A Korea in formats

Danny Fenton, CEO, Zig Zag Productions

Having only previously visited Asia for my holidays, I have now visited the Far East twice in the last few months to discuss programme-making and selling formats internationally.

The news of Zig Zag’s successful visit to China and Japan before Christmas last year was heard across the Yellow Sea so I accepted an offer from KOCCA, the South Korean creative agency, to do some presentations on formats.

I didn’t know much about South Korea before I got there other than the fact we once produced a pilot of an existing Korean show called Love Fighter, funded through KOCCA and [formats network] Sparks. However, the fact the government had funded this congress suggested to me that the country wasn’t happy playing catch-up to its neighbours. They wanted to encourage format production in Korea and they wanted me to tell them how to do it. Korea hasn’t had much of a track record in selling formats and glances enviously at the success Japan has had.

I went with Justin Scroggie – who is known internationally as the ‘format doctor’ and an exec from Nippon in Japan, Aki Harazona.

I’m not saying that Korea is a third world country when it comes to making TV. It has had enormous success in scripted TV, especially in drama and soap operas. The country has just lagged behind when it comes to new formats and ideas.

I did two sessions of format creation. One called ‘The Ten Commandments of Television’ and the other called ‘The Science of Formats’.

I also met KBS, the Korean public broadcaster, which is keen to export formats and offered me a couple to sell internationally. It was obvious Korea is serious about its future and is investing a lot of money for those who interested in looking in that direction.

Justin Scroggie recommended me to them and I think they were aware we had done similar work in Japan and China. If you have any kind form in that part of the world, it will only help.

In fact, so impressed were the locals with my ideas that after my second presentation, the Korean equivalent of the head of PACT and her producers said they felt like they had been in the presence of a holy spirit. I just wish I had same reaction in UK.

I am assuming the experience was positive for all concerned as I have been invited back in September to speak at another conference in Korea.