With the runaway momentum of The X Factor of the mid-2000s slowing, Simon Cowell has gone back to the creative drawing board to develop La Banda, which he and distributor FremantleMedia hope will first draw in US Hispanic audiences before attracting viewers in other demos and other parts of the world.
Leading Hispanic American broadcast channel Unvision has commissioned two seasons off the bat, with Cowell’s Syco TV attached to produce and Saban a co-developer. FremantleMedia has international formats rights, in a deal set-up akin to X Factor.
Though Cowell hopes to find the Latin American One Direction, that is largely where the comparisons between the two shows end, according to FremantleMedia’s director of global entertainment, Rob Clarke.
“Simon has been fascinated by Latin America for some time and believes a Latin boy band would be amazing,” says Clarke.
Whereas The X Factor and Pop Idol are straight talent shows that hand their judges most of the power to vote singers through or out, La Banda places much more authority with the audience, which comprises 500 girls who vote on performances.
“There are outdoor auditions, so it’s more concert-like” than X Factor, says Clarke, whose firm will begin selling the format internationally at MIPCOM. The celebrity judges include Latin American heart-throb Ricky Martin.
Getting 75% approval from the audience puts the singer, who may hail from any part of Latin American, through to the next round. There is also a random bands round, where the teenagers are placed together and asked to deliver gold-standard performances, and a music video round, with the poorest performers voted off along the way.
The winning performers form a band that has a contract with Sony Music, following the same model of Cowell’s prior format hits.
Univision’s show was shot in Miami in iconic art deco locations near the beach, and debuted last month to 4.2 million viewers. International versions will similarly film in famous places.
“The format cuts right through what the formats business is about,” says Clarke. “If you look at the content of the show it’s got very broad appeal. Our major buyers of big talent shows are going to be interested.”
The show: La Banda
The producer: Syco Entertainment, FremantleMedia Latin America, Saban Brands
The distributor: FremantleMedia, Syco TV
The broadcaster: Univision (US)
The concept: Simon Cowell’s latest foray into talent competition space, this time a search to find a Latin American boy band