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Sony shows off its six pack

ReleaseTheHoundsSony’s creative boss Wayne Garvie talks about Sony Pictures Television’s enlarged slate of formats for MIPCOM

Sony Pictures Television has been bulking up and its growing stable of production companies are creating a pipeline of formats for the international market that can sit alongside the US scripted shows that come out of LA.

This MIPCOM the return on investment in prodcos can be seen in the formats slate. This time a year ago it had one major new format for buyers in Cannes, the Israeli-originated physical gameshow Raid the Cage. This year it has six formats, including the first new show from Silver River, Daisy Goodwin’s UK-based factual entertainment-focused prodco, which it bought last March.

The headline grabbing properties in the new line-up are physical horror gameshow Release the Hounds, in which terrified contestants must escape from a pack of dogs, and Milky Way Mission, a Dutch-originated show that puts contestants through astronaut training and fires the winner into space.

Milky Way Mission is produced by SPT-owned prodco Tuvalu for Dutch public broadcast channel Ned1 and sees celebrities put through weeks of ultra tough space training. “These are extreme physical and mental challenges, they go underwater and experience extreme G-force,” explains Wayne Garvie, chief creative officer, international production, at SPT. “The contestants battle each other to win a ticket to space and to be an astronaut. There have been other space shows but they don’t actually send people to space.”

Release the Hounds (pictured) is a one-off horror event show from SPT’s Gogglebox for ITV2 in the UK, which will air it at Halloween. “This show is genuinely a breakthrough,” Garvie claims. “The horror genre is ubiquitous in movies and in youth and gaming culture, but no-one has done it on TV. We said why not take the genre and make a reality TV competition.”

In the show three people are taken to a creepy stately home and, as day turns to night, face various horror-related challenges that employ the jumps and frights fans of the genre love. The winner receives a key that unlocks a prize chest and gets to leave the house. The twist at that point is that they only keep the cash they have won if they can make it out of the grounds of the stately home, while being pursued by a pack of dogs, which Garvie says is “terrifying”.

He notes the show is too edgy for most broadcaster’s primetimes, but the youth demo it appeals to will make it interesting for a range of channels. “There are interesting things happening with new platforms,” he adds. “This is one we might want to talk to a Netflix about”.

The Daisy Goodwin-produced show, meanwhile, was originally born out of the producer and author’s notion of taking the genteel hobby of flower arranging to TV. It was subsequently developed into competitive gardening show Grow, Make, Eat, which has been commissioned by BBC Two in the UK, the channel that launched another show about an outwardly sedate pastime, cake making, with The Great British Bake Off. Nine pairs of contestants compete across a whole (horticultural) season and face vegetable growing, flower arranging and other green-fingered challenges. Presenter Fern Britton fronts the UK show.

Ordering the series, Emma Willis, commissioning executive documentaries, BBC, said the moment is right for it as people rein in spending: “With the cost of living continuing to rise, it’s the perfect time to make the most of our gardens and allotments and get growing with a purpose.”

In terms of international sales the pressure is on SPT’s team and interested buyers to get a deal done quickly because the nature of the show means shooting must start by, and run through, the spring.

Also in the lifestyle vein, SPT is launching Grillmaster at MIPCOM. The show was created by Titan, part of MTG’s latest acquisition, production group Nice Entertainment, and has already launched on TV2 in Denmark and TV4 in Sweden. In the show amateur chefs take on each other in various barbecuing challenges to win a publishing deal and the title of Grillmaster of the Year.

“Grow, Make, Eat and Grillmaster reflect people’s authentic passions, these aren’t artificial competitions,” Garvie says.

The other two shows are Joker, from SPT’s French prodco Starling, which makes it for France Télévisions’ France 2.

The French pubcaster has just ordered another ten episodes of the series, which puts a twist on the traditional quiz by having holographic ‘jokers’ interacting with contestants. There is also a factual format, Teach the Impossible, following talented young teachers in tough inner city schools.