“Storytelling has to be so powerful it will bring people back from night to night”
Producers discuss why some stripped Reality formats work, and others don't.
MasterChef Australia, Married at First Sight, The Biggest Loser were all international formats before they were all successfully “stripped” in Australia (all under Endemol Shine / and previously Fremantle).
But ‘super-sizing’ a show doesn’t always work.
In the USA Holey Moley (created by Australia’s Eureka Productions) screens for 60 minutes once a week.
In Australia it runs as 3 x 90 mins but has proven too demanding of the audience.
Stripped reality shows were the subject of some discussion at the Screen Forever conference yesterday.
“I think we have probably the hardest audience to produce for in the world,” said Stephen Tate, 10 Head of Entertainment and Factual Programs.
“We have such a small number of viewers available to us compared to many other markets. They have incredible taste, and very, very high expectations. Australian audiences are really quite fickle. We have to do more with less in this country …and also niche programming is very, very difficult to get away in this country.”
Debbie Cuell, Executive Producer, Endemol Shine Australia noted, “With those stripped shows the storytelling has to be so powerful it will bring people back from night to night. It’s got to have pull-through. I think that’s why those shows are so powerful and so beautifully made.”
L to R: Andrew Farrell, Stephen Tate, Ben Ulm, Debbie Cuell.
Ben Ulm, Head of Reality & Factual, ITV Studios Australia said stripped reality shows were necessary because of competition elsewhere, but agrees there are dangers.
“Take a show like, Holey Moley, it’s a terrific show. But with great hindsight, I think stripping it across a week was something that that clearly hasn’t worked. I can imagine 10, 20, 30 years ago, you’d lean forward to watch that on a Sunday night. A bit like It’s A Knock-Out or another show like that.”
“It comes back to story,” impressed Cuell. “With Holey Moley there’s not a lot of story there, It’s a great action show. But what’s the story that’s going to bring you back? You want something that is not going to give them a choice the next night, because the story the night before was so powerful they’re going to watch it again the next night.”
“You could say the same about Ninja,” Tate said, “which was a runaway success -pretty much the same event, night after night. But it had such a sense of ‘event’, it really worked. It probably helped that it had great eye candy as well.
“When audiences come to a new program, they’re having to make a commitment, often to a multi night situation. So they need to form a relationship. And to your point, I think it does come down to the casting… getting that casting right, so that the audience are actually invested and wanting to stay, night after night.”
There was also agreement about having a strong singular premise in stripped formats.
“Married at First Sight as big and noisy and tabloid as it is now.. the premise is strong. Research says that arranged marriages have actually quite a good success rate and marriages where we collide accidentally, don’t,” said Ulm.
Cuell added, “If you look at MasterChef, (it has) things in life that everyone relates to. Everyone wants love, everyone wants to eat nice food. Cooking and love are very relatable.”