Interesting I choose to write this on the day we hear ITV Studios has acquired Armaoza Formats, I wonder why… not why I’m writing but why the takeover? Is the format business as active as it once was? Or has the format fever just reverted into business as usual? Are MIP and MIPcom just getting smaller because of prohibitive costs and the Amazon effect of the internet with everyone, media buyers included, operating using their mobile while watching C21screeners and reading K7media reports?
Fremantle and Endemolshine are restructuring, otherwise known as downsizing, there have been precious few breakout hits showing any signs of longevity. Sure Love Island is doing the rounds, and The Singer is enjoying a flurry of sales but will we see a return to the days of Millionaire and Weakest Link taking millions. Yes, we all point to Got Talent, X factor and The Voice as being international successes, but in real terms, T.V. viewing is old hat, figures are down everywhere. If the floods of climate change don’t get them first, the next audience is stuck in Tic Toc land glued to influencers the rest of us have never heard of, unless we are down with the kids.
So are Apps the new Formats? Do we need a coded interactive thing with filters and followers, something that mums and dads think is the devils’ work and should be banned because it turns brains to mush and is a paedophiles paradise? One thing is for sure the bottom has dropped out of the Format lecture circuit, those of us that made some cash on the side exporting our early adopter knowledge haven’t been booked for a while. Try telling a Korean T.V. executive they need a workshop, they bled us dry of our expertise and now have shown the world they can do Formats as well.
There’s a market for selling intel ask K7media, freshly expanded into new offices in central Manchester, red phone box and all. The only trade on information today is about who is doing what and where. Netflix has bumped the holy grail of I.P. ownership into touch, sell a fact ent to discovery and that a worldwide sale so no secondary stream there. So there may be more content being watched, more opportunity to find a home for our content than ever, but how do we make it pay our mortgages?
The SVoD was thought to have been the opening up of a route to the audience free of the traditional gatekeepers, of course, all we have is new gatekeepers. Its the BarcroftTV model that is really bucking the trend, doing what Jon de Mol failed to do, creating a content model that self publishes to your tube and makes the finances work. Like JOnwhoi tried to own the production house and channel. Isn’t that a tradition broadcaster anyway? When the BBC started a producer would walk up to the controllers’ office and say, “I’ve found two comedians doing the circuit can we give them a T.V. show?” controller says yes and Morecambe and Wise are born. Peter Kosminsky thinks SVoD’s have created hyperinflation in drama, and that will eventually drive drama out of PSB’s (he means the BBC). Paying 7 figures an Episode where the BBC can just scrape together the low 6s. Incidentally, if the latest sci-fi outing of AnotherLife is an example of this great new drama explosion, we are doomed.
All of which brings me back to my initial thought, is I.P. a thing anymore? Well, it should be a thing, a person who creates something should keep a portion of the rights; otherwise, we are going to be left without incentive. It’s more a question of what is that I.P. is worth. As the audiences broaden worldwide and SVod’s and subtitles become far more global, we are going to see the multiple income streams from local production diminish. Yes, International versions of shows made for a more traditional broadcaster will, of course, continue to be made. Netflix, Apple and Amazon may carry their own localised versions of shows perhaps geoblocking to provide a more globally segmented offering.
But it could all be to no avail because the clock is Tic Toc ing for this current generation of cord cut natives watching barcroftTV, Vice, Joe media and BBC3, then the content creators will have truly smashed the grip of this pesky gatekeepers. I was once heavily criticised for having an anarchic view of the “gatekeepers” people said they actually worked with the creators in partnership and I shouldn’t be so critical. I suggest you watch “How to Break into the Elite” on iPlayer. The T.V. industry comes across as one of the worst for a bias toward the upper-middle classes in terms of recruitment not only that it’s an industry rife with nepotism. It’s shocking, and Channel 4 is even worse than the BBC. T.V. is now something to do, a cool industry. The days of passionate people driven by creativity are gone. I wanted to direct since I was six, an ordinary lad from a single-parent family, state school and dyslexic, thank goodness I had a charming R.P. accent, if I’d have come from South London there’d have been no chance, if I was a PoC totally no chance, unless I was a PoC from Eaton and Oxford. It’s a national disgrace.
Everyone deserves a voice, and we should create a society of equals, with Boris at the helm leading that cabinet we have no chance. We shouldn’t be celebrating equality until we get the first black prime minister from Brixton, state school and with Russell University 1st. The same goes for T.V. until we regain passionate, creative leaders who didn’t just think T.V. was an entry pass to Soho House and a better option than P.R. or the City. I joined T.V. when it was a leveller, it didn’t matter if you were Oxbridge, Eaton or Roundwood Park secondary modern, we all had a voice, perhaps that’s what made ATV Elstree so very special.
Oh and I.P. is a thing it’s just not worth such a lot, and yes formats are still a thing, we just don’t act like its a British thing thank goodness.
Executive Producer & Director, Writer and Creator former BBC head of format entertainment.