Friday, October 31, 2008

Successful tv formats, no 1

1. Protect yourself and protect your idea. Now. Or even better, yesterday.

Good ideas are few and far between, in the rest of the world as well as in the television and cross media industry. That's why so many people flock to the conferences and markets around the world, that's why organizations like C21 can operate their virtual trailer vault, that's why Endemol har grown so huge, and that's why you, with your idea, have a great chance of making an impact on the market.

Remember, however, to be careful. Very very careful.

There's nothing as easily stolen as a good idea. A big organization, like for instance Endemol (and I'm NOT saying they would EVER nick ANY ideas from ANYONE, no sir, it's just and example ;) ) has lots of experienced people working for them. They can spot a good idea, or what's good in the core of an idea, and take it to their creative team immediately. And with their resources, chances are you'll see a format almost identical to your idea being sold and produced worldwide within a few months.

And trust me, if you're just starting out, it's going to take you a bit longer than a few months to get your idea out there.

Even if you manage to sell your idea, your format, into production in a territory, there's no stopping someone else to nick the general idea from you and go do their own stuff. Then, the only resort is to go to court.

So, there is an obvious dilemma. You need to market your idea, but as soon as you start marketing it anyone can nick it.

Now, there are some things to do. You can choose whom to speak and pitch to - some have a better reputation than others. You can ask for an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) to be signed before the pitch - although that might not happen, as buyers do not want to be tied by a formal agreement, chances are that you will have to cancel the meeting if you insist on an NDA.

Another way is to join an organization that protects formats - FRAPA is the most well known such organization, and for a fee you can register your ideas with them. This registry comes in handy should anyone rip off your idea straight off, as you then will be able to prove that this was your idea at such and such a time. The counterpart must then prove that the idea was theirs before you had it registered, or pay damages.

The most important thing, though, is to have your format as detailed as possible. This makes it much easier to spot copyright infringements and win a court case at the end of the day.

To conclude - be careful, protect your ideas as best you can, but at the same time be brave. If it's a good idea, you'll get it going.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Successful tv formats, no 2

2. Work on your pitch. And when you've worked on it, work on it some more.

So, there is this great idea. It's TransMedia, it's functioning, it's sanctioned by all the gurus you've brought in on the project, it's been tried and tested and analyzed on the market, you've shot a couple of test pilots and a real, big one, you've edited the material and you've made the trailer. You're all set, right?


There are millions of ideas out there. All of these compete for the attention of the buyers and investors, be they acquisition executives at Channel 4 or some investors willing to finance an online experiment or anything in between.

Everyone who's buying stuff gets pitched a lot of ideas daily. At markets like MIPTV, DISCOP or MIPCOM they get pitched hundreds of ideas. And now you have to, somehow, stand out from the crowd.

That's where the pitch comes in. You pitch your idea to a buyer, try to get their interest, so you can pitch them a little longer pitch. In five or ten seconds - one or two senteces - you should be able to pitch your idea well enough to catch their attention. This then allows you to expand on your idea for one more minute, and if the interest hopefully still is there, you can go into the full-length, 3 minute pitch.

Now - REHEARSE these pitches. They should flow like water, naturally, with confidence. One good advice I heard was that you have to LOVE your idea. It's your idea, it's the greatest ever and you LOVE it! Don't apologize, don't diminish your own idea. It's THE BEST EVER! If they don't like it, it's their task to say so.

Don't overpitch either. Let them in the discussion. Don't assume that they like your idea so much that they want to hear about all the possible problems you have with your format - that's a sure way to talk yourself out of a sale.

Be prepared for questions, answer them honestly - and if you don't know, say so. Don't try to fool anyone, that's a good way of not getting another meeting when you have a new idea to pitch.

Lastly - ALWAYS think of the next step! When finishing a meeting, be sure to suggest an action plan - if they liked your idea, make an agreement to talk next week about how to proceed. If they didn't, wish them well and enquire about if they want to hear about new ideas in the future - that'll basically give you permission to confront them again, with your next BRILLIANT idea that you just LOVE!

Good luck once again :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Successful tv formats, no 3

3. A pilot is a pilot is a pilot - and you need one!

Now it's about time to get down to the real stuff with regards to the idea you have. What you want to do is shoot some kind of pilot, so as to have something to show people when you want to market your idea. Format ideas have been sold as paper formats, or even as an idea written on a napkin (or at least that how legend would have it). Truth is, however, if the buyer doesn't know you and trust you, you need to show that you have a good idea and that you can deliver. So - a pilot is a good thing

A pilot can be anything from you setting up an old HandyCam in your home or your office, engaging a few friends or colleagues to play the different parts of your format (game show contestants, interviewees or what have you) to renting a television studio with a built set and a seven-camera HD production. This pilot should, however, be the pilot that you can show to people, to buyers, and get their interest.

What you should do BEFORE this pilot, however, is a number of smaller pilots. Just test the ideas you have, shoot the different parts of the show at home, try out ideas, get a feel for if your ideas work as well as you think or not. This will serve you well when it's time to shoot the real pilot. Not only that, it'll save you money in the end, and probably make you more in the long run.

When you have shot your pilot, take some extra shots of even more exciting situations with the people on the set. This is for the 1 minute trailer that you'll also have to make, since it'll be a much better way to reach many potential buyers.

Recap - take your idea, shoot small pilots, as many as needed. These are used to TEST your ideas. Make one big pilot. This one is used to SHOW your idea. And take extra shots for a trailer. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Formats - no longer the commodity of only a few

I'll continue the series on how to create a successful tv format tomorrow (since I KNOW y'all can't wait..., right? :) but in the meanwhile I thought I'd point out something quite interesting.

Back in the days - and we're talking early 2000s now - formats could come from the US, the UK or Holland (thanks to Endemol of course). Formats from any other part of the globe were few and far between, and channels and producers were reluctant to pick up new formats from sources they did not know. An age-old truth that - channels really really want to have the next big thing that no one has seen before, be groundbreaking and interesting. They just want to see the ratings of the format first.. :)

Today this has all changed, a fact that gives hope to format developers like me from fringe countries like Finland. The world IS smaller, the format world decidedly so. At this years C21/FRAPA Format Awards the awards went all over the world!

The best game show format went to The Encounter (Koz in Turkish), a format from Sera Film in Turkey. It is based on a combination between drama and game show, where two contestants are thrown into a fictional mafia world and have to manage a quiz show there to get away with a shitload of cash.

The best factual entertainment format went to Born to be wild, from Broadcasters, the Finnish subsidiary of Zodiak Television. That one is about getting old people (over 70 at least) to form a choir and sing true rock'n'roll. Hats off to Saku for bringing this format forth!

And of course, the scripted format award went to Caracol TV from Colombia for their scripted format about drug-running. Since telenovelas came to the fore, South America has really been up there when it comes to making exportable scripted formats.

What I'm saying is that the format world is now wide open. A good format can come from anywhere, and everyone is prepared for that. Without further ado, I will now go and create a great format. Be well! :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

....apparently not really yet :)

With Dow Jones holding up nicely on the back of the latest housing figures in the US, it looks like it'll be a while before the world ends.

Nice though, I did get up a bit early and I am a bit tired atm.

until later.

The end of the world as we know it?

So, today should be the day when it all goes to hell. The end of the capitalist world as we've come to know and love (or hate) for the past decades.

Nikkei is down, Finland is down, Hong Kong is down 12%.. and as it is not only the stock markets that are in trouble, it's the very life we are living, we will be in for some major changes.

In a way I'm happy. We should get back to basics, to communities, to REAL LIFE goddamit.

In the meanwhile, read the excellent Karl Denningers take on it all from last Saturday. Whomever is elected president of the US should hold the responsible parties RESPONSIBLE! Favourite quote: "A capitalist society is one in which those who make bad decisions fail and go bankrupt, not one in which those who fail are rescued by taxpayer money."

Tin foil hat on, seat belts fastened... here we go!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's not that I want to make a stand...

...or, hang on... I DO want to make a stand!

Please please pretty please (with sugar on top), anyone from the US reading this, vote Obama on the 4th.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The collapse of the economic system as we know it?

If you visit ONE new site today, you could do worse than going to this site. It's a handy forum where intelligent people meet to discuss finances.

Please go there, read up and realize that what we've seen so far is probably not that much to tell the grandchildren about. It the coming months this will all seem like a walk in the park.

See you Monday - should be interesting!

A quick link...

... just found this site, which is a really nice find.

If you like me are into US tv series - since they do a lot of fun stuff, of lately Heroes, Lost... and my current favorite, True Blood, then you're going to dig that site. It reviews and recaps all kinds of tv series on air in the US.

Keeping up to date made simple, simply!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Successful tv formats, part 4

Finally, the next instalment in the series. What do you mean, "what series?"?!?!?! My series on how to create a successful tv format, that's what series! :)

4. Think XMedia, think TMedia... think BIG!

The idea is there, the market SHOULD be there, everything is more than alright. Yup, but don't forget to think a bit bigger than this.

In todays world, television in and of itself continues to be the most important media, financialwise. But looking at what people are doing, they're spending way more time on their computers or on their smartphones than by the television. This has been the case for quite a while now, and as the tech-savvy 80's generation slowly matures (or do they?) and give way to the first Internet generation of the 90s, the trend will just become clearer and clearer.

Whatever you do, therefore, be sure to think of all the possibilities. Could your magnificent quiz show also be re-appropriated for mobile use as a stand-alone quiz show game? Could your ingenious travel format live it's own life on the Internet during the 4 months it's off air between seasons?

Once you've developed these ideas, be sure to look them over once more. It's not enough that they are great and working nicely on different media, you would also ideally need to have a sound business plan at hand. How does the producer / broadcaster / service provider / you make money out of this? Where's the financial windfall?

Once you've got all this wrapped up, you're well on your way to a very nice format.

("XMedia" and "TMedia"? It's "cross media" and the new hype word "Transmedia", of course. Read a good definition by EBU:s Nicoletta Iacobacca from last spring at Lunch over IP.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


... Too much to do, too little time. Sorry I haven't been updating this as I promised... I'll get back with the top-5 "How to create a successful tv format" any day now :)

In the meanwhile, why don't you check this out - it's the truth, I tell you! - and visit the pages of some of the people who wite the best economic analyses around, here and here. Read, learn, and if you have a spare 10-20k € lying around, why don't you make a load of cash now while it's possible!

until later.