but frankly are not formats at all… But if you create the environment in which creativity thrives then formats will emerge.”
Pictured: Cookery challenge show “The Brigade”