Lecture 2 – The Essential Ingredients of a Format

Further reading- http://www.tvformats.com/formats.html

Last week I asked you to consider this – What are the essential ingredients of an entertainment format?

TV formats are made up of a “kit of parts”, these are the key elements that make the format work.  All TV game shows, quizzes and entertainment formats are made this way.  Producers spend a long time in development taking apart the format and rebuilding it until they are sure that it works (and if they are cash lucky a pilot or pilots will help them in this process).  This ensures that the time spent in the studio is efficient and that the production runs smoothly.  This might seem a rather restrictive and prescribed way to make telly but I would argue that there are (small) places for chaos or spontaneity in a format. For example when a contestant wins the big prize, when a celebrity does something unexpected or when the audience gets involved.

Today TV schedules are dominated by formats because they easy to make, can be bulk ordered and most importantly audiences have a huge appetite for them.  Why?  Well because these formats tap into one or more of the following; our love of winning (particularly if for a big money prize or if beating a baddie), big named celebrities and a good laugh (and natter).

Today we will be analysing 3 different types of entertainment formats looking for their key elements and reasons for success.


They are;
1. A SIMPLE IDEA – You MUST be able to sum up your show in one line.
2. A HOOK – the reason to watch.  Why will an audience want to watch your show?
3. PLAY-A-LONG ability –  Also known as shoutablity – if your audience is shouting at the telly they are engaged and likely to be loyal.
4. BRANDING or a distinctive style – Formats need a distinctive set and music and lighting
5. REPEATABLE (again and again and again) – Format stays the same every show.  Key ingredient of a Format
6. COMPETITION – for drama or fun.  Formats need a winner or a sense of competition.
7. A CHARACTER (presenter or contributor) – Presenter brings their personality to the proceedings and makes the show their own.
8. TRANSFERABILITY – The measure of a truly successful format is how many countries you can sell it to.  A format should tap into basic or unilateral human interests demonstrating language and/or culture is no boundary to understanding it.
9. Spin-offs – money making merchandising is all part of the business plan these days.

Deal or No Deal

“ Part game show, part psychological thriller”
“The most flexible gameshow ever invented”       www. endemol.com
Game of tension and chance
Daily show

Teatime slot
5.5m audience
Broad audience  8-80
Daytime audiences are 50% male
Began in UK 2005 (originally a Dutch format)
                    The suspense of decision-making
DOND – the recipe of it’s success;
A SIMPLE IDEA – 22 sealed boxes and one question – deal or no deal?  The method behind the idea is based on the “suspense of decisions” – will they, won’t they? And money.
A HOOK – (the reason to watch).  This is essentially a game of chicken.  The contestant spend 50 minutes trying to dodge the juggernaut heading their way.  The audience develop an attachment to the contestant so that they care who wins.
PLAY-A-LONG ability – The audience at home, in the studio and the contestant’s family can all play this game along at home.
BRANDING – Today’s Quiz Formats are about creating a spectacle or an event.  So they need a distinctive set and music – Often quiz shows will have an “arena” of combat (think gladiators of ancient times).  The set creates a place for the battle to take place, with glamorous assistants,  dramatic music, lighting changes and a big celebration should there be a win.
REPEATABLE (again and again and again) – Format stays the same every show.  Key ingredient of a Format
COMPETITION – for drama or fun.  Formats need a winner or a sense of competition.
A CHARACTER (presenter or contributor) – Presenter brings their personality to the proceedings and makes the show their own. Can you imagine anyone else presenting this than Noel Edmunds?  Contestant research is a key job behind a successful format.  You want people who show their feelings and who are talkative, emotional, or on a “journey”.
TRANSFERABILITY – The measure of a truly successful format is how many countries you can sell it to.  A format should tap into basic or unilateral human interests demonstrating language and/or culture is no boundary to understanding it. DOND is about the victory of the little person and a big lump of cash.
SPIN- OFFS – 10 Online Games/ Iphone game/ Online Bingo/ Noel doll?
WHAT NEXT FOR DOND? Formats can be refreshed but it is a lot harder to do so with quizzes like this.  Likely that audiences will not respond to any changes to the rules. But audiences and formats do tire and get retired.  Sometimes they come back revamped (Strictly Come Dancing is a recent example of this.  It used to play late at night, with amateur couples, presented by Angela Rippon – my how it has changed!).   The US version of DOND is  far glitzier than the UK – including glamourous assistants and has a later tx time.  Involving big names in the game is a good way to keep the format fresh in audiences minds.
Deal or No Deal and George Bush
Who Wants to Be  a Millionaire – £££
The Weakist Link –  Humiliation
Golden Balls – Nasty tactics
High Stakes – Latest peaktime gameshow
9pm – Post watershed
18-35 years(young for BBC2)
Music knowledge required
Began 1996
SIMPLE IDEA – Irreverent pop quiz, with guest competitors from the worlds of music, TV and comedy
HOOK = Comedians + Pop idols away from the mike are the reasons to watch
PLAYALONG- ability =  Various Q & A rounds.  Home and Studio Audiences can join in with answers.
BRANDING = distinctive set, lighting, music and logo. Black and white gives a retro look. Speakers to reflect music them. Logo taken from Sex Pistols album that title comes from.
REPEATABLE = same round played each week. Host and guests change
Spectacle/ event = studio audience / set design/ music/ celebs
COMPETITION = Win for fun.
A CHARACTER = Team Captains (Phil Jupitus and Noel Fielding) have become identifiable faces of the show. Hosts change arguably giving each show a sense of uniqueness.  An Idea first tried on Have I Got New From You.
TRANSFERABILITY = Idea has been tried out in Holland, Germany and US but not caught on. It’s quite a uniquely British format that taps into our particular sense of humour. Just like these other shows;
8 out of 10 cats
Have I Got News For You
What next for Buzzcocks?
Personally I think it’s a tired show or maybe I just outgrew it. I think Celebrity Juice has stolen it’s audience and got better laughs. Scope to improve this format definitely.
Lunchtime chatshow
Lots of talk!
+ Celebrities
Began 1991
SIMPLE IDEA – 5 women talking about the issues of the day.  Mirroring playgrounds/ workplaces/ homes all over UK.
HOOK = Likeable and controversial cast + current celebrities.
PLAYALONG- ability =  Home  audiences can join in with debates via twitter, email etc
BRANDING = distinctive set, lighting, music and logo. LIght, bright and breezy to reflect time of day and tone of show.
REPEATABLE = same format to each programme each week.
COMPETITION = Big Money quiz.
A CHARACTER = Panel has become well known from revealing much about their personal lives on screen.  This format idea is reliant on the warmth, genuineness and opinions of the on-screen team.  Has won numerous daytime TV awards but this year ratings have dropped. Carol Vorderman and Janet Street-Porter recently joined to shake up the format.
TRANSFERABILITY = Idea has been tried out in US and Germany but not caught on, had better success in Australia (but more of a magazine format).
SPIN-OFFS – Various “uncut” DVDs of the panel disgracing themselves and biogs.
Other shows in the stable;
Chatty Man
Paul O’Grady
What next for Loose Women?
The loose women star seems to be on the wane. Loose Men anyone?
Remember TV formats work best when they speak to our basic human likes.  On one hand we like suspense, intrigue and mystery (that is why there are so many crime dramas) and on the other laughing or crying at real people’s stories and always shouting at the telly!  Use this guide to help you devise the formula for your format.
HOMEWORK – 27th October
In your TV teams you need to start developing your entertainment format ideas.  Come next week with a pitch (a one line summary) for your top 3 ideas.

The radio brief – “Undiscovered Coventry”

        On Thursday 13th October BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Editor, Duncan Jones came to visit to talk about  the radio brief “Undiscovered Coventry”.

He told us about the BBC local radio remit;  Local radio is for people interested in the local  area – local news, sports, events and issues. BBC Coventry and Warwickshire’s output is 60%    speech, 40% music.  It has a set  music playlist that is different to Radio One, Touch FM and    Mercia FM and is aimed at an audience aged 40+.

Next year is a big year for Coventry.  As an Olympic city it will get a lot of  international attention!  Also the World Shakespeare Festival  in April – putting entertainment at the front of the station’s agenda.

Radio’s strength is it’s immediacy, reactivity and easy production.  Telly is much more complicated and takes ages to make!

Duncan’s top tips for making your artefact;

1. Find something to say that people will be surprised about.

2. Be clear on the point of your story.  What do you want the listener to get out of it. What is your aim?

3. Make it interesting – keeping a balance between the story and your creative ideas.

4. Paint pictures with words.  There is no limit to the pictures you can create on radio.

5. The intro should tease the listener.  The outro should point to further information (eg website, blog etc)

Duncan will be back to feedback on your work in December.

Lecture 1 – What is a format anyway?

Name the last 3 programmes you watched on telly?

X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, Loose Women, Gok’s Clothes Roadshow, Deal or No Deal, Question of Sport, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Weakest Link, The Million Pound Drop, Family Fortunes, Come Dine with Me, and so on…..

If you watch telly, you watch formats.

TV formats are an essential staple of all TV schedules.  Get the IDEA right and you can make your fortune on telly.

A format; “When the cluster of production ideas and techniques that comprise a programme in one television market is used to make a similar programme, usually in another domestic market, this is defined as format adaptation or programme cloning.”
Amos Owen Thomas : Cultural economics of TV programme cloning: or why India has produced multi-“millionaires” (2006)
A format is; A Programme with a formula or recipe that  is easily playable and repeatable
And entertaining….
And crosses cultural and language boundaries so that it can be sold around the world.
Probably the biggest name in the Formats business is “super” company Endemol. Here you can find out why they are at the top of the game;
Endemol begun in Holland in 1994 by Jon de Mol.  Big Brother was it’s first big success but Deal or No Deal has made it the most money.  The company now boasts 80 companies in 26 countries broadcasting 40,000 hours of content each year.  In the UK Remarkable Television is the company you probably know the best. If you want to work in TV you need to know know Endemol.  You can find out about their current jobs here.

So what do academics say about formats? This explanation of formats here should give you a good idea of why they are a very important part of our TV landscape today.

“In their highly competitive national television markets, broadcasters increasingly look for ‘sure shot’, ‘quick fit’, and ‘hit’ solutions – television formats provide them with a solution. Formats cost less time and money to produce than to create original shows and they have usually proven their ratings worth in more than one television market before being brought to be sold. Besides getting the broadcasters the required viewing figures and hence high advertising revenues, formats also have a high potential for merchandising, multimedia games, phone-in revenue and other brand extensions. These additional revenue streams further increase the allure of formats for broadcasters. This is evidenced by the huge sums of money broadcasters are prepared to pay in various territories or markets for a license or option to an original successful format. The license fees alone for a successful format can cost broadcasters in Western Europe up to £30,000 for 20 to 30 episodes (of 1 hour duration) for one season!”


HOMEWORK – for next week 20th October

Watch this…..why is Deal or No Deal an internationally successful format? What are this show’s essential ingredients. Make sure you think about this on your blog before next week’s lecture.

Be INSPIRED – make sure you are watching and analysing one from each box  each week.

Who Wants to Be a MillionaireMastermind


The Weakest Link


A Question of Sport

High Stakes


Just a Minute – Radio 4

I’m sorry I haven’t a clue – Radio 4


The News Quiz – Radio 4

Whose Line is it Anyway

Have I Got News For You

8 out of 10 Cats

Celebrity Juice

Never Mind the Buzzcocks

Shooting Stars

Come Dine with Me

Mr and Mrs

Family Fortunes

Deal or No Deal

Dragons Den

Hello and Welcome 262MC students!

Welcome to 262MC Formats Production.

This module has been designed to give you a feel for what it’s like to produce TV and Radio productions for broadcast.

Be ready to be busy. You will be learning new radio skills, developing your tv skills and creating original programming formats.


Immerse yourself in radio and tv – watch and listen to everything you can.

Break down the programmes you hear and see

– really listen carefully to them and spend time working out  their essential ingredients

– how do they make you feel,

– what it is that makes them work, (the presenter, the music, the set, the contestants, the subject matter etc)

– what devices are being used to move the programme along,

and CRUCIALLY what is about the programme that makes them appreciated by audiences.

Module Aims

•to build upon the knowledge of the procedures and techniques involved in studio production introduced in the first year.
•to develop editorial, creative and technical skills related to modern broadcasting.
•the examination of popular formats (such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Strictly Come Dancing) that are a staple of mainstream tv and radio schedules today.