April 6, 2020
The only website for the formats industry.
In this week's edition:
• FOX Entertainment’s Rob Wade
• Distributor Spotlight:
Viacom International Studios
FOX Entertainment’s Rob Wade
By Mansha Daswani
The Masked Singer was arguably the biggest story in the format business last year, as the breakout success of the celebrities-in-masks singing contest on FOX kicked off a string of deals in key markets around the world, including the U.K., Germany and Australia. As president of alternative entertainment and specials at FOX Entertainment, Rob Wade has not shied away from taking big bets on foreign concepts since he joined the broadcaster three years ago. In fact, finding new talent is at the heart of Wade’s strategy at Fox Alternative Entertainment (FAE), a new unscripted studio that will develop and produce concepts for FOX as well as third-party platforms. Wade talks to TV Formats Weekly about building The Masked Singer into a franchise, bringing shows like Lego Masters and I Can See Your Voice to the U.S. and the need for broadcasters to take risks today.
TV FORMATS: You recently appointed Allison Wallach to lead Fox Alternative Entertainment (FAE). Tell us about this new unscripted studio.
WADE: Allison Wallach has an incredible amount of experience. She’s worked at production companies, networks and agencies, so she has a true understanding of the business. In the unscripted world at the moment, there’s no playbook anymore. So, whoever leads a company that is going to be entrepreneurial and creative has to understand what’s happened before, so we can look at how to move forward.
We’re in a great situation with where we are in our productions at FAE. We have The Masked Singer, The Masked Dancer, a few specials [and I Can See Your Voice for later this year]. Launching FAE and bringing the production of The Masked Singer in-house gave us a stronger ownership position and greater creative control. That allowed us to do spin-offs and create merchandising revenues, tour revenues, things like that. We can work directly with the talent on those shows, which then allows us to find and nurture new voices in the unscripted arena. And FAE will enable us to bring more producers and more talent in-house and, therefore, create other shows.
TV FORMATS: Speaking of The Masked Singer, season three premiered right after the Super Bowl. No pressure! What went into crafting that premiere episode and the season as a whole?
WADE: I didn’t necessarily feel pressure, I just wanted to make sure that we were putting our best foot forward. The first show of a season is really hard. You never know what you’re going to get. We were lucky that we got a great reveal with Lil Wayne. We didn’t expect him to go in that [episode], honestly, but he did, and that was good for us. In terms of the format, the biggest thinking we did was around [whether we should] keep it as it was or split it into three groups of six [celebrities]. So we’re doing a group of six that goes down to three, then another group of six starts and goes down to three and then another group of six goes down to three. There will be nine left by the tenth show, and then we start on a more regular pattern at that point. We’re still at the learning stage, the discovery stage, in this format. There are inherent difficulties that aren’t like any other show that you just have to manage around. We’re still trying to get it right for the audience, sustain it as a franchise moving forward and give ourselves a format that provides us with enough hours, frankly, to fill the schedule. It’s great having a hit like this, but you want to make sure it’s maximized. I think that happened at NBC [with The Voice] and FOX back in the day with American Idol. Those formats started as very short runs, but because of the nature of those formats, you could expand them to many hours. That’s really when you win as a network. You’re not only getting a great show and good ratings, but you’re also getting it in lots of different slots in your schedule, which increases the overall average for the network. That’s our goal.
This interview continues here.
This interview was conducted prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Media companies are currently shifting their strategies in the wake of production postponements and economic trends.
Viacom International Studios
ADDRESS: 1515 Broadway, New York, NY 10036, U.S.A.
HEAD, FORMATS: Laura Burrell
PROGRAMS: America’s Most Musical Family: 60 min. eps., studio competition show, Intellectual Property Corporation, Nickelodeon, U.S.A.; Gods of the Game: 30 min. eps., entertainment, Mad Monk, Comedy Central, U.K.; Ex on the Peak: 60 min. eps., reality, Purveyors of Pop, MTV, U.S.A.; Revenge Prank: 60 min. eps., studio entertainment, Gobstopper, MTV, U.S.A.; Finding Prince Charming: 60 min. eps., dating/reality, Brian Graden Company, Logo, U.S.A.; Top Elf: 60 min. eps., game show, all3media, Nickelodeon, U.S.A.; 5 Mistakes That Caught a Killer: 60 min. eps., crime/factual, Viacom International Studios UK, Channel 5, U.K.; The Story of the Songs: 60 min. eps., factual entertainment, Viacom International Studios UK, Channel 5, U.K.
TRAILER: Please visit ViacomCBS’s Screening Room to view a clip of America’s Most Musical Family.
“Viacom International Studios (VIS) is the umbrella brand for all of ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI) content production and distribution activities outside of the U.S. Within VIS, the content sales group is responsible for all international program licensing, format and co-production activities across its diverse portfolio of entertainment brands.
With a rich history in reality, competition, comedy, factual and studio entertainment, our formats are loud, innovative and often groundbreaking. Quality and creativity are at the heart of all our productions ensuring that the content resonates with local audiences around the world.”
—Laura Burrell, Head, Formats
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Vincent TV Hires New Head of Sales
Cynthia Kennedy has been appointed head of sales at Vincent TV, a Benelux television production company.
TV Formats Guide 2020