MipDoc: Digital Driving Factual Boom

Boom! Key Art 2014
@ Keshet International

Boom! Key Art 2014

Online interactivity and multiplatform programming are all the buzz as international broadcasters hunt for the next big format.

Which of the scores of reality, game and shiny floor entertainment formats on offer at factual TV market MipDoc will be the next big global hit is anyone's guess.

But if the buzz on the Croisette is any indication, the next big show will be interactive from the ground up.

PHOTOS: MIPTV: The Hottest New Fiction Shows

At a MipFormats panel called “What Do Buyers Want?” the three programming executives onstage agreed digital and multiplatform components are essential when developing new factual programming for today's market.

“I’d say to every independent producer, gone are the days when you just think about the time slot that you are pitching for,” said Jennifer Detman, executive director of studio and unscripted content for Canadian public broadcaster CBC. “You have to come to us with a full 360 experience.”

Detman discussed the CBC's upcoming game show, Canada’s Smartest Person. The show has an application where viewers at home play against the contestants in the studio. A similar set-up is in store for the BBC, with You Against the Nation going to pilot after a two-year development period where viewers at home are playing against six studio contestants.

BBC executive editor of entertainment commissioning Alan Tyler called it the British network's first “truly interactive game show. ... It’s risky and that’s what makes it really exciting. It’s uncharted territory and what we should be trying now,” he said.

“Consumption patterns are changing so much on the scripted side, and with the kind of content that I create it doesn’t do well with binge viewing, that’s not how people traditionally consume it,” said Detman. “The content that we create on the nonscripted side has to be far more participatory.”

A consequence of this more participatory, multiplatform approach is that the major players these days insist on retaining digital rights, something that a few years ago they didn’t even consider, said Sweden’s SBS channel director Calle Jansson.

Speaking at a separate MipFormats panel Olivier Delfosse, senior vp digital at Fremantle USA, echoed those thoughts, adding that being interactive helps sell formats to potential advertisers around the world.

“We know that brands and sponsors really want to be associated with digital activity. The next generation of shows is going to have all of this stuff incorporated in it from the beginning,” he said.

His argument was echoed by fellow panelist Eli Uzan from Israel.

“A few MIPs ago when you started pitching digital components you got feedback of ‘Why?’ Two MIPs ago it became ‘How?’ and now it’s ‘When?’ It’s not something the broadcasters or the producers designed, I think it’s an evolutionary change in the way the users’ behavior has developed over time.” added the chairman of Screenz, which is the digital component developer for the Israeli production house Keshet.

Keshet's interactive singing competition show, Rising Star, was the hit of the Mipcom market last October, selling to more than 25 territories worldwide, including ABC in the U.S., where it will bow this summer. At MipDoc, Keshet unveiled two new interactive formats: the ticking-time-bomb game show Boom! and live voting entrepreneur show Elevator Pitch. For its part, Israeli competitor Reshet had its own buzz-worthy interactive entrepreneur show with Fundastic.

While new formats attracted much of the attention at MipDoc, there was a strong appetite for traditional documentary fare as well, as the global market for factual programming of all kinds continues to expand, driven by proliferating cable and satellite-delivered niche channels.

STORY: How Much for That Reality Company?! What's Behind the Recent Acquisition Spree

Genres that seem to be particularly hot this year include history and science, especially anything related to World War I or to outer space.

Off-the-wall fare is, of course, always in, as British broadcaster C4’s Secrets of the Living Dolls and Israel’s Web Junkies suggest.

On the higher end of the scale is the tentpole project Apocalypse: WWI, a French-Canadian co-production which drew an astounding audience of 7 million on French network TF1. (The doc will air Stateside on Discovery’s American Heroes this fall and on Nat Geo channels internationally.) French producer Louis Vaudeville is planning a similar multi-episode approach about the Cold War, and will be scouring for funding partners at the MipTV market, which kicks off in Cannes on Monday.

In other news out of MipDoc, A&E Networks unveiled its plans to expand its nonfiction bouquet of outlets by launching an offshoot of Investigation Discovery. The new service, glossy and contemporary in look, is called ID X and will target women fascinated by true-life crimes of passion. Even Jerry Springer is on board the new channel to front a strand called Tabloid.

The company’s senior vp for the CEEMEA region, Paul Welling, told an audience of doc devotees that the overseas market iss ripe for such segmentation, with Poland and Russia being the springboard countries from which to expand. Similarly, A&E Networks is pushing several of its Stateside brands into Europe, having successfully launched Lifetime in the U.K. and A&E into France.

“We see a range of opportunities opening up,” said A&E’s Dean Possenniskie. The A&E brand will launch in more major European markets this year and the company’s FYI channel, a retooling of Bio, is waiting in the wings.