All3Media International Formats Stay on Script

Aug 31st, 2023

The increased demand for scripted formats globally is significant, according to All3Media International’s executive VPs of sales, with adaptations tripling between 2021 and 2022 and success continuing into 2023 and beyond.

“As production costs seem to be generally increasing, scripted formats are ever more attractive to producers and broadcasters as they present a more efficient and economical route to bring stories to the screen, saving a good percentage of a budget’s development costs and time,” says Stephen Driscoll, executive VP for EMEA at All3Media International.

Notably, scripted formats are more prevalent now in high-end, prime-time adaptations, says Sally Habbershaw, executive VP for the Americas, pointing to several examples where the local adaptation has been planned as a premium show for specific talent, both in front of and behind the camera. This was the case with Accused; the original version of the crime anthology for BBC One, written by Jimmy McGovern with RSJ Films, starred A-list talent such as Sean Bean and Olivia Colman. In the U.S., equally impressive talent came on board the version developed by Homeland and 24 creator Howard Gordon, with FOX’s version starring Emmy winners Michael Chiklis and Rhea Perlman, Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin, The OC’s Rachel Bilson and The Wire’s Wendell Pierce. This is also the case in AsiaPac, where the award-winning Tiz Zaqyah was cast as the female lead in Double Vision and Astro’s Liar. In Europe, Two Brothers Pictures’ Liar attracted Oscar-winning producer Indigo Film to adapt the Italian version, and TF1 in France aired a treatment led by celebrated French actress Audrey Fleurot.

“While Asia remains our standout region for scripted format demand, we have also seen increased productions in Central and Eastern Europe, with Greece recently launching a local version of Liar and Poland adapting West Road Pictures’ acclaimed drama Blood,” says Driscoll.

Astro’s Liar

As for the types of scripted stories traveling best at the moment as formats, Driscoll says that “clients are often drawn to genre pieces, domestic thrillers or crime stories such as LiarThe MissingInformerInnocentAngela Black and Cheat—stories from renowned writers that explore compelling universal themes such as consent, betrayal and family.”

“We’ve also seen diversification in the kind of stories our clients are looking for,” Habbershaw adds. “Historically, we saw less demand for dramas with comedic slants, but our catalog hosts two standout successes for those looking for more lighthearted, feel-good fare, in South Pacific Pictures’ Step Dave and Company Pictures’ Shameless.”

Step Dave has been adapted in Greece, Hungary, Ukraine and China. The format captures the realities of modern family life, when a man in his early twenties meets the love of his life—and her kids. Shameless originally ran for over ten years on Showtime in the U.S., following the roller-coaster lives and loves of a dysfunctional family. It has also attracted commissions in Ukraine and Turkey. All3Media International recently secured a new deal in India, where it is being produced by BBC Studios. “These successes have [led to] increased inquiries for other lighthearted content from our catalogs such as Detectorists, a character-based drama created by award-winning actor Mackenzie Crook for BBC,” Driscoll says.

As for other scripted format successes, Germany’s filmpool fiction recently wrapped production on a second season of Innocent, known locally as Unschuldig, for ARD Degeto. The political thriller Informer, based on the BBC One and Prime Video original by Sam Mendes’s Neal Street Productions, is in production in Hamburg with All3Media Deutschland for NDR, known locally as Informant. In India, Applause Entertainment is producing an award-winning version of Cheat for ZEE5, and a version of Dark Money, known locally as Kafas, for Sony LIV, based on the original series from the team behind Help and National Treasure at The Forge.

“What is so exciting about our scripted format partnerships is that the majority of format owners are very flexible and interested to see different approaches taken by producers and broadcasters around the world,” says Sabrina Duguet, executive VP for AsiaPac. “Every production has its own flavor while respecting the DNA of the original format.”

A prime example is Double Vision and Astro’s adaptation of Liar in Malaysia. “Throughout most of Malaysia, alcohol is not a normal part of the country’s religious and cultural sensibilities, so this had to be taken into account when adapting the story for Malaysian audiences,” Duguet explains. “Character adjustments are quite common to reflect local nuances, and we have found the key to a successful adaptation is to utilize the uniqueness of the story while delivering a production that understands its audience and territory. With anthology projects, the local broadcasters may well add new stories that fit the original storytelling structure, such as with Accused in the U.S.”

Additional points to consider for local adaptations, according to these sales execs, include run time and number of episodes, which can vary across territories. For example, in China, Tencent’s Miss S—an adaptation of the original Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries—doubled the length by adapting one script over two episodes and fleshing out minor characters.

“We are fortunate to have a wide scripted catalog providing a large recourse for potential collaborations going forward,” says Duguet. “Successful collaborations with our partners lead to new productions, and it is that repeat business that we are very encouraged by this year. As the volume of scripted format deals increases, we learn, adapt and develop as a business, but are thrilled to see so many of our partners returning to work with us through new seasons, such as Liar and Innocent and new productions, such as India’s Applause Entertainment, which has produced both Cheat and Dark Money locally.”

Duguet adds that an “exciting, interesting shift we’re seeing, particularly in Asia, is interest in a wider range of scripted formats, especially from our back catalog or where the tape edition did not sell. As long as a format has reputable writers and relevance for the territory, our clients are open to conversations,” as recently seen with Strangers, which BBC Studios will produce for India.

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