Parties and partnerships mark FRAPA’s 10th anniversary
FRAPA celebrates its 10th anniversary at MIPTV with a party, a panel debate on the formats industry’s increasingly complex financial ecosystem and a clutch of new strategic partnerships. Joanna Stephens takes a sneak preview
THIS month’s MIPTV content bazaar is a significant one for the international formats industry. First, FRAPA is celebrating its 10th anniversary in Cannes — a milestone it is marking with a beachfront cocktail party on April 11. Among the A-listers attending the event is ITV Studios’ managing director, Lee Bartlett, who will talk about FRAPA’s contribution to the development of today’s $3bn-plus global industry and its continued importance in an entertainment world increasingly dominated by formats.
The second landmark is that MIPTV has chosen this year to launch its inaugural MIPFormats day, billed as “a premium business conference and pitching forum for producers, commissioners, brands and aspiring creators of breakthrough entertainment formats”.
David Lyle, format veteran and FRAPA co-founder, is enjoying the symmetry. “It’s not lost on me that the first MIPFormats coincides with FRAPA’s 10th anniversary,” says Lyle, now president of Fox’s new international business unit for unscripted programming, Fox LOOK, which launched the week before MIPTV. “It seems to me to be the flowering of what we have been trying to achieve for the last 10 years. The fact that MIPTV has launched a paying event — and one that looks likely to be brilliantly attended — is proof that there’s now enough money in our business to support a conference dedicated to formats.”
Lyle is moderating one of MIPFormats’ centerpiece conferences, Making Sure: The Price Is Right!, which starts at 10.15 on April 11. Speaking at the FRAPA co-produced panel, which Lyle says will “talk about what people in the format business what they really want to talk about — which is how to maximise the value of their product,” are Absolutely Independent’s Patty Geneste, Sveriges Television’s Annie Wegelius, All3Media International’s Louise Pedersen and Babyfoot’s David Sidebotham.
It promises, Lyle adds, to be a stimulating mix: “David Sidebotham is the poster child for small producers. His company, Babyfoot, is a tiny company in a tiny TV territory — Norway — but it has succeeded in selling I Survived A Japanese Gameshow to the US. Then there’s Louise Pedersen, who’s at the business end of a global production and distribution company; Annie Wegelius, who can offer the public broadcaster’s perspective; and Patty Geneste, who’s a successful independent distributor. They all have interesting things to say about how to create, produce, distribute and exploit formats in today’s increasingly fragmented market.”
David Lyle: “the flowering of what we have been trying to achieve for the last 10 years”
A particular area of concern — and one that Lyle intends to address during his MIPFormats session — is the behaviour of formats’ non-linear-TV extensions. “Broadcasters are now putting content on other platforms, such as YouTube or Hulu, which raises questions from the underlying rights-holders as to how much more value their content is generating and what’s in it for them,” he says.
But he is typically robust about the difficultly of slicing and dicing these ‘ancillary’ revenues fairly: “I think it’s all manageable. We all like to pretend we’re geniuses, but the truth is it’s just another platform. In the end, it’s a question of territory, time frame and number of runs. And the wonderful thing about these alternate linear extensions is that they are all digital and all accurately measurable. So it’s quite possible to determine what’s happening to the content and what the correct returns should be for the various stakeholders.”
Ute Biernat, chairman of FRAPA and CEO of Grundy Light Entertainment, agrees with Lyle that, when FRAPA came into being in 2000, IP protection was a much simpler proposition. “The proliferation of platforms means that more and more shareholders are involved in today’s big formats,” she says. And as today’s big formats are now among the biggest and most valuable brands on the planet — the American Idol franchise, for example, was recently valued by Forbes at $2.5bn — the stakes are correspondingly higher. As Biernat observes: “The combination of new platforms and IP worth huge amounts of money makes it an increasingly complicated industry from a rights perspective. And that makes FRAPA’s role as it moves into its second decade more important than ever.”
A challenge for any industry body is to stay relevant, Biernat says, segueing neatly into FRAPA’s latest move “to keep pace with what’s happening in the industry” and to provide its members with a service that accurately reflects their needs and concerns: a co-operation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Centre. The non-profiting-making UN agency, which is based in Geneva, offers alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms for IP and related disputes, focusing particularly on mediation, arbitration and ‘expert determination’.
Biernat describes the new collaboration, which will be announced formally at FRAPA’s 10th anniversary party, as “a very significant coup for FRAPA”. She adds: “The UN’s involvement raises our game to another level. By entering into this association with WIPO, FRAPA is sending out a powerful message to the industry: we are a serious organisation and we are to be taken seriously.”
WIPO is not, however, FRAPA’s only surprise party guest: it is also playing host to the Banff World Television Festival and its broadcast partner Nederland 3’s TV Lab, which have chosen the reception to announce the nominees of the inaugural Banff International Pilots Competition.
The contest, which aims to recognise the talent and creativity it takes to conceptualise and create a pilot, be it online or on television, is open to both ‘virgin’ and veteran producers. The winners will be announced in June at the Banff Festival and broadcast on TV Lab, which has incubated several successful pilots, including Armoza Format’s comedy news quiz The Bubble, which is now airing on the UK’s BBC2.
Launched last year, the TV Lab experiment screened 19 new formats, which were voted on and assessed by a panel of 6,000 viewers. The week-long project pulled in a total of 4.4 million viewers, the vast majority in the elusive, platform-agnostic 15-25 demographic.
“Ned3 has always been Holland’s most innovative public broadcaster,” says Roek Lips, channel manager of Netherlands 3. “We wanted to give more room to experimental TV and provide a platform for original ideas. And we also wanted to do more co-production with the viewers at home. TV Lab was our solution. It’s a very simple idea against all the laws of television — but it works.”
The Banff co-operation is the perfect next-step for TV Lab, Lips adds: “This is exactly the way I wanted the project to develop — across borders, cultures and nationalities.”
Roek Lips: “a very simple idea against all the laws of television”
The best independently produced pilots culled from the Banff competition will also be offered a development contract with Absolutely Independent, The Format Agency, headed by FRAPA board member Patty Geneste, who was instrumental in bringing all the parties together.
“FRAPA’s 10th anniversary is a great moment to renew and refresh the association,” Geneste says. “The Banff/TV Lab collaboration is exactly what we need to bring fresh members and ideas into the FRAPA family. FRAPA in 2010 is not only about IP protection. It’s much sexier than that these days. It’s also about creativity and originality and giving people — especially people in all the new territories that are now stepping into formats, like India and Latin America — a sense of community. I think our 10th anniversary is a really good moment to disseminate that message.”