RTS Southern pulled together a strong panel of industry professionals with many years of expertise developing TV formats for a webinar in early July.
Ricochet’s director of programmes Rob Butterfield and executive producer Heather Lamb discussed their hit BBC One show The Repair Shop.
Butterfield felt the show tapped into the nation’s emotional mood during the coronavirus lockdown: “The importance of family during lockdown and not being able to see our loved ones really seems to have resonated with the themes of the show.”
Topical Television MD Chris Riley and executive producer Claire Masters talked about some of their long-running access shows, including BBC One’s Caught Red Handed and Close Calls on Camera, and The £1 Houses: Britain’s Cheapest Street for Channel 4.
Sarah Freethy, creator of The Hotel Inspector series and now an executive producer for Woodcut Media – known for its successful international crime series World’s Most Evil Killers – described “the beats” in a format as the four Rs – regular, recognisable, reliable and repeatable. She added that, where possible, a show should tap into something unique and “of its time”, but also have a broad appeal that can extend past that moment.
The panel agreed that programme-makers shouldn’t start with a format, but with an idea that they can develop into a format. Passion and persistence are key, even when commissioners appeared disinterested in a potential format.
Riley and Lamb argued that formats were hugely important for indies – long-running, repeatable series are the bread and butter for many companies, and allow them to budget reliably, plan ahead and retain talent on longer contracts.
“It was great to get such a unique insight from our panellists. Their passion for formats was clear and it proved hugely useful as a learning exercise – even for those of us who develop on a daily basis. The thought-provoking chat was definitely helpful in this unusual time,” said Kate Beal-Blyth, CEO of Woodcut Media.
“Cracking the format: Alchemy or science?” was chaired by Woodcut Media’s creative director Derren Lawford. Stephanie Farmer is the Chair of RTS Southern Centre and executive producer of RedBalloon Productions.