|Cityportal’s Henrik von Pfaler: “Look for partners your own size”|
FINLAND is one of the format industry’s best-kept secrets. In recent years, it has given the world a string of highly original formats, some driven by its technological prowess — Intervisio’s touchscreen quiz The Wall, for example, or Tuotantotalo Werne’s kids game show Blobo; others by the Finnish talent for left-field creativity — think Aito Media’s Rescuing Santa or Yleisradio’s Your Mum Was Ape, both of which deliver exactly what their titles so intriguingly promise.
Carrying forward that tradition of creative innovation is one of FRAPA’s latest recruits, Helsinki-based Cityportal, founded four years ago by CEO Henrik von Pfaler to devise and produce daily magazine shows and formats that “bridge the gap between public-service and commercial broadcasting”.
Cityportal rose to national consciousness with the My Morning daily magazine show on public broadcaster Yle Fem. Next up was Elisabeth Meets…, in which Finland’s first female defence minister, Elisabeth Rehn, conducts in-depth interviews with heavyweight political guests. In recent years, Rehn’s work for the UN, where she served as under-secretary general, and the Global Leadership Foundation has put her in close contact with some of the most powerful people on the planet, including legendary peacemaker and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and Liberian president and Nobel winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“Elisabeth’s personal contacts and her shared history with them enables us to get really interesting, high-level guests that would normally decline from taking part in this kind of ‘deeper discussion’ on television,” Von Pfaler says.
|Talk-show host Elisabeth Rehn (left) with Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.|
Now, partly inspired by the success of Elisabeth Meets… on Yle, Cityportal has set its sights on the format market. “We have a concept called The Firm, which is a contest between start-up business and involves a brand new form of crowdsourcing that we are confident will really engage the public,” Von Pfaler says, adding that he is currently in negotiation with a couple of Finland’s largest commercial channels for the show. “And we have also registered the X Meets… format, which we believe has great international potential.”
As in many other European territories, Finland’s format market is dominated by the ‘super-indies’ — the Zodiaks, Shines, Banijays, FremantleMedias and Endemols — and the local companies they own. “The smaller independents have to struggle hard to get their ideas heard by the three or four main national channels,” says Von Pfaler, who lists “new contacts, good networking opportunities, professional help and advice, and protection from format theft” as among his chief reasons for joining FRAPA.
He adds: “Often, the best way to get a show on air is to approach a smaller channel. In fact, if I had one piece of advice for my fellow FRAPA members it would be, ‘Be realistic. Look for partners your own size…’”