This session was a follow-up to the previous one, but in this one Israeli Avi Armoza had the floor to himself, and was able to provide a unique perspective on television now and in the future.
The most amazing finding was that after a decade of mergers and conglomerations into huge corporations like Fremantle, Endemol and BBC Worldwide, the main players have acknowledged a stagnation taking place.
Essentially, they have noticed that all the big successful format shows on TV were created more than a decade ago, or before the big wheels took over.
According to Avi, this is because the bigger you are, the more risk averse you become, as huge businesses are run by ferocious finance officers, anxious to please their demanding boards.
Hence the endless turn of current events where broadcasters and big companies are desperate for the next big original idea. But the conundrum is, if you pitch them an original idea, they won’t go for it because you can’t point to its previous success.
That’s why the few players who are willing to take a punt, like Netflix with its breakthrough House of Cards television drama, or the Danish ER with Borgen and The Killing, are cleaning up big time.
It is highly possible that the rest of us will be doomed to watching and producing endless versions of increasingly fatigued formats like The Voice, The Block and MasterChef, until we go completely insane, take on the collective personas of berserk banshees and rip the television repeaters off the nearby hills in sheer frustration. Historians are almost certain that an event just like this is what caused the extinction of the dinosaur.
Mr Armosa built a convincing case that Israel is risk accepting, as Israelis face the daily possibility of being annihilated by their neighbouring foes, or even their nearby friends. Avi explained that Israel’s television industry is relatively young, and follows the inspiration of its IT industry in going global at every opportunity. That could be why Israel has been so successful at selling formats to the US. Their production budgets are also relatively tiny, and that is why they came with formats like In Treatment, which is basically two people sitting in armchairs for half an hour. Avi also showed us clips from a drama which takes place exclusively within a police station, The Naked Truth. “You have to focus on the storytelling,” he told us.
Armosa suggested that the next generation of content is yet to arrive, and our challenge is to figure out what will be next. “We are in the midst of a technological revolution that affects all aspects of our lives, including television, and it’s changing the business models.
“The next big hit is yet to come,” Avi said. “The Catch 22 is that they’re desperate for creativity, but they also need control. It’s the same with broadcasters. They cry out loud, bring us the next big thing, but they’re not willing to take a risk.”
For Avi, this means opportunity for new players to arrive, take a risk and achieve success, and become the new mainstream. Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and House of Cards have broken the traditional television drama mould, and now we need a similar process for format TV. “We need the next generation of content, and we need to be able to fail.”
Armosa suggests that the new content must cross borders – cultural borders, cross-platform borders and genres. He provided a case example of a new prime time entertainment show called I Can Do That. The budget was raised via venture capital, as it’s a massive investment that could succeed or fail. But at the last MIPCOM it sold to more than 15 territories. “We’re in the business of not knowing,” he concluded. “It’s a venture capital type of business. In order to get the next big hit, you need to invest in ten of them, and maybe nine will fail but one will succeed.”