Distributors have a six-year window in which to maximise sales revenues from high-profile formats, exclusive analysis from consultancy firm Broadcast Intelligence (BI) reveals.
The New Superformats report, which explores the sales of 10 of the highest-selling series of the past decade, finds that even the most popular shows in the market have a finite period in which buyers will consider commissioning local versions.
For these titles, the number of international format sales achieved in a calendar year peaks as the original commission goes into its second year in its home territory, with the following three years key to maximising revenues through new deals and local recommissions.
Formats sales in BI’s sample dropped off in the sixth year, with the following two years barely providing any new business.
The report, which marks the first time that the life cycle of 10 of the most influential formats launched since 2010 has been placed under the microscope, reveals new hit titles had a shorter and less sustained tail compared with older formats such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Big Brother.
“What is striking about this data is it suggests that formats must be sold with greater urgency than before,” said BI lead analyst Jonathan Broughton. “A new superformat will gain traction immediately, but this represents a call to arms, rather than a guarantee of success.”
Among the few formats analysed that did not fit the pattern was The Masked Singer, whose life cycle was described by BI analysts as “more complex”.
The show launched in South Korea as King of Mask Singer in 2014, but did not become an international smash until the US version. This aired on Fox with significant changes from the original and launched to strong ratings in January 2019, leading to a spike in deals.
The report reveals that formats ran for an average 2.4 series in the territories they were sold into (including the home broadcaster). Unsurprisingly, each show in the sample performed best in its originating territory and if these are excluded, the average overall run drops to 2.1 series.
There is little difference in the average series runs between ‘shiny floor’ and factual entertainment formats (2.4 versus 2.1). Overall, the average format in the report would run for an average of 2.6 series in its home territory, against 2.2 elsewhere.
Endemol Shine Group’s Spanish singing format Your Face Sounds Familiar had the highest average number of runs per territory at 3.8. It was followed by the Viacom International Studios-distributed Ex On The Beach (2.9), which Whizz Kid Entertainment first produced for MTV, and Studio Lambert’s Gogglebox (2.8), originally for Channel 4.
The data also reveals how even the best-selling international formats by volume of sales struggle to make it past their first series in most countries. Nearly half of local commissions were axed after their first run, though a third went on for three or more series.
The UK was responsible for creating seven of the formats assessed in the report. In terms of buying territories, the Netherlands was the most prolific, having remade 10 series for one local run or more. It was followed by France (nine), the US, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Italy (all eight).