The big money going into drama means scripted grabs all the headlines in TV these days, but under the radar there’s a surprising amount of innovation going on within unscripted entertainment, too.
At first glance, it seems like little has changed in that genre, as the list of top formats is familiar. Franchises such as “Dancing With the Stars,” “Survivor,” “American Idol” and “Got Talent” still draw in millions of live viewers around the world, despite each being well over a decade old. In the U.K., the latest installment of the country’s most-popular format, “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here,” was its most-watched ever — in its 18th season — and will debut in France later this year.
For many broadcasters, these tentpole shows remain reassuringly popular at a time when their business is being disrupted by the streamers. “The big brands are still attracting big audiences,” says Vasha Wallace, Fremantle’s executive vice president of global acquisitions and development.
Yet traditional broadcasters are still backing lots of new shows, aware that they can attract big live audiences. “The SVODs have forced everyone to up their game,” says Wallace, arguing that “more innovation and risks” are being taken.
With spiraling scripted budgets, formats are viewed as a cost-effective way of pulling in viewers.
Partly for this reason, the SVODs themselves are pushing more into this space. Netflix has ordered local-language versions of format “Nailed It,” obstacle course game show “Ultimate Beastmaster” and an adaptation of the U.K. reality series “The Circle.”
“It’s a really good way of diversifying their offering in local markets,” says Lisa Perrin, CEO of creative networks for Endemol Shine Group. Endemol Shine, she adds, is close to announcing deals for two big reality formats with one of the streamers.
Around the world, producers and distributors are busy working out what kind of entertainment show might play best on the streaming platforms, says Mike Beale, managing director Nordics and global creative network at ITV Studios. “We’ve got to learn the new rules.”
Everything from quiz shows to singing competitions to dance formats are in demand. New to ITV’s slate this MipTV is “Catchpoint,” a physical quiz that Beale says anybody can play without being super smart.
Endemol Shine’s singing competition “All Together Now” launched on the U.K.’s BBC1 last year, and was quickly recommissioned for a second season. It has now been sold to 12 countries, including Australia, Brazil and France, with more deals soon to be announced. Another priority for Endemol Shine is obstacle course competition reality series “Big Bounce Battle,” which has just launched its second season in Germany and is set to debut on Fox in the U.S. next year.
“The Greatest Dancer” — a co-production between creator Syco Entertainment and Thames (part of Fremantle) — launched on BBC1 in winter, and has also been recommissioned. Wallace says there will be announcements on international sales in due course.
And Fremantle has a new sports format, “Match Fit,” in which former soccer stars train to prove they can get back in shape and take on old rivals.
There has also been a resurgence in game and dating shows — veteran series including “Family Feud” — as well as newer formats such as “Who Knew?” and “Celebrity Name Game.” Wallace points to the success of the latter formats such as “Take Me Out,” which has been sold in 36 countries, and “Farmer Wants a Wife,” which has sold in 32.
Meanwhile, the large-scale success of broadcaster launches such as Fox’s “The Masked Singer” and NBC’s “The Titan Games” in the U.S. and ITV’s “Small Fortune” in the U.K. may also be proof that audiences are ready for even more shake-ups.
“It’s a bit like voting for Brexit or Donald Trump: The audience wants something else,” says Beale. “I think more networks need to make these bold moves and try new things.”