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Grant Ross, global head of format acquisitions at Endemol, has spent the last several days at the MIPTV programming market in Cannes hunting for the next big thing in TV and he’s feeling the pressure. “We don’t have the luxury anymore to wait until a show goes on the air to see how it does,” said Ross, grabbing a moment in between his back-to-back meetings at the busy Endemol sales booth.
Like many other TV executives, Ross is looking at program ideas in the pilot stage and sometimes even earlier as he scans for the next game-changer, something with the staying power of Big Brother, a show that still delivers in many markets.
The hot news on the Croisette at this year’s MIP TV market was undoubtedly Jersey Shore and its newest commission by TF1 to bring the US reality series to a shoreline a la francais. But beyond Viacom’s hit format, several executives in the business of predicting these things pointed to dating shows, series built around communities and a resurgence of interest in the quiz show as some of the hot trends.
For example, Endemol is seriously impressed with an Israeli format called Dear Neighbour, a show that Endemol’s Ross says marries dating and community in a fresh way. The show is about a rural community pulling together to help find the soul-mate for a local unattached person who has moved to the city to work but has not found love there. “There is a creative fibre to this show that taps into a ‘back to your roots’ trend and away from the bling-bling of urban life,” said Ross. “We are looking at it very seriously.”
As broadcasters look for programming that is capable of being localized and won’t break the bank, unscripted formats can often fit the bill very nicely indeed. Tony Cohen, CEO of X-Factor producer FremantleMedia, predicted the “inexorable acceleration” of the global entertainment formats business in 2012 and beyond. “There were some 99 entertainment formats around the world in 2011, and that figure was up 10 percent from a year earlier,” said Cohen on day one of the MipTV market to a group fo journalists attending an opening breakfast. “I see no evidence of this reversing.”
Zodiak Group’s head of entertainment Barnaby Shingleton agrees that dating formats are on the rise and there are plenty to choose from, but he also believes that programs that challenge stereotypes are also more in demand. He calls the latter ‘fish out of water’ shows like Extreme Job Swap. But Singleton’s biggest bet is on the resurgence of the quiz show. “Million Pound Drop shifted the perception of broadcasters back towards quiz shows,” said Singleton. “Million Pound Drop is the first primetime quiz show format since Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and The Weakest Link to sell widely around the world, which has helped reignite interest in the quiz in prime time or access prime time slots.”
Still, there are always ideas in Cannes that are offered to key broadcasters under a certain veil of secrecy, and this market was no exception. A secret room at the Carlton Hotel was fitted with a mock up of what one broadcaster described as a “fresh take” on the long-running game show Wheel of Fortune. It could be the next big thing.
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