Opinion: Content… where for art thou?

Siobhan Crawford

European format expert Siobhan Crawford pulls back the curtain on where to look for content and puts out a call for the most original formats coming to market.

We are all looking for content. The more original the better. The more formatted, the better for me! And we know where it ends up, on our screens or on our servers for eternity.

But where does it come from?

And where does it go?

We have content that is raised high, promoted to high heaven… and then it is gone. Yes, some formats are slow burners, some are crap that should never be on the market and the others, well were they just for a headline? Where do we look for content?

Asian connection

Let’s be honest, Asia always wins. They are developing AND exporting content faster than any other market, the demand is huge and so is the supply! Does it mean it all gets to screens in the West? Absolutely not, but we are clambering for FOMO.

The price points are lower so more content is produced and the East knows we want more, while the groups continue to put down big money for access, so I don’t see this stopping anytime soon. Creative partnerships, exclusive catalogue deals and territory specific distribution announcements are commonplace now but I would like to see more ‘aftersales’ announcements of the partnerships that are being formed – what is the outcome, or is it just headlines to make companies sound more familiar?

The big groups

The prodco groups are big, but they are big and they keep acquiring third party content – why? I appreciate that few groups have the Asian connection so they look East for content to stay on trend but is the point of groups not to increase turnover through maximised exploitation of internal group content?

Million Dollar Island

What do they do with their 10,000 existing formats? And what do their 15-70 internal companies develop if we are still living in a world of top five catalogue title revivals? Where is all the *new* group IP? It is a question. But then I realised, the groups, well, we don’t really need to worry about them – the majority of the market cannot acquire content from them, they are in an acquisition phase, so look away.


“Where does a format go when it wins an award?!” Are the numerous ceremonies adding content to our industry or headlines to our news? MIPFormats with Fox, SmallWorldxKMW Big Ideas, Horsepower with Mediaranch, Pitch and Play Live with Global Agency, Talpa Fastest Way… are just some examples.

Talpa had Switch as their first Fastest project and it did not travel, but they now have Million Dollar Island and this is travelling (provisionally). Horsepower generated Watch that aired in Germany and was optioned in a handful of countries and TF1 have joined to grow the venture, while MIPFormats 2022 saw Cheat On The Glitch win, a format from a true independent creative.

But then again, in 2019, Aussie format Change My Mind won and where is that now? And did Political Blind Date from TVO/Open Door not have a similar concept first? Pitch and Play announced Sanitorium Of Love as its 2019 winner (a hotel for seniors dating in an alpine location – umm, sounds intriguing to my Belgian ears…) So, also, who are the gate keepers to say these winning ideas are original, even?

I am all for giving creatives a platform and access to industry professionals to introduce original content but the industry expert judges need to take their responsibility seriously – and we need to see formats win that are international, otherwise it is not adding content to our market.

We know content is in short supply. The places you would expect it to be coming from is not as reliable or as original as you were lead to believe. But have faith, in the coming months we want to highlight the originality of unscripted formats from under-represented producers, so please get in touch and let’s shout about the content you can acquire and is original.

#myformatisbetterthanyours #iwantthatformat

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