James Townley, global head of content development at Banijay, explains how dating formats have adapted to the pandemic – and flourished – even if finding romance off-camera is proving tricker right now.
The global television audience can’t get enough of dating formats, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. So why exactly does dating work in a pandemic? Despite the tough conditions singletons have encountered in the health crisis, channels and platforms have not given up bringing hope and love to their viewers.
Streamers are forming audience relationships through dating
Dating formats are adored by viewers, and buyers are continually looking for new ideas in the realm of love, especially the streamers; primarily as they are produced in a way that guarantees viewers hooked in from the off. Endemol Shine Brasil landed its first streamer commission last year with a local version of third-party format, Dating Around, featuring several LGBTQ+ couples, a binge-watching success alongside other hits like Too Hot To Handle and Love Is Blind, which draw the coveted younger audience.
Like the global juggernauts, local streamers are wanting in on this trend too. New Banijay format Alone Together from Metronome in Denmark was a top show for TV2 PLAY and continues to sit as a Covid-friendly number given its outdoorsy, remote nature. Produced during the pandemic, this high-quality original series captured audiences from the word go and sits as the perfect dating solution for networks and platforms out for a more mature- skewing draw.
How do you date in lockdown?
2020 was been a challenging year for love. Everyone is after comfort, nostalgia and escapism, no matter their relationship status. Dating is not only great to watch in a pandemic but can be straightforward to produce as well.
The great advantage of having such a vast footprint with so much talent is all the shared learnings that come with it. If a challenge has been encountered in one country, you can guarantee we have a producer elsewhere with a resolution. And, if anything, we have capitalised on this collaborative approach through Covid, and although Big Brother is not a dating show, the fundamental essence of reality transcends into dating. It’s pandemic-friendly, given it feels authentic to be in a bubble and the houses can even be re-used as sets for other titles, like we do in Germany with dating hit, Claudia’s House Of Love.
Right now, we use social distance to our advantage; encounters should be intimate, so having cameras fade into the background with less crew creates a greater sense of reality. A lot can also be said for outdoor filming, in visually stunning locations like Alone Together, where each couple had its own small island in the Nordic archipelagos.
Taking shows like these from the studio to outdoors makes social distancing feel more genuine, and here, there is hub potential with our Nordic islands available for other reversions of this show.
Banijay has vast outdoor filming experience with Temptation Island, Survivor, The Island and Hunted, which is enjoying global interest following the successful Amazon Italy series. These experiences can be easily adapted and shared for shows in the dating realm.
Big franchises deliver multi-territory success
Like our super-brands, if you get them right, they can be rolled out internationally; creating global franchises. The show that started it all, The Dating Game, first aired back in 1965, has been rebooted at least four times in the US and adapted in 33 markets.
Year-on-year, we see the success and return of multi-territory franchises like Ex On The Beach, which we produce in the Nordics, and other perennial favourites like First Dates, Married At First Sight and The Bachelor. We have even rebooted Beauty And The Geek recently with a fresh take in Australia, Germany and Italy, where these new editions play against the usual stereotypes for a contemporary feel.
Broadcasters are answering life’s essential needs and continuing to reinvent the wheel time and time again
Formats with noisy top-lines and points of difference work
Since the Covid crisis started, broadcasters have found a new take on dating shows, and whether they are self-contained or have a series arc, there must be noisy top-lines. Despite the difficulties the pandemic has brought for singletons to meet new people, the channels have been ingenious enough to bring new ideas to the genre. From celebrities struggling with “regular” life issues, to the feeling of unfinished business with first loves; broadcasters are answering life’s essential needs and continuing to reinvent the wheel time and time again.
Relationships can be brought into the fold for added drama
Many relationships around the world are on the brink right now, with people forced to examine what they have. Keeping faith in human nature is incredibly important in the current climate, and Temptation Island is having one of its most successful years yet, breaking records and drawing big numbers across Europe.
This is the ultimate relationship format as couples strengthen their relationship, building trust and keeping close with those they love. And that’s just what we all need right now – perhaps why our team at Banijay Finland did all they could to keep it going last year; reimagining the traditional environment of the show, and setting it in Lapland as opposed to a far-flung beach.