International Sales of Russian TV Formats on the Rise

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Nigel Lythgoe's production company is adapting Russia's "Go Dance!" show.

Producers hope to sell more series outside the former Soviet Union.

MOSCOW – The number of Russian television formats sold abroad has been on the rise, and although the majority of the sales still go to countries of the former Soviet Union, producers expect more interest from the West.

According to KVG Research, the adapted versions of 25 Russian television formats were aired in 2011, a nearly 40 percent increase from the previous year. However, most of the adaptations were made in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus.

The most popular Russian series in markets outside the former USSR are the quiz show Chto? Gde? Kogda? (What? Where? When?), which has been adapted in the United States and Turkey, and the children's cartoon Smeshariki, which has been adapted in the United States, Great Britain, Germany and, most recently, in China.

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The dance show Go Dance!, produced by Star Media Group in cooperation with Ukraine’s Studio Kvartal-95, is among the few series that have sold adaptation rights to Western countries. In late February, the producer announced the sale of the North American rights to MY-Tupelo Entertainment. The U.S. version is to be produced in collaboration with Nigel Lythgoe Productions. On March 1, the sale of the format to France’s Effervescence was announced.

Meanwhile, industry insiders say that in the longer-term, television formats originated in Russia could have a better international appeal.

"It's not true that there are no formats in Russia that would be interesting in the West," Vlad Ryashin, CEO and producer at Star Media Group, told The Hollywood Reporter. "While earlier, Russia was viewed by majors only as a buyer [of formats], now they are closely looking at our productions."

"I believe that in the years to come, the popularity of Russian formats will go up," he went on to say. "Russian companies are beginning to invest more in international promotion of their products."