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August 11, 2014
Case Study: Married at First Sight
By Kristin Brzoznowski
The extreme social-experiment format Married at First Sight, sold by Red Arrow International, follows six singles who agree to get legally married the moment they first meet. A panel of experts—psychologists,
anthropologists, members of a church—creates what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. After several weeks together, each couple makes a decision about whether to remain together or to divorce. Cameras document everything along the way, from the first kiss to their first tears.
“In Denmark, Married at First Sight is a homegrown Red Arrow show, as it was originally
developed and produced by our production company Snowman Productions for the Danish public broadcaster DR3,” explains Michael Schmidt, the chief creative officer of Red Arrow Entertainment Group. “It was a huge success, with ratings five times over the channel average. A second season is already ordered, this time for the main channel, DR1.”
Because of its success in Denmark, Red Arrow International signed several straight-to-series deals at last year’s MIPCOM, including in the U.S., France, Germany, Australia and Russia. “Married at First Sight is definitely our most successful rollout by far, with over 15 straight-to-series deals one month after the Danish launch,” says Henrik Pabst, co-managing director and head of global format and factual distribution at Red Arrow International.
“Married at First Sight was a game-changer for DR3, and now it puts A+E Networks’
rebranded channel FYI on everyone’s radar in the U.S.A.,” adds Schmidt. “The latest episode on FYI tripled the premiere ratings and scored ratings over five times the channel average—very similar to what happened in Denmark.” It was just announced last week that FYI has ordered a second season for 2015, ahead of the season-one finale on September 9.
Schmidt says that the tricky part of this format is that you cannot create a buzz around it before going on air, because that would affect the casting. “So, at the beginning, we do our best to have as little public awareness as possible,” he says. “In fact, you don’t need a big hype to sell successfully; it’s
still content and ratings that convince the buyers and not a press release. And that is exactly what happened with Married at First Sight. For us, it was extremely important to find a partner who shared our creative vision; and FYI did! On top [of that], they tied Married at First Sight to their channel launch, which clearly shows how much they believed in the format.”
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