Thursday, August 28, 2008

Successful tv formats, part 5

Continuing the series...

5. Always - ALWAYS - rethink, test and analyze

When you have your idea, your niche, your intended target audience, you've done your homework regarding market analysis - basically, you have it all set - then it's time to develop. Believe me, the clearest and most straightforward idea is not that straightforward after two hours of serious development work.

One golden guideline is to keep it as simple as possible. If you are tempted to throw in scantily clad women hopping about in the background, since you really like scantily clad women, take a good long thought on if this really adds something to the format as a whole.

It is very easy to make a complex format - just add a lot of rules along the way to "iron out the wrinkles". "If you go to level 2, you can then have the opportunity to double up, unless your opponent has the STOP card, because then he can make the turn of play go over to him, unless..."

This takes half an hour to explain, and even then it's not clear. Lots of work in the edit at the very least, cutting out all the "what could I do now again?" moments.

Always get a second (and a third and a fourth) opinion. Someone might see something that you don't. And always do office pilots. Test your ideas - how do people play your game? How do they think in a given situation? Does your idea work or do they get hung up on details you never thought could pose a problem?

Always be prepared to rethink, if a better twist comes up.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Secrets of tv formats, no 6

Continuing the short series of advice regarding the development and marketing of tv formats.

6. Believe in what you do - in fact, you've got to love it

You have a brilliant idea for a new show. You can see the story line, you can see how the excitement builds, you know where the climax is going to come and you firmly believe that the pay-off will be good enough to keep the viewers coming back.

There's only one thing that's not really right. You see yourself as a serious documentary maker, and this brilliant idea is a game show - a lot like Weakest Link only feel good and with a really funny and engaging twist. It's even interactive, in a logical and fun way!

The development work goes a bit slowly, because you'd rather be doing documentaries. The sales pitches aren't really up to scratch, because you'd rather be selling - yeah, documentaries. In the end, you come back home from MIPCOM, a pile of business cards in your bag but no deals, no signatures and nothing better than an "interesting idea, do get back to us when it's been broadcast for a season somewhere!" as feedback.

To create a great format you have to love it. It's perfectly alright to hate it at times as well, but the bottom line is - you have to love it. When pitching your idea to someone, nothing shines through as much as a non-really-interested pitcher. The pitchee will immediately sense this and think "well, if the MAKER of this format isn't interested in it, why should I be? Next!".

Love it. Hate it, scream at it, throw it in the bin from time to time. But ultimately, you have to love it. Or else, let it go.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Successful tv formats, part 7

Flu struck the family, so no update for some days. Well, better late than never, eh?

7. Find a niche, if possible

There are about 3 gazillions of game shows on air throughout the world as we speak. Some have been around for aeons, some have just started, most are somewhere in between. We have all these experts on gameshows and quiz shows, Endemol being one of the foremost, that have enormous development teams involved in coming up with new ideas. And they do!

At any given gathering for the television industry, a buyer will be pitched a multitude of game and quiz show ideas. "Think Deal or No Deal meets Fear Factor!" or perhaps "Well, it's Millionaire meets Wife Swap" or whatever. Very, VERY few of these will be original and exciting.

The same goes for reality tv programs, makeover shows etc. These genres have been exploited for years and are extremely hard to be original in.

My suggestion then, is to go for originality. Find a niche where there is a bit more space. It could be educational or edutainment formats - like this one - or it could be cross media shows. It could be something with interactivity or perhaps a really really novel take on current affairs?

Whatever niche you choose to focus on, you will find fewer people to pitch to. On the upside, however, the queues leading up to these persons will be significantly shorter, and their attention will be all the greater.

And I probably shouldn't have to say this, but do a thorough market research of the niche you choose. What's out there, who's producing it, what kind of ratings do they have and whom should you pitch to?

Best of luck :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

The secret behind successful tv formats, no 8

Had a lot to do yesterday, adn the missus flew off to Vilnius, so apologies for not updating. Here, no 8 on the list of the things that IMHO are important when devising a new tv format.

8. Keep up with trends and anticipate them

The recent economic crisis in the US and worldwide wasn't that hard to predict. Everything that goes up must come down, at some point, which is just what is happening now.

The same goes for the television industry. Where we, some years ago, had the upswing of reality shows like BB etc, now we have for a couple of years seen the rise of feel-good formats, many with more of a family value to them.

Furthermore, looking at the technical evolution, we had the hype around interactive television some years back, which quickly changed to a hype around UCG (User Generated Content) which next year was the enormous hype around mobile television... none of which has really really taken off as of yet, at least not to the degrees that was predicted at the outset.

What can we learn from this? Well, a good place to start is to look at what formats channels are broadcasting and buying at the moment. Think one, or several, steps ahead from the current situation - what could be the next trend coming around the corner? Right now all sorts of feel-good shows are doing the rounds. Perhaps it's more green television shows? Some have already been made, but there's room for more, if they're done well enough. Or perhaps more elaborate cross media formats, integrating the Internet, television and mobile in new and exciting ways?

I have my ideas, but since you're not paying my wages, I won't reveal them here :) But the conclusions are there to be drawn - go to c21:s pages to look for the latest news from the television industry, to informitv to read up on the interactive and cross media field, and why not the different ratings institutes (like Nielsen) around the world to look at what's selling right now.

With regards to technical solutions, don't jump on bandwagons. It'll only end with a crash, most likely. As Bill Gates said in 1995 (I think) - "We ALWAYS overestimate the technical progress for the coming two years, but we always UNDERESTIMATE the progress for the coming FIVE years".

Once again, think ahead. Don't do what everyone else is doing - in 2001 it was thousands of rip-offs of BB, Survivor etc. In 2008, rip-offs of Strictly come dancing or Farmer wants a wife, or why not game shows like Deal or No Deal. You can find hundreds of them, just go to MIPCOM this year and you'll see.

If you need any further hints and tips, gimme a call :)

Tomorrow, number 7!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

10 secrets behind successful tv formats - no 9

Continuing the series...

9. Steal a little, but not too much

Some call it inspiration. Some call it "being influenced by..". I call it necessary.

Well, unless you have been living under a rock for the best part of your life, you have probably seen some television programs at some point. And since what has once been seen cannot be unseen, what you've seen will probably influence you in one way or another.

But be sure to do it in the right way! Watch lots of shows a bit or a lot like the idea you are working on. See which solutions work, and which don't. Make note of the things you would change, do better, see more of or less of. Go back to these shows when you get stuck in your own project.

And, when looking at other shows, make sure you're looking at the right things. For example, you should not get stuck on the fact that "Millionaire" has a blue lighting rigged - that's not important. But perhaps you would instead note how they've avoided any close-ups of the people in the audience - or rather, their faces? Probably just to avoid getting someone yawning in the background, and focus on the competing person, but pretty neatly done nevertheless.

Bottom line - don't steal. Inspiration and fresh ideas, that's a whole different ballpark.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

10 secrets behind successful tv formats - no 10

This is a list I've been thinking of writing for a while now. It's a list of the ten things I believe are the most important when it comes to developing and selling a tv format. This list will probably be updated in the future, but this is how it stands right now. In no particular order - the countdown begins here:

10. Know your own strengths and get people in to compensate for weaknesses.

No one can do it all by themselves. Well, Rambo can, but that's him. And you're NOT Rambo (probably).

Some people are creative brains. Some are good salesmen. Others can work magic with numbers and economic figures. Ideally, you'd need a team consisting of all these types of persons - the creative minds coming up with the ideas, the salesperson getting sponsors in and selling the formats to productions companies and tv channels, and the economy guy keeping everything in check.

If you're starting out, however, chances are this is not very possible. But you still have a GREAT idea for a tv show! Well - get someone else in as well. Just make sure that this person is not too alike you. What you need is different perspectives on things, someone to question your ideas and come up with new viewpoints, and vice versa. There will be a great many people that will have to like your idea before it's on air somewhere, and very few of them are likely to be carbon copies of you.

...tomorrow, number 9 on the list!

John Lennon, a tape recorder and a great artist

This has got to be one of the best videos I've seen in a long while. The story goes that in 1969 a young man named Jerry snuck into John Lennons hotel room for a chat. This was recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and has now been released, together with some amazing pencil art by James Braithwaite. Watch it, for once it's 5 minutes of your life that are WELL spent on YouTube.

Monday, August 18, 2008

TV formats - why buy them, when you can just steal them??

Phew. The row that has been going on for a couple of weeks now is just getting messier and messier - and I must admit I'm a bit disappointed, though not overly surprised. C21 has the story, but to make it brief, this is what happened:

A memo from ABC leaked. The memo, from the exec VP of ABC Studios, encourages everyone not to license formats from abroad. Instead, they should be brought to ABC.s creative studios to be "evaluated", to see if the "underlying premises" can be used without licensing the format itself.

Phew once again, I say. As a format creator, this is what I fear the most. We have some pretty original and nice ideas going at the moment, but WHY ON EARTH would I pitch them to someone who is instructed by his or her boss to steal the "underlying premises"?? Sheesh... I mean, a year ago we were debating whether we should pitch one of our ideas to Endemol or not - seeing as Endemol has a reputation for nicking ideas - when we had a scheduled meeting with them. In the end, we did pitch it, but only because it was pretty funky and relied a lot on technical stuff.

ABC, don't expect much sympathy from the format owners. Last I heard FRAPA were going to have some serious talks with you guys.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dear me

Back at work.


Papers to write, pilots to plan, trips to book, people to meet, seminars and speeches to hold... and that's just the beginning.

Here's to holidays! :) Now on with the workload!