K7 Media

K7 Media

THE DEATH OF THE NEXT BIG THING

Another MIP market has come to an end, and once again the perennial question – “What’s the Next Big Thing?” – has no conclusive answer. MIPTV saw many exciting new formats, and plenty of interesting prospects, but none that unified the industry in feverish “must have” desire.

Some may see this as cause for concern, a sign that the entire medium of TV is entering its dotage. At K7, we see it quite differently. The lack of a single stand-out format is healthy, and reflects the broader nature of television in 2015. It is, as we said in our Future of UK Entertainment TV report from March, encouraging that rather than rolling the dice on the next big thing we instead have a variety of “interesting medium-sized things”.

The lack of a single stand-out format is healthy, and reflects the broader nature of television in 2015.

This is partly down to the rise of new markets, such as Israel and Korea (see below), outside of the traditional format powerhouses of UK, US and Holland. It’s also true that as audiences become more fragmented and niche, the need for all-consuming super-formats that hit across all demographics becomes harder – and less important – to achieve.

Mostly, we feel, this is simply a natural evolution or contraction in entertainment programming. Those genius breakout formats of yesteryear – Big Brother, Millionaire, Pop Idol – weren’t forged in the frantic bubble and churn of an industry desperate for an off-the-shelf hit.

They were painstakingly honed and crafted for years by passionate producers, confident in their ideas. When they did reach screens, they were unstoppable.

As Daniel Ravner of Practical Innovation said during the MIPTV wrap-up panel: “People are looking back at TV formats as something that should grow more easily. Letting go of the Next Big Thing really can usher the emergence of the Next Big Thing because we are going back to what made the last big things great, which is time to develop, time to evolve before becoming worldwide phenomena.”

As audiences become more fragmented and niche, the need for all-consuming super-formats that hit across all demographics becomes harder – and less important – to achieve.

Of course, it’s comforting to have a single lightning rod around which everyone can cluster. Format development is a scary process, largely blind in nature, so the reassurance of knowing we all agree on what will succeed is easy to understand. But it is also limiting, and risks creating output that is generic and forgettable, which turns viewers off. Abandoning the obsession with that fabled magical format is a frightening but essential first step in breaking that cycle.

Dan Whitehead

Dan writes K7’s World Drama Report and curates the monthly K7 Scriptlist video showreel. He also applies his insight into scripted content trends across the company’s research output.

Dan has been the entertainment writer for Big Issue In The North since 2005, reporting from the set of dozens of TV shows and major motion pictures and also worked on officially licensed books for Warner Bros, Viacom and Lucasfilm. He is also well versed in gaming, having written for outlets such as Official Xbox Magazine, Eurogamer and the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition. Dan is currently learning Mandarin.