MIPTV: Keshet CEO Avi Nir Shares What Makes the Israeli Company Tick

Avi Nir

'Rising Star' is nonetheless a big bet on future expansion.

The head of the company everyone is buzzing about in Cannes finally made it to the Croisette for the first time – and talked on stage Monday morning at MIPTV about what makes his team tick and what makes his shows translate abroad.

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Dressed casually (despite the organizer Reed-Midem’s dictum that all speakers on stage be in suits), the CEO of Israel’s Keshet, Avi Nir, spoke animatedly and at length about the secret of his company’s success and why he believes so many of his shows resonate abroad. 

The word "unpredictability" kept resurfacing in all Nir's remarks. "We're searchers," he told his interviewer. "We may be number one, but we think like number two. Disruptiveness can only come if you don’t feel like the winner. Restless is key. This is the company ethos."

With that preamble, Nir went on to talk about the process of creation at Keshet, putting the accent on the relatively small size of the company and its openness to argument and new ideas. Regarding the local comedy Easy Money, the writer who brought it to the Keshet team, Nir said, also wanted to play the lead role. "I was against it but others in the room argued for it. I was overruled." The show worked.

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Another show he pointed to, The A-Word, is also  "unformulaic." It focuses on an autistic child who is a musical prodigy and is already a critical fave in Israel. "We’re looking for what’s out of the box. Writers who are innovators. We try to hear great voices," Nir went on.

Nir said the business culture around Keshet works to their advantage. "Our shareholders are like parents, and we’re the children left alone at home: We get to play."

As for the white-hot, widely licensed but still largely untested format of Rising Star, Nir emphasized what he termed the "unpredictability of the narrative" as its key selling point, extolling the app which allows viewers to vote in real time for the contestants they like. To get his idea across, he showed the promo for the upcoming ABC version of the singing competition show. That version premiers later this spring in the States. (Apparently, a number of European countries are waiting to see how the Alphabet fares with its version before tweaking their own.)

Pressed as to the company’s future growth scenario, Nir stressed that he did not have "big strategic plans," suggesting that being relatively small in a small country had its advantages.  

Instead, he promised MIP-goers that the company would never be bringing more than three or four new -- "but great" -- formats to the market. This go-round the Keshet sales team is focusing on deals for its game show Boom!, which is already racking up a few sales in Europe, and on another reality format called Elevator Pitch.