Everybody loves formats. They sell for millions, broadcasters worldwide can’t get enough of them and you don’t even need to make the show in order to sell them! Or at least that’s what some people would have you believe. Fresh from MIPTV, here’s Ben Hall from Chalkboard TV on the ten things you should know before entering the format game.
1. Rein in those expectations. You are almost certainly not going to become a format millionaire, overnight or otherwise. Go in with your eyes open and your feet on the ground, and you’re much less likely to be discouraged along the way.
2. Be realistic. It has never been harder to get a show on the air, or to develop and sell a new format. Broadcasters are afraid of investing in unproven ideas, which in turn means they’re more likely to buy into existing formats, which makes it hard for new ideas to stand out, which makes broadcasters afraid of investing in unproven ideas. Breaking this cycle is hard work. Prepare for this.
Your idea is going to be fighting for attention against hundreds of potential rivals.
3. There is a stupid amount of competition. From giant multinationals to ambitious indies, your idea is going to be fighting for attention against hundreds of potential rivals. Refine your concept and focus on the unique strengths of your format – and yourself.
4. Do your homework. Nobody is going to invest in a company that is blind to trends and changes in the market, not just locally but internationally. Use research companies such as K7 Media or C21 to make sure that what you’re selling is what the markets want.
5. Selling paper formats is tough. Get somebody, anybody, to shoot something, anything, to illustrate the format!
6. Ideas matter – make yours unique. A great idea needs to be in the right place at the right time, with the right talent to make it work. You can align these elements – but luck plays a part!
7. Pitch with passion. Promos and pilots will make a deal more likely, but with fewer opportunities to sell and greater potential rewards for those who do, development costs can soar.
8. Don’t be greedy. Go into the meeting with a level-headed assessment of the market you’re entering and know what to expect from the deal.
Broadcasters are afraid of investing in unproven ideas, which in turn makes it hard for new ideas to stand out.
9. Be choosy about your distributor. If you sell your show, and somehow retain the international rights, consider who you partner with carefully. Big groups and small distributors each have their pros and cons depending on the format.
10. Enjoy yourself! Formats are fun!