TV creation has such a strong cultural dimension that one always needs to consider the country where any show is written and produced. Here’s an analysis of how history, culture and given material conditions can foster creativity; and help a country break through the international competition.
I believe that the DNA of any TV show is composed of 3 elements:
1. The Creator – The inspiration and vision behind the show
2. The Broadcaster – The business model and the market conditions in which the show exists
3. The Viewers – The judge and jury of the show and the prospects of its continuation.
These three elements create a closed but ever evolving cycle with every round, challenging each element’s ground rules, making it difficult to formulate or determine what defines the next TV hit…
However, Israel has a few unique conditions that make it a very interesting place for TV creation: the combination of a very small, yet diverse, population is a melting pot for ideas and innovation.
Here are a few points I think makes Israel a fertile market for easily-exportable TV shows:
Ideas come from inspiration; a country saturated by historical events in a geographic junction between three continents has always been a great source of storytelling. Israel, after all, is the origin of the biggest best-seller in the history of human kind: The Bible.
Homeland is a good example of an international hit, inspired by current events and by news that took place in Israel.
2. Limited funds inspire creativity
When creating under a very limited budget, one must adapt the vision to reality; on a positive note, it challenges the creator to find solutions and focus on the drama and the text, rather than on big scenes or huge settings. On the negative side, this also eliminates the option of telling stories requiring more elaborate settings: several TV creators in Israel are working on small dramas or sitcoms while secretly keeping many good ideas in the drawer for days when they might be able to create in Hollywood or Europe.
In Treatment challenged the structure of TV drama, and demonstrated how brilliant dialogue and acting can create unforgettable dramatic moments, without a big production budget.
3. Shows for all
You can’t develop a show for a niche audience, the primetime in Israel is very limited; news and current affairs shows will take the majority of the slots, followed by huge reality shows. This leaves very little space for original drama and formats and these shows must be for everyone! Israel is a small country, so creating a show for teens or young female audience would be impossible to programme.
4. Audiences in Israel are great for test viewership
Israel TV was historically influenced by both Hollywood and European TV. Israelis are known for their extensive travels around the world and are relatively open to new ideas and customs. A show from Japan can be as successful as a show from Colombia, US or Germany.
Dori Media were pioneers in bringing telenovelas to Israel and found how well these shows can travel outside of South America.
5. Outside-facing local market
It is difficult to grow and expand within the Israeli TV market: every producer, creator and broadcaster is aiming to sell knowledge and ideas to the world. Keshet has made a great deal of effort in selling their formats outside of Israel knowing it is one of their major growth engines. Armoza Formats have been the leaders in this field, identifying the unique formats generated in Israel and understanding the international business landscape. Avi Armoza has increased the accessibility of Israeli TV shows and formats to the international market and in many ways opened the doors to many shows.
The Israeli TV market, although very successful, is experiencing great challenges, and less and less space for new talents to step in. Creators find it very hard to make shows as broadcasters are spending less on development and new ideas and more on expansive rating generating, reality brands. One of the commercial channels is still struggling financially while the public channel became irrelevant in the past few years. These strains on the industry are causing creators to focus their efforts outside of Israel, and international companies investing in Israel such as RedArrow and Endemol will hopefully generate the opportunities needed for the talented creators and give the world the chance to enjoy more innovative and edgy TV shows from Israel.
Lior Sasson is VP of business development for Jasmine TV, part of Jasmine Group. He is in charge of the company’s activity in Africa, which includes operating 8 movie channels and developing a VOD platform. After serving as Israel’s cultural attaché and Hollywood liaison, Lior is currently developing TV projects and films for Hollywood and the local Israeli market.