Opinion: Sifting for the format diamonds

Open House: The Great Sex Experiment

In her latest monthly column, format expert Siobhan Crawford casts her eye over – and shares her own hot picks of –the format offerings headed to MIPTV next month.

MIPTV is upon us and the joy is palpable.

The return to MIPTV should have been a little overshadowed by the London Screenings, the event now marketed as “vital to international buyers due to the increasingly important role of distributors earlier in the commissioning journey” – but really, this event was never about formats.

So, what do we know about so far? A few cookery formats, a smattering of dating – in ball gowns, in villas or on a film set – and again, more guessing formats. The influence of The Masked Singer has no end.

Siobhan Crawford

It is quieter for new launches, there is no doubt, and there seems to be no ‘one’ format we wave our cheque books at blindly. Reviewing the offerings, I do question how some formats get commissioned! One was a mish-mash of Single Town, Temptation Island and a bit of Seven Year Switch for good measure. Another seems to be a cooking format inspired by a heritage reality format (rodent, mole…).

And what happened to our love of revivals this MIPTV? Tonight Matthew, I will be… buying a slightly adapted derivative? We will see drag queen celebs (and Banijay and Fremantle) with handbags at dawn in the head-to-head competition of similar formats. And when I saw an industry’s ‘top titles to watch’ list recently – facepalm – Rain: The Untold Story, I felt the need to find the format joy.

So, we ask – where are all the truly innovative formats this season? A clue, the diamonds of the first water are not at the screenings, they are in Cannes hidden amongst the conversations we have outside Brown Sugar. And yes, Bridgerton is on the brain and clearly it is inspiring many of you given the regency dating onslaught!

So here is some format joy. And it just so happens they mostly come from independents.

Open House: The Great Sex Experiment (Passion Distribution)

This was the format I heard most about from buyers at the London Screenings and I get it, voyeurism is hot. We have seen dating in every other iteration, so this is the natural progression. Think Too Hot To Handle’s sex lessons meets Love Island’s Casa Amor.

Trash Gallery (Phileas)

A content creator that reliably delivers new ideas, pre-MIP this environmentally creative competition format has not even launched and key territories are signing up because the idea just makes sense and it is wrapped in the comfort of a traditional competition structure.

The Story Of Us (Media Ranch)

This is a hybrid (unscripted/scripted) and there is a question mark over the recommission-ability but this is a HUGE hit in Netherlands, with 2+ million viewers in primetime on NPO1 plus online. The premise translates to every market, it fills our demand for scripted in an innovative way, and skews broad… move fast!

Light Away! (YTV)

This was a surprise to me and popped out of the C21 Screenings, and it is the most simple premise – stay away from the light. You can make a cinematic Oceans Eleven-inspired moment of your very own on the small screen – and so much better than marbles. I just want to watch it.

True Hero (WeMake)

A combination of Lost/Hunger Games/Insiders, this manipulated reality format is designed with streamers in mind but this should not be a barrier, a format after all is adaptable! The trend for dark twists in reality formats is perfectly highlighted here.

And before we go, just one more thing, dear buyers – check the ratings. I know some sales people have some truly jedi-esque mind tricks, but 600k viewers in primetime and falls off the ‘lead in’ ratings cliff should really be listened to and not rewarded with recommissions. Many of us have formats that have solid ratings that deserve the space in your schedule. We will be at Brown Sugar if you need us.

With 17 years in unscripted format distribution, Siobhan Crawford is a format expert who has worked at DRG, Zodiak, Banijay and is currently head of sales and acquisitions at Benelux format distributor Primitives

Tags: Primitives

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