MIPTV: Spike TV Buys Canadian Adaptation of Norwegian Format (Exclusive)

Reversing cross-border traffic, the U.S. network picks up the local version of the NRK madcap science series "Never Ever Do This At Home" from Insight Productions.

TORONTO -- U.K. distributor DRG has sold Spike TV the Canadian madcap science series Never Ever Do This At Home, based on a Norwegian TV format.

The U.S. channel picked up the first English-language version of Norwegian broadcaster NRK’s format from Canadian indie producer Insight Productions, and will debut the reality series on May 28 stateside.

The Spike TV sale underlines how the Canadian TV industry has advanced from buying U.S. and U.K. formats for local consumption to selling its own finished adaptations to the Americans and the British.

The 13-episode Never Ever Do This At Home series, to also air on Discovery Channel Canada from May 6, parades hosts Teddy Wilson and Norm Sousa doing exactly what home health and safety regulations warn against, including mixing and igniting volatile gases and explosives in an old Ontario farmhouse.

DRG is now hoping to do brisk business with the finished Canadian series at MIPTV this week.

It’s understood the U.K. distributor is close to selling Insight’s Never Ever Do This At Home version to broadcasters in the U.K., China, Spain and Italy.

Local versions of the Norwegian TV format were earlier produced in Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

But Insight Productions CEO John Brunton recalls developing with Discovery Channel Canada an English language version of the NRK format that brings science to the masses, and foreign broadcasters.

“We had a lot of interest from the very beginning and we felt like we had a show that could be sold all over the world,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

Foreign sales of a finished Canadian show based on an international format are rare as risk-averse broadcasters in Canada fixed on track record and producer pedigree mostly grab format rights for shows like Canadian Idol, Deal or No Deal Canada and Big Brother Canada that first proved themselves in the U.S. or the U.K.

Brunton’s Insight Productions produced most of those local Canadian versions.

But Insight has also been working on original formats like Canada Sings and Battle of the Blades, while also adapting foreign formats to work in both the Canadian and world markets.

The result is Insight and DRG breaking the mold by selling a Canadian-made show into the U.S. and Europe, by way of Norway.

“We just got lucky to be able to get the first English speaking version produced and immediately started showing it around through DRG,” Brunton said.

Insight and DRG had a few things going for it as they sealed the Spike TV deal.

First the series’ co-hosts made science fun by, for example, setting off fireworks indoors, tossing a propane-filled cooking canister into a fire and proving that making illegal moonshine really is dangerous.

The strategy was also following the Americans and the British in making a local show that can travel.

“We added linking elements that made the show very, very commercial. The idea of the show was a universal idea,” explained Brunton of a series about bone-headed stunts people are forever warned against attempting at home.

Insight also worked on the Canadian drama Falcon Beach with Tom Zappala, executive vp of programming and scheduling at Spike TV, when he was at ABC Family.

“There was comfort there. All those things led him to make a quick decision,” Jane Rimer, international creative and business development at Insight, said of talks when her company and DRG brought the project to Zappala.

And for DRG, the UK distributor now has in the Spike TV deal for a finished Canadian show a sizzle reel it can bring to Cannes this week.

“It is a real global success story and we are excited to be continuing the sale of the original format and launching this finished program to buyers at MIPTV,” Patrick Roberts, senior vp of international sales at DRG, said in a statement.