Formats have long been recognised as the backbone of the factual and entertainment markets, with behemoths like Masterchef, Strictly Come Dancing and Undercover Boss being reversioned around the world and raking in millions for their creators.
But increasingly formats are now proliferating in the scripted world too. A new report shows that the number of scripted formats sold to three or more markets has almost doubled in the last decade – almost 90 today compared to 52 in 2010 and just 20 back in the 1990s.
Programmes such as Ugly Betty (19 versions), The Office (10 format sales) and The Red Band Society (9 format sales) are leading the way in showing how retailoring a proven series for a local market can successfully capture eyeballs without incurring the difficulties - and risks - of coming up with an original idea.
So for producers searching for that the next hit, the key question is what type of show works in multiple territories?
The report, Tracking the Scripted Giants, by global media consultancy K7 Media looked at the stories being adapted and remade, including tracking the leading 100 scripted formats that are working internationally.
The key attribute seems to be a strong narrative, particularly those rooted in common, relatable human realities – instead of high-concept or big-budget dramas. Often the shows are profession-based – medical, legal or political dramas – rather than relying on aliens or expensive CGI to hold their audience.
Dori Media’s In Treatment – starring Gabriel Byrne as a psychologist and his patients discussing their neuroses - is a case in point. Originally an Israeli drama, BeTipul, it is now the best-selling format of the past decade with 17 format sales from Japan to Serbia. Clearly interest in our anxieties and self-doubts are universal.
Another is BBC1’s Doctor Foster (with 3 format sales) about a doctor who suspects her husband is having an affair. ‘’It’s no surprise that word spreads quickly about Doctor Foster when it first aired on BBC1 in 2015; the show had many of the markers of a format that would travel well,” said K7’s Founder & CEO Keri Lewis Brown.
“Often making for uncomfortable viewing, the show holds up a mirror to the unattainable standards we all seek to meet and what happens when we inevitably fall short. One of the most talked about British dramas of the year, it dominated social media in the UK. With 10 million viewers tuning in to watch the final episode, other territories took note, the series has since been adapted in France, South Korea and Russia.”
More broadly, the report shows that there’s been a marked growth in Crime as a genre that works internationally, with more than a quarter of all scripted format sales falling into that category. Notable successes include Netflix’s Mindhunter or BBC’s Killing Eve.
“As traditional linear channels try and encourage loyal series viewing, high concept thrillers and crime dramas have a track record of keeping viewers on the edge of their seats and tuning in week after week,” Lewis Brown said.
The unprecedented demand for content – with the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Apple TV entering the market – has meant an arms race for dramas with a proven track-record.
Jeff Wachtel, president of NBCUniversal International Studios, gained headlines when he said that quirky sleeper hit Fleabag was just a ‘’global’’ in its market, as a super-brand uber-budget series such as Game of Thrones. Fleabag’s emotional relatability was something a “young woman in Peru or old man in Cambodia could find value in”, he said. Sure enough, several remakes of Fleabag are now in the pipeline including Canal+’s Mouche which debuted last year.
For producers, the other attraction of formats like Fleabag, Doctor Foster or Luther (remade 4 times) is that the emphasis on character and narrative, rather than CGI or glitzy locations, means they can often be delivered on relatively modest budgets.
While most of us may not be as tough as Luther or Doctor Foster, it seems we all seem something of ourselves in their more reflective moments, we all recognise a David Brent of a boss, and relate to the anxiety and self-doubt of an Ugly Betty. The world may be increasingly fractured but for scripted producers there are universal human experiences that unite us.
Best Selling Genre of All Time – Telenovela
Best Selling Genre of the Last 5 years – Crime
Emerging Genres – Medical, Thriller and Legal
‘Tracking the Scripted Giants’ is available to those subscribed to K7 Media’s services and has been designed to complement the consultancy’s annual report providing an in-depth look at the fast-paced unscripted format market. ‘Tracking the Giants: The Top 100 Travelling TV Formats’ is recognised within the industry as the definitive guide to unscripted format sales.
About K7 Media
Founded in 1998, K7 Media is a global independent organisation providing media intelligence to broadcasters, streaming platforms, distributors and production companies across the world. Drawing on the team’s extensive knowledge of the international TV and digital sector to produce personalised research, showreels and reports, K7 Media is retained as a trusted source of industry insight for clients, including Channel 4, Endemol Shine Group, CJENM and KOCCA.
K7 Media also publishes the annual report ‘Tracking the Giants: The Top 100 Travelling TV Formats’, widely recognised in the industry as the definitive guide to unscripted format sales.
For more information visit - https://k7.media/