MIPTV: Everyone's Looking for the Next 'Idol'

Family Harmony - H - 2013

New twists on the reality show format on display include snow-bound rappers, fix-it-up grandmothers and whole families of singing Canadians.

CANNES – The world’s appetite for reality programming seems insatiable, and while international producers are willing to provide a steady diet of reality and scripted reality, no one is sure what to serve up next. 

Idol was ten years ago,” said Elvind Landverk, program director for Norway’s TV Norge during the MipFormats conference here.  “It has been Idol, it has been The Voice.  There are a lot of very good international brands out there, but we’re looking for something new.”

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MipFormats' annual report showed that a little over eighty-six percent of executives said their buying was up in 2012, and they expect that trend to continue in 2013.  But no one show created a game-changing buzz over the weekend; many of the shows highlighted were simply variations on the tried and true talent show, with a twist. 

Germany’s ProsiebenSat1 Media head of format research Bernhard Sonnleitner noted Canadian singing format Family Harmony (Un Air de Famille), which teams of families compete for the title while being coached by celebrities. The format not only showcases talented families, but focuses on their relationships as well. Already renewed for a second season in Canada, the show is being developed for the international market by FremantleMedia, which will present it to execs at MIPTV later in the week.

“It may not be a big talent show but it has emotion and entertainment value that viewers are looking for. It’s about creating stories,” he said. “It’s less about the talent and more about the story and the emotion behind it.”

ITV Studios’ Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway is another show noted by execs as garnering excitement internationally. Hosted by the popular comedy duo, Takeway is part game show and part variety show, incorporating audience participation in physical tasks, challenges, and pranks with celebrity guests sprinkled in. Viewers at home also receive visits and the chance to win prizes. The show has already been a ratings success in the UK.

International buyers cited the current economic climate in both acquisition concerns and programming slates. Russia’s Channel One head of acquisitions Natalia Egorova said that the channel is “not prepared to take money risks” at this time, instead looking to buy finished programming and proven formats from foreign markets and test them on air before producing a local version. 

In Ireland, TV3 Group’s director of content Jeff Ford said the channel is looking for new formats that can be easily localized and offer the Irish viewer “a little bit of hope.”

Shows that have an emotional or charity aspect are peppering the market as well.  Denmark’s Ghetto Riders, which takes immigrants and tries to turn them into a pro-cycling team that can compete on an international level, has been called “heartwarming” and easily translatable to different markets. The Netherlands' somewhat self-explanatory Rappers in the Snow takes well-known rhymers out of their urban environment to the Canadian wilderness with the dual purpose of educating them about environmental damage while composing a new single. As the show concluded, the song was sold and all proceeds went to environmental charities.

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Fix-it formats are also giving hope to both viewers and execs who like the feel-good shows. The Gran Plan, from Israel’s Armoza Formats sees a trio of grandmothers help young people deal with personal and relationship problems, including coaching a 26-year-old to move out of his parents house and teaching him how to talk to women. And Portugal’s Dori Media’s Can You Face It lets its subjects hear the hard truths about themselves from loved ones, before helping them through “psychological rehab” in an effort to build better relationships.

While the smaller and more personal shows may not be the decade-long juggernauts of the international Idol franchise, these low-cost, big-impact shows see no signs of getting voted off the TV screens by execs anytime soon.