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The time is now for emerging markets

Tyler-massey-smallFor decades the industry’s think tank for original formats has rested in the hands of only a few countries, with the remainder of the world taking their cues in both scripted and unscripted TV formats from the juggernauts of the UK, US, Netherlands, and Europe in general.

However, the rise of the telenovela, Turkish drama, Scandinavian and Israeli formats, Japanese gameshow formats and Korean dramas have broadened the base from which channels will programme.

Smaller markets often take bigger risks with unique ideas, and when they become ratings hits, budgets are often the only real difference. The opportunity to scale new ideas up, or make slight changes to meet cultural needs, is very real, and not difficult for a talented producer or network exec.

Every market, buyers and sellers alike now wait to see what the new trend will be, and in recent years, from where it will arise. This is the new paradigm, the culmination of more than a decade of new entrants into the global content leadership council. The conceit that an original idea can now come from anywhere and at any time has created an atmosphere accepting of new players and unique ideas because no one wants to miss out on the next big thing.

To become an exporter of television formats, a country experiences a lifecycle that sees it start as an importer of the major hits such as IdolMasterChef, The Voice and so on. The next obvious step is to start creating their own formats from their own original ideas, applying that knowledge gained to new and successful shows. Then the question for these burgeoning networks and countries naturally becomes – if we paid so much for the licenses of the formats we adapted, why can’t we make money on our original ideas?

We’ve already seen the initial sparks from what would have formerly been considered unlikely places such as the recent deals of the unscripted Korean hit Grandpas Over Flowers to NBC in the US, and the buzz from scripted drama The Sniffer from Ukraine. Even Rising Star and Boom from Keshet were relatively unexpected.

Though for anyone working with these territories, it comes as no surprise to see them finally get attention as originators of quality ideas that can travel, as they have matured in their life cycles, having spent years adapting formats from around the world.

The question really has been how open will networks in the leading television markets be to original ideas from smaller markets.

Having launched my company, MassMedia International (MMI), in October with the foundation built on finding these new and locally successful formats from emerging markets and launching them globally, this was the main question to be answered.

Smaller markets often take bigger risks with unique ideas, and when they become ratings hits, budgets are often the only real difference. The opportunity to scale new ideas up, or make slight changes to meet cultural needs, is very real, and not difficult for a talented producer or network exec.

Networks big and small around the world are eager for new ideas, and willing to look past the window dressing to the original concept or key elements and take chances with formats from new places. Never has there been a time of more perceived opportunity in the formats market, and more eagerness from buyers to give a hard look at any good idea, unscripted or scripted, with a strong track record, no matter the source.

The formats in these emerging markets span the entire spectrum of readiness, from polished and ready to plug and play, to great ideas that need cultural adaptation or budgetary scaling, and in a few cases taking the initial concept and developing it for the international market. The format owners recognise the value in their IP, and are usually open to the right approach in bringing their ideas to market.

Primarily MMI has been looking to Asia and central and eastern Europe for new, successfully produced formats. We have picked up a brand new format from Quizzical Productions and Clover in South Africa in the reality cooking competition space that is a breath of fresh air – Little Big Cook Off sees adults paired with kids in their family as contestants in the studio based cooking competition.

Spelling Hero from China’s 3C Media, meanwhile, is one of the first original Chinese formats to be launched worldwide that would be adapted internationally as a spelling bee set in a gameshow with actual game play, a completely unique approach to the genre. Jailbirds, from Ukraine’s Film.UA, is a controversial reality series about redemption as ex-cons are given the chance to assimilate back into society, and is an example of how culturally there will be sensitivities and adaptations necessary to fit both regulatory and audience needs.

Then there are examples of polished formats from up and coming territories such as Heads and Tails from Teenspirit in Ukraine, which is the most-watched travel series in the territory and Russia and follows a celeb couple as they travel to cities around the world and flip a coin to see who will live the high life for a weekend, and who has to live on US$100.

Thankfully, I’ve already found that my initial notion was right – no matter the territory, networks big and small around the world are eager for new ideas, and willing to look past the window dressing to the original concept or key elements and take chances with formats from new places.

Never has there been a time of more perceived opportunity in the formats market, and more eagerness from buyers to give a hard look at any good idea, unscripted or scripted, with a strong track record, no matter the source. No doubt we will see new hotbeds of formats at the big TV markets, and in the coming years hearing that a new country has the next sizzling hot hit format will no longer be a surprise.

 

Tyler Massey is president of Massmedia International