'When the world goes dark, entertainment goes light’, Hayley Babcock; Head of Formats, Programming & Production at A+E Networks told the panel at yesterday’s Realscreen Summit session, where senior execs discussed the future of formats in today’s tumultuous climate. ‘Feel-good TV’ is on the rise, they concluded, and new formats are being created at a faster rate than ever before.
Live reality is perhaps today’s most exciting and relevant format, but the success of any show is down primarily to its storytelling, Babcock suggested. ‘Content is king’ and making anything live just doesn’t cut it anymore. Bo Stehmeier, President of Red Arrow Studios International agreed but also stressed the importance of live in bringing people together. After hours of ‘bingeing on SVODs’, he said, there is a real need for families to reconvene in the living room - and live can accomplish this. Other formats that manage to achieve this are feel-good factual and what Stehmeier called ‘purpose TV’, with Channel 4’s Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds getting a mention for its moving story and popularity with the 40+ age demographic.
How is the next big thing identified? With hundreds of new formats to choose from, the panel discussed the difficult task of deciding which to commission. Formats not only need to be innovative but must also be sustainable, with the panel referencingBig Brother as an example of a successful format with real longevity. Julie Bristow, CEO of Bristow Global Media, explained how she tends to gravitate towards formats that speak to her personally, whilst Keren Shahar, COO & President of Distribution at Keshet International said it’s important to think about mass appeal: ‘If it’s a good idea, and taps into something universal, then it will travel.’ Avi Armoza, Founder & CEO of Armoza Formats, lives by the philosophy that ‘you are only as good as your next format’. His advice to the session was that ambition is the key trait to making your format stand out in an oversaturated market.
To remain relevant though, the panel agreed, formats need to utilise new technology to their advantage. In today’s climate it is possible to extend the lifespan of a series well beyond 10 seasons, but in order to do so producers must use every tool at their disposal to keep content fresh. The audience was shown a clip of a new $100,000 prize dance show which featured 120 cameras capturing every single angle of each contestant’s performance. This may seem daunting, but excess seems to be the new route to success. It definitely seems that for producers your best bet is to go for a non-fiction, feel-good format with the most exciting new tech - if you want to outlive Big Brother.