TBI’s 2013 in review – part one

MS Polarlys_Geirangerfjord.jpgIn this week-long series of articles, TBI editors Stewart Clarke and Jesse Whittock take a look back at the year in international television, taking in everything from never-ending show formats to genuinely scary promo videos, before 2014 arrives and it all begins again. Without further ado…


The insatiable appetite for Scandi scripted formats has meant the other new programming trend coming out of the region has been almost entirely ignored. Happily, last month we were on hand to report on Slow TV (pictured above), Norwegian pubcaster’s NRK’s latest addition to the global formats canon. The concept sees cameras broadcast serene events such as a cruise in their entirety. Though this might sound like send-you-to-sleep TV, Slow TV has scored massive ratings for the Norwegian pubcaster and enticed LMNO Productions to take US production rights. (See ‘Best Quote’ for more).

Interesting fact: there are claims the ‘slow’ format derives from the 1963 Andy Warhol film Sleep.


2013 IN YOUR WORDS: Andrew Zein, senior VP, creative, format development and sales, Warner Bros. International Television Production

Seeing scripted formats growing in popularity and performance across a wide range of territories. In particular the success of a number of formats in Turkey, including our show The OC, which became Medcezir. This, combined with the incredible appetite for Turkish drama across the Middle East and Africa, has propelled Turkey towards the top of the list for emerging territories to pay attention to



At the Edinburgh TV Festival in August, newly-appointed BBC One controller Charlotte Moore was moving toward the end of her get-to-know-you controller session without any hiccups when she was asked to comment on unending rumours the BBC’s flagship channel would snap up the ratings winning UK primetime format The Great British Bake Off (she originally commissioned it for Two). Her response was a totally non-committal ‘maybe-maybe not’, veering toward a ‘where on Earth did you get that from?’. Fast forward to October 15 and the inevitable announcement: ‘Charlotte Moore announces The Great British Bake Off to move to BBC One’.

british bake off


MOST HEADLINE GRABBING DEAL: Netflix orders Marvel-produced superhero dramas from Disney

Having scored plaudits for House of Cards and Lilyhammer and having registered a surprise critical hit with Orange is the New Black, Netflix was clearly targeting a seat at the big table. But it was still a shock when news filtered through that the US’s favourite streaming service had ordered four series and mini based on Marvel Universe characters. Both Disney and Netflix defined the deal as “unprecedented” and Disney CEO Bob Iger later called it a “great fit”. Super fans, geeks (and Netflix execs) everywhere are praying that’s the case.


2013 IN YOUR WORDS: David Mortimer, senior VP, factual and entertainment, NBCUniversal International Television Production

My top TV moment of 2013 was Tom Baker’s surprise guest star appearance at the end of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special – one of those rare moments when you know that you’re sharing in a moment of delight with the rest of the nation.

In the world of unscripted, this year played out like a lowbrow remake of Beckett’s Waiting For Godot… self-doubt, occasional moments of hope, but mostly endless unfulfilled anticipation for that big new format (Prize Island anyone?) that never quite arrives



We’re back with Slow TV for this year’s finest quote, and it’s a good one. It comes from NRK’s head of format development Ole Hedemann, who said this about the LMNO format deal: “First we saw a seven hour train ride, then a five-day live cruise, 18 hours of live salmon fishing and after that 12 hours of live wood burning. Now, this autumn we are about to show live knitting.” Bravo, Ole.


Imagine the pitch: ‘It’s a low budget TV disaster movie from mockbuster specialist The Asylum starring former actress-turned-professional party girl Tara Reid in which psychotic sharks get caught in a ferocious tornado attack an LA seaside town’.

The concept of Sharknado was brilliantly weird but surely not a ratings winner and social media phenomenon too… until it became exactly those things. The film became the most-watched telemovie ever on cable channel Syfy and at one stage was drumming up an unbelievable 5,000 tweets a minute. Which leads on to our next category…

BIGGEST MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Syfy passes up TBI-created Shocktopus

While Twitter was going Sharknado­-crazy, the team at TBI saw an opportunity. Almost two hours of solid punning not only put pay the news stories we were chasing but more importantly lead us to the inception of Shocktopus, a B movie about a killer electric octopus that ‘feeds off the currents’. We tweeted the concept to the Syfy PR team with a one-time, free of charge rights offer but were sadly ignored. It’s TV’s loss that Shocktopus – and the inevitable Shocktopus Vs. Storm Shark spin-off – is never getting made.

@Syfy Here at the TBI Towers, we’ve come up with Shocktopus – an electric octopus terrifying the seas. Tagline: ‘He feeds off the currents’

— Jesse Whittock (@TBI_Jesse) July 12, 2013


@Syfy Craig! What about our idea!?! It’s yours if you want it

— Jesse Whittock (@TBI_Jesse) July 12, 2013

Most Recent