Girts Licis, head of strategy at global consultancy K7 Media, gives his top tips on future-proofing in the fast-changing format market and offers insights from the intelligence firm’s recent report, Tracking the Giants: The Top 100 Travelling Formats.
In an increasingly digital world, you can’t underestimate the importance of a human relationship. Before joining K7 Media, I spent seven years buying formats and found myself returning time-and-time-again to distributors I trusted and who I had experienced success with previously. It also matters when a distributor sees beyond hitting their current year’s sales target and invests in long-term partnership, when necessary.
Keeping a focus
Without a clear area of expertise, distributors run the risk of becoming lost – a Jack of many trades, master of none. It is vital that distributors of all sizes understand where their strengths lie and focus on these areas. Dutch firm Lineup Industries is a good example of this, standing out as a tailored quality distributor with a distinctive voice. Similarly, even when excluding The Masked Singer – last year’s bestseller – Fremantle has three titles in K7 Media’s top 15 all-time top travelling formats, including Got Talent, Idols and X Factor – securing their place as a market leader when it comes to high-octane talent formats. Similarly, Banijay Rights is clearly one of the go-to destinations when looking for reality competition.
Marketing your potential
The way in which distributors are marketing themselves is growing increasingly important. In Europe, Be-Entertainment is on a mission to introduce Belgian creativity to the world, claiming that smaller markets may represent the perfect breeding ground for format developers to test new ideas. South Korea’s strategic approach of positioning the country as a creative superpower for quite some time is now clearly paying off, with CJ ENM and MBC leading the way.
M&A means green shoots
Banijay’s acquisition of Endemol Shine Group (ESG), which is moving through the antitrust process, is indicative of the way the industry is transforming. The deal will see the formation of the largest super-indie ever, distributing over 25% of the top travelling formats outlined in Tracking the Giants. As consolidation of the distribution industry continues, let’s face it – there will be more high-class professionals turning into entrepreneurs. The newer boutique players will need to stand up and be counted.
Niche and nimble
Deep pockets are no longer the only criteria promising success. Distributors have to adapt quickly to the changing market – boutique and mid-sized players are able to do this most efficiently. What these smaller players may lack in size they make up for in enthusiasm, agility and the ability to provide a more personalised service. [ITV-owned] Armoza Formats, which has three programmes in K7’s Top 100 list, has proven highly adaptable to changing market trends.
The number of unscripted format sales to streaming platforms is going to continue growing. Global SVODs have already been testing the ground with varying levels of success and we believe this trend, to develop or acquire formats, will escalate with the expected growth of advertising-supported VOD platforms, targeting those viewers who have switched to online. Possibly the biggest difference for distributors, when working with streamers, is the flexibility provided by not being attached to a certain linear slot. This means there could be a requirement for even more creative freedom to adapt the format. The story, strong characters and ‘unmissable’ moments add the soul to a format; a clever but soulless construction will not fly.
At K7 Media, we are optimistic about the future of the unscripted formats business – there are some really exciting emerging formats that are making a smash globally. Moving forward, it will pay for distributors to remain proactive and stay a few steps ahead of the market. Rather than reacting to changes in consumption, distributors need to be willing to come on board at a much earlier stage and get involved with development and financial backing. Canada’s Media Ranch, for example, is one of the distributors boldly stepping into the format development scene with its Horsepower Format Incubator, seeking to discover and mentor the next generation of format creators.
K7 Media’s 15 Top Selling Formats of 2019 (number of sales in brackets)
1 The Masked Singer MBC/Fremantle 22
2 Emergency Call Lineup Industries 10
3 Got Talent Fremantle 8
= All Together Now ESG 8
5 Love Island ITVGSE 7
= Family Food Fight ESG 7
= 5 Guys A Week Fremantle 7
8 Block Out Nippon TV Network Corporation & Red Arrow Studios International 6
9 Family Feud Fremantle 5
= The Wall ESG 5
= Ex On The Beach VIS 5
= Flirty Dancing All3Media 5
= Fittest Family Magnify Media 5
= Taboo Lineup Industries 5
= Eating With My Ex Fremantle 5
Girts Licis is head of strategy at K7 Media and before that was head of CEE, content development & formats for Nordic operator MTG (now NENT Group). K7 worked directly with distributors on its recent report, Tracking the Giants: The Top 100 Travelling Formats, which offers insights into the trends driving the unscripted format market.