Japanese formats hot at MIPTV

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CANNES -- The playful "torture" of Fuji TV's "Silent Library" -- which involves everything from the plucking of nose hairs to tarantulas being placed down shirts -- was among the hot Japanese formats in the spotlight on Tuesday at MIPTV.

"Pain is an important factor, but in a humorous way of doing things," Taco Ketelaar, chief creative officer of 2WayTraffic, said of the format his company picked up last year for global distribution.

"The success of Western formats has led to a lot of similarity and stations have been asking for things that are new and different," said Bellon Entertainment president, Gregory Bellon, who moderated the panel "Japan's Newest Program Export: Formats."

Ketelaar said the success of "Silent Library" and another Fuji TV format, "Hole in the Wall," licensed by FremantleMedia, were just the beginning.

"We're now being approached by lots of Japanese companies," Ketelaar said. "A lot of it is about timing. No one dared pick them up before. Now broadcasters in Europe and the U.S. are opening their minds to trying new stuff."

2WayTraffic also has licensed Japanese station YTV's "The Real Fame Game" for international distribution.

Rob Clark, FremantleMedia's senior executive vp of entertainment and production for worldwide entertainment, said it took him one minute to decide to license Fuji TV's "Hole in the Wall."

The format, dubbed "human Tetris" -- after the popular block-stacking video game -- has sold to 17 countries, including Russia, India, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Ratings for the local version of the show in Denmark were 500% above the slot average and Indonesia is now airing two different versions a day, Clark said.

He added that the format, which sees helmeted contestants contorting to squeeze through oddly-shaped openings in a moving wall, features two fundamental television principles: "If you fall on your arse it gets a laugh. When you are pushed into a swimming pool, it gets an even bigger laugh," he said.

"I don't believe 'Hole in the Wall' would have been made by a European, U.S. or Australian broadcaster," Clark said.

"Fundamentally it's very different in its' humor. It has a lightness of touch that could never have been devised by our U.K. office, which would have wanted more structure, more game elements," he added.

Nippon Television Network producer Jin Kurihara said that shows like "Dragon's Den," which first aired in Japan in a post-midnight slot in 2001, would not have been possible in the past.

Licensed by Sony Pictures Television "Dragon's Den" involves entrepreneurs pitching ideas to venture capitalists. "Japan never had a business venture mind, but now things are changing," Kurihara said.
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