Endemol Shine eyes formats frenzy in post-pandemic world

Endemol Shine Group (ESG) is gearing up for major change as its high-profile takeover by French super-indie Banijay Group nears completion this summer.

With ESG owning around 120 production companies around the world, including 20 in the UK, its distribution arm ESI has a larger catalogue than most – currently holding around 68,000 hours-worth of content.

Since the departure of former ESI chief executive Cathy Payne, who now oversees Banijay Rights, distribution has been led by chief strategy and commercial officer Wim Ponnet, executive vice-president of sales and acquisitions Matt Creasey and EMEA executive director Mark Lawrence.

The trio oversee distribution and finished tape, with a separate unit, Endemol Shine Creative Networks (ESCN), focusing on format roll-out.

The company’s hefty catalogue, which dwarfs that of future owner Banijay, spans genres but leans heavily towards returning formats and global brands, including the likes of Big Brother and Masterchef.

Since the Covid-19-induced lockdown, ESG has shifted focus more towards these brands as buyers seek to acquire finished tape of heritage formats, strike format deals for ‘corona-proof shows’ or repurpose archive content.

“There was a period when there was no opportunity for the world to be producing programmes, so we had to adapt and be resilient in what we were offering buyers to fill schedules,” says James Townley, global head of ESCN. “We had to realise where the opportunities were to keep our business forward-facing.”

MasterChef has performed well – another ‘corona-proof’ format that can be made under lockdown conditions – and attracts a family audience, as those difficult-to-pin-down 16-34s are forced to remain indoors.

“Buyers have been looking for stuff that is positive, heart-warming, joyous and nostalgic,” says Townley. “Risk aversion has heightened considerably. You divert to what you know and love.”

ESG has also had some success at repurposing these formats using archive, especially in the UK.

Channel 4 ordered a run of ten of the most memorable episodes of Big Brother, produced by ESG label Initial, with hosts Davina McCall and Rylan Clark-Neal introducing each episode and picking their favourite moments.

In a similar vein, Initial is also behind BBC1’s Total Wipeout: Freddie and Paddy Takeover, as the Top Gear hosts provide new commentary on the classic entertainment series, which ran between 2009 and 2012.

Also performing well are quiz shows and gameshows, such as Deal or No Deal, which recently started up again in France.

The scripted side has been a little more “business as usual”, although Townley points to an upsurge in sales of premium series such as Kudos and Imaginary Friends’ Broadchurch.

In terms of territories, the distributor is particularly active in Europe but is also targeting the territories in which it owns fewer production outfits, such as the Middle East, Africa and Asia.


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