With formats like The Great Bake Off, which is hugely successful across the region, BBC Studios has answered broadcasters’ need and audiences’ demand for quality entertainment. At the same time, adaptations of scripted content are beginning to gain traction in many territories.
The post-pandemic years have seen an increase in demand for entertainment formats and BBC Studios, owner of titles such as The Great Bake Off and Dancing With the Stars, has answered the call with local adaptations in multiple countries, including a string of successes across Latin America, led by versions of its famous cooking competition in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay.
“I believe that people look to television for the opposite of what they are experiencing in their lives,” André Renaud, Senior Vice President of Global Format Sales at BBC Studios, told ttvnews. “When things are really great, and fun and calm, we look for intrigue on TV. But when things are difficult, when we are coming out of complicated times, we look for another type of escapism”.
“What is overlaying on top of that is the economy,” Renaud explained. “Broadcasters and commissioners are looking, from a formats’ point of view, for shows that they know people would want to watch; that could be a title, a talent, but also something that is fun, exciting and different, because that would drive viewers, subscribers and advertisers.”
How did 2022 turn out for BBC Studios’ format sales area?
We had a really positive year as far as formats and productions are concerned. Given the last couple of years, one of the things that has sustained pretty well has been formats. One of the biggest shows we’ve launched in these years is The 1% Club, which airs on ITV. Even before it aired in the UK earlier this year, it had already been licensed to Israel, France and the Netherlands. We also announced a commission in Australia for Channel 7. It’s proving to be one of our most popular formats.
The other thing that is working very well is scripted content. There have been more commissions coming through for scripted and comedy shows. Titles like Doctor Foster, which has versions in Arabic, in Turkey. We have just announced a version of The Office in Saudi Arabia. Our tentpole shows have also continued to work very well, shows like Dancing With the Stars, that just moved from ABC in the US to Disney+. It’s the first time, to my knowledge, that they’re doing a live show on Disney+.
In Latin America, in particular, over the last year we have had a second season of Bake Off in Uruguay, a version announced for Colombia, and we have been continuing with shows like What Not to Wear in Brazil. The formats have continued to have a steady pace for the past year and we hope this will continue in 2023.
How has the business grown in Latin America?
I just hired Isabel Durán, whose responsibility is to lead the format business for format sales in Spain, Portugal and Spanish-speaking Latin America. Isabel joined in October and one of the reasons is that we understood it was important to have one person oversee [those territories] to have clarity of development. She brings over twenty years of experience in development and that is a strong asset to have. The work that she does will complement that of our sales teams.
We also have someone based in Sao Paulo overseeing the business in Brazil. In Brazil, the business has been successful over the last several years, with shows like Dancing With the Stars, Bake Off and What Not to Wear, and also with shows like Hair, a hairdressing competition show, or First Love, where people are going back to meet people they original dated.
What we have started to see in Latin America is interest in scripted content. This year, Pantaya and Amazon did a show called Mi tío, which is based on our format Uncle. People are casting a wider view on where to find scripted ideas and how to navigate them into telling local stories. The thing I want to explore more is how can we start telling many regions stories through the shows that we have.
What kind of partner is BBC Studios looking for to achieve that goal?
I think the question that needs to be asked is what are the ideas that we have and how can they be localized. It is important to make that clear when we talk about adaptations, but we are saying is that we know the original idea, the concept; it’s like the seed of a tree: we know how to plant the seed for the tree, but we do not know how every branch will grow. An example is Doctor Foster, that has been adapted in Turkey and the Philippines, with a much more of a telenovela style, with more episodes, creating more drama and story. That is one way to do it and I think it will suit traditional media broadcasters. Ultimately, I believe we need to go and find a producer who is able to have clarity of vision and clarity of story. That can really shape it and bring to life that idea to broadcasters.
What role do platforms play in this scenario?
There is still a real opportunity for OTT players coming to market to really look for adaptations. There are two things they look for: celebrities they can put on their shows and identifiable brand names. I think shows like Bake Off or The Office, or shows like Ghosts, which is now one of the highest-rated comedies on CBS in the US, are successful brand names that celebrities can be easily attached to. This makes it easier for OTTs to commission. And when I say celebrities, I mean on-screen and off-screen talent.
What can you comment on the moment of Bake Off in Latin America?
Conversations about formats in the region are really about entertainment shows and are led by Bake Off, which has versions in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay. With the exception of Uruguay, all have a relationship with Warner Bros. Discovery, which has commissioned or produced the show. When The Great British Bake Off first came out in the UK, it was the first time in which you were creating a reality competition show centered around being nice. People joined together to celebrate each other, every success was collective, which created a feeling of fun, warmth and joy. You could still create tension in it, but you were creating an opportunity for amateur bakers to learn, to find opportunities to tell stories about who they are and to be celebrated. I think that’s something that resonates in Latin America; that sense of community is important in the region. You can find that through Bake Off in a way that you can’t in other similar formats. And when you then overlay elements like celebrities, which is one of the successes from Mexico, you are getting an opportunity to find ways for the audience to get to know those people in a different way. The Uruguayan version of Bake Off, for example, is so lovingly done, so well done by Canal 4. And some of that is because they are weaving in authentic Uruguayan stories, of authentic Uruguayan people, who are celebrated. That’s at the heart of what makes a show like The Great Bake Off such a big success.
How does BBC Studios collaborate with the development of these local productions?
The first thing we do is look at what is the development work we have already done to save them time and money. The second thing is how it’s going to get adapted. We are not experts in every country around the world, what we hope that our partner would bring is that knowledge: this is how that works here. We build that together. When it comes to localizing we give the heart of that to our partner. Sometimes we try to help understand the kind of talent that the shows needs: for example, The 1% Club is a host-driven show, so its really helpful if that person is a stand up comic, because what they are doing is a stand up set for the people in the studio and at home. That is the kind of information that is important and that we would give.
What can we expect for 2023?
From the chair I sit in I have the luxury of seeing the trends of the world as they move through and one of these which has been coming through, most clearly for the last 18 months, is about truth in storytelling; around young people wanting to find honesty in what is being portrayed. I think that is set to continue. At Mipcom we launched shows around mental health, like Art on the Brain, or shows like Hire Me, where people who normally wouldn’t have access to an industry are given an opportunity to apply for a job in a fun and exciting way. I think that piece is growing. What I also think is coming through is that people want to find more entertainment in their shows. At the beginning of 2023 we will be launching more entertainment programs, big prime time entertainment shows, things based on physical games, fun and innovative programs. Other trends will be shows about business, entrepreneurship and weddings. You will have to wait for the big reveals!