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Photo: NBC‘s gameshow “Minute to Win It”, based on Sweden’s Friday TV’s format

Last year saw the inaugural MIPFormats day take place on the Sunday before MIPTV. Several hundred industry people gathered to discuss nothing but formats for a whole day, including listening to exciting pitches for new format ideas, debating the revenue-share in format production and looking ahead to the future of the format business.

This year, in what can be seen as a recognition of the format markets increasing importance for the industry on a whole, the MIPFormats day has been re-made into a whole MIPFormats weekend, pre-MIP. Many new formats will be revealed to the public that weekend, and the success of proven formats explained and discussed.

One of the most obvious conclusions to be drawn from last year’s MIPFormats was that formats no longer come from the obvious territories, the US, the UK, Holland and so on, but also from a number of smaller territories, such as Israel, Turkey and, yes, the Nordic countries.

Hailing from Finland, I find it exciting that so many new formats – internationally successful formats at that – are continuing to see the light in the Nordic countries. Take for instance the winner of the C21 Format awards in the studio-based game show category, “Minute To Win It” (photo). NBC Universal accepted the prize, but the format was originally developed by Friday TV of Stockholm, Sweden, a subsidiary of Shine/Metronome, and is now airing in or in production in some twenty territories.

There are other examples – “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” or why not the innovative cross media project “The Truth About Marika” – of Nordic formats creating great success  and interest internationally. In their 2009 report, the Format Recognition and Protection Association (FRAPA) states that ”The Scandinavian countries are widely seen as a creative hotspot.”

Looking at 2011, this still seems to be the case when talking to people in the industry. Timoteus Tuovinen, media consultant at Digital Media Finland, thinks the reasons are obvious:

“Nordic production budgets are way less than those of large European territories, not to mention the US. Poverty breeds creativity; we must stretch our creativity beyond bolstering the formats by big money solutions, says Tuovinen. Nordic formats also tend to be more down to earth and they are more believable than US/European formats, at the same time generating equal entertainment value.”

Anette Rømer, head of acquisitions and formats at TV2 in Denmark, believes one of the strengths lie in the power of identification that Nordic formats foster:

“Take for example Year Zero, a unique series that follows four families who all had a child on the 1st of January 2000. Four episodes a year since then have brought millions of viewers, who know these people by name, their ups and downs, with fathers going to jail and mothers nearing breakdowns. It is basically human interest, a mirror. It is identification.”

Tim Crescenti of Small World IFT has successfully gone into the Nordic markets to look for formats to distribute, finding gems like “I Survived a Japanese Game Show”, amongst others. To him, it is the similarities that make it easier to market Nordic formats:

“I don’t think there is one thing that separates [Nordic formats] from other global formats, which is why they are universally appealing.  What does separate the Nordic, and especially Finnish shows, is that they take risks.  So many markets create similar version of other shows. We love originality and risk-taking. I think with the Nordic formats, versus say our Japanese formats, buyers can see how they would adapt to their local market easier. It takes more vision by a buyer to see how a Dragons’ Den or Silent Library could be adapted. I also think the production value is tremendous in the Nordic area.”

From a format distributor’s point of view, the positive aspects of the  Nordic format markets are obvious, according to Sarah Jelvefors, who oversees the Scandinavian office for Dutch distributors Absolutely Independent:

“Nordic producers are very creative and can deliver high quality productions. Formats that travel to the Nordic region for production are in most cases being very well executed.”

As Digital Media Finland’s Tuovinen points out, there are other advantages to looking at Nordic formats as well, especially if you are looking to branch out on other platforms than just television:

“The Nordic countries are very apt with broadband and mobile paths, so it is natural for us to have true 360 elements to go along with the TV formats. And yes, our formats are cheap to produce. Northeners are trustworthy and we keep our promises, so this is a relatively safe market for all IPR.”

So as we look ahead towards an exciting MIPFormats and a busy MIPTV, keep your eyes peeled for hot formats fresh in from the cold. The North is coming!

@simon_staffans is a format developer for MediaCity Finland


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About Author

Based in Finland, Simon Staffans is a content developer, media strategist, blogger, writer, consultant and speaker, with a special focus on cross-platform storytelling. He is a frequent contributor to MIPBlog, and speaks regularly at MIP Markets.