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A week in formats

By Danny Fenton 17-10-2014

I’ve just returned from what must be one of the wettest Mipcoms on record, and despite the biblical weather conditions it wasn’t just the enterprising umbrella salesmen who were enjoying bumper sales.

Despite what appeared to be a slightly less populated Palais, which may have been something to do with the deluge, there was clearly a buzz of activity on the market floor.

I got the impression there were fewer representatives from the English-speaking territories but this was more than compensated for by a visible increase in delegates from other markets – Asian and South American participants in particular.

Once upon a time, Mipcom began on a Monday and ended on a Friday and was a somewhat more leisurely affair. Nowdays, however, it appears to start earlier and end earlier. Many people now head over to Cannes as early as Saturday to pore over the forest-load of trade magazines on offer and ease themselves into the market with group meetings on the Sunday, but by Wednesday lunchtime it feels like it’s pretty much over for most participants. Once delegates start to tire from four days and nights of heavy pitching and partying and their diaries have run out of half-hour meetings, they’re ready to catch their budget flights home.

There certainly appeared to be some clear trends at Mipcom this year and although originality appeared to be somewhat lacking, celebrity reality or sports reality was very much in vogue, whether taking the form of celebrity gymnastics in Tumble (BBC Worldwide) or Celebrity Pole Dancing (same skills, less clothing) from Newen/Imagina.

The challenges required of celebrities seem to be reaching even more obscure levels when it came to one of the hit formats of the market: All-Star Lifeguards from SmallWorld IFT and Aito Media. For me, it was only surpassed in the origination stakes by Celebrity Firemen from China and Celebrity Military Band from ADD in Israel.

On the sports reality side, as well as gymnastics, Master Athletes from FremantleMedia, Versus from Kanakna in Belgium and our very own Ancient Games, in which former sports stars recreate challenges from the ancient Olympics, all seemed to resonate well with buyers.

Failing coaxing a celebrity into a skimpy outfit, the next best sure-fire ratings bankers at Mipcom seemed to be any format that featured nudity – and that was without wandering on to the XXX-rated stands.

Dating Naked from VH1/Electus definitely seemed to be showing a little leg to buyers and it was closely followed in the voyeuristic ratings of TLC property series Buying Naked, Discovery Channel’s Naked & Afraid and the forerunner of them all: Adam Looking For Eve, the naked match-making show from Eyeworks.

It appeared that Cannes buyers were looking for slam-dunk hits from their acquisitions after previous markets in which a number of global formats made a great sizzle but failed to provide the sausage, so to speak. Who can forget the deafening buzz created by such marketing masterpieces as Rising Star from Keshet International and Utopia from Talpa Media? More cautious buyers are these days trying to see beyond the hype and are requiring hard and fast data before they take the plunge.

This week there certainly appeared to be a strong trend in both scripted and reality for shows that put women in control, whether that was Girlfriend’s Guide To Divorce or Dori/Televisa’s I Don’t Trust Men Anymore. Clearly, putting girls on top is going to provide great appeal to a female audience.

All in all, despite the variety of fare on offer, the palate, certainly in the unscripted format world, needs a bit more cleansing and it does feel that as each market passes, the smorgasbord of content on offer certainly can appear to be somewhat repetitive.

I don’t know if this homogenisation of formats and ideas is somehow a result of industry consolidation leading to a more risk-averse approach, but as distributors offered up rebooted formats like Temptation Island – originally launched in 2001 – as their latest offerings, one couldn’t help but wonder whether backwards is the new forwards.

today's correspondent

Danny Fenton CEO and executive chairman
Danny FentonPERSP2

Danny Fenton spent five years at the BBC where he worked on a number of award-winning shows including Standing Room Only, Clash of the Titans and Match of the 70s. After a brief time in the independent sector he set up ZigZag in 1999 with his business partner Kevin Utton.

ZigZag has produced over 300 hours of programming, ranging from entertainment formats like Change the Day you Die and Bad Boy Racers to factual programming such as Little Prince – Big Fight and Celebrity Gladiators.

Danny has also overseen the launch of ZigZag offices in New York and Manchester and executive produces all ZigZag content. He is also the founder of the New Independent Producers Alliance.