SOUTH Africa’s format industry may still be in its infancy, but there is nothing under-developed about the country’s creative instincts, if the latest dating show from new FRAPA member M-Net is any indication.
Called Rivals In Romance, the format has all the ingredients of a traditional ‘date-off’, in that two men — a nice guy and a bad boy — must battle it out to win the heart of one special woman. The twist, however, is that our rivals must work together, as well as against each other, to get the girl. In the best traditions of romance, the final decision lies with the woman. Will she opt for Mr Nice? Or will naughty ultimately prove to be nicer?
Mike Dearham, head of sales and acquisitions for the terrestrial pay-TV channel, believes that Rivals In Romance, with its mix of competition, reality and narrative drive, has what it takes to appeal to international audiences. It also captures the zeitgeist for dating shows, which have swung back into fashion after several years out in the cold.
But the M-Net executive is realistic about the challenges of breaking into the global super-league. “The South African formats market is still small and underdeveloped,” he said. “We need more exposure to international best practice to maximise the opportunities that our format market offers.”
An opportunity to acquire just that knowhow was presented last month by the Entertainment Master Class (see top story), the travelling executive education programme ‘created by the industry for the industry’. Dearham who attended the event, found it valuable in terms of improving M-Net’s “understanding and appreciation of the commercial benefits and challenges” that underpin the international trade in formats, as well as opening the door to potential partnerships and sales opportunities.
In the same vein, Dearham sees FRAPA membership as more than just a sensible precaution in terms of copyright protection, but also as a route to “effective networking and information exchange”. He added that IP theft continues to present problems in South Africa, “but often due to ignorance as to what constitutes a format and what constitutes an original idea”.
M-Net launched in October 1986, since when it has evolved from a relatively humble analogue broadcaster into a multichannel Pan-African content-provider, delivering its general entertainment programming on a variety of platforms. Dearham’s division, which was established two years’ ago, is responsible for the sale and distribution of M-Net-owned African content across all media.