Oops, It Appears I’ve Missed A Question

Consider the ways in which production companies use formats to make money. How would your format make you money?

We were given four questions a while ago to guide us with our blogs. Everyone sort of forgot about them, until one of the members of the TV format production group kindly reminded us all. A blessing confirmation to some, whilst others fought off heart attacks. Myself however, appear to have only answered three: that is, the ingredients of a successful format, why did I make the formats I chose, and what is the future of format production?

Akin to that third question, I was also asked to apply my own formats to the web and explain how it would work in modern / future broadcasting. As mentioned, predicting the future is almost impossible. But if I had to take a guess, I would say my radio show would not work on the internet – there are those who listen to radio because they enjoy doing so, and the majority of everyone else does not. Morning shows are successful because people commute to work. Other than that, radio is dying out, which is why the audio is often broadcast with images on the internet. My radio show would remain within that niche – people who listen to the radio would enjoy it much more than those who didn’t usually. That’s not because it’s a bad show or anything – it’s just that I would consider radio a niche broadcasting style now – people are far too preoccupied with the internet nowadays.

However, that final question stated at the top, regarding how businesses make money from formats – generally, the fact that they are cheap to make and easily repeatable make them big money earners to start with. You can produce a show that get replayed over and over again, and you’ve cut most of your running costs already. We play ‘psychology’ with the audience and bring them into a comfort zone, which we achieve by replaying a show that the audience are familiar with. They know the rules, they know what to expect, and on most occasions they can probably predict what is going to happen. Hell, they can even play along at home if they choose to – they wont win anything, but they wont lose anything either. A wonderful way to gamble.

On this topic, as a side note I feel it relevant to note something I’m watching at the moment – a TV series called Twin Peaks from the early 1990s. Now, this is no way a formats production, but it does incorporate several factors of a format. For example, cheap production values – the entire series is set in the town of the title, and buildings and locations are often repeated. All the characters / actors are all the same, and as the narrative progresses, the audience get to learn more about the town and characters, drawing them into a comfort zone. You could apply this to quite a few sitcoms, it’s just that I’m watching Twin Peaks at the moment and noticed the slight connection – even crime thrillers can use repetition as a way of helping to sell a show (which evidently works considering Twin Peaks was a highly successful TV series).

The formats I’ve been involved in producing fit all the aforementioned types of categories, and therefore seem like ideal candidates. I feel that there was a bit too much repetition in the rounds within Who’s Who – perhaps some variety in the content would have suited an all-round show better. In terms of making money though, that factor largely depends on how much interaction there is with the audience. In both cases of my formats, audience interaction is rather minimal. The shows advertised future contestants, but the audience could not vote, or participate in any other way on either format – only to be a future guest on a future episode. Since formats is primarily about making money, it seems I may have missed a trick here.

However, both shows had a wide appeal, opening up a large audience, which would serve them well if they did end up on the internet. After all, a show aimed at a wide audience broadcast to a wide population cannot falter much in terms of distribution – it would all come down to how good the show was. I believe both of the format pieces I have produced have been of a good quality – there are certainly ideas there. With a bit of spit and polish, they could both become really great. I will attempt to incorporate my radio quiz format into my radio show in the near future (once they figure out how get the station broadcasting again that is!).

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