Lisa Perrin oversees the global rollout of the world’s largest formats collection. The CEO of Endemol Shine Creative Networks discusses new digital buyers, IP ownership challenges and why some heritage programmes may never be bettered. Jesse Whittock reports.
The formats world is in a constant state of flux, with new market entrants such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple threatening to change the entire process of how television programme ideas are sold around the world.
For some, then, it must be comforting in knowing biggest formats library in the world still remains with the most experienced player on the block. “At last count there were more than 4,000 formats in the catalogue,” says Lisa Perrin (pictured right), who oversees Endemol Shine Group’s formats development business.
Endemol Shine’s past parallels the history of the modern formats business – most obviously since 2003, when the UK Communications Act was enshrined into law. This new set of rules gave producers extremely favourable programme ownership terms, and led to rise of the international formats industry that we know today.
Back then, Big Brother creator Endemol and Shine Group were separate companies – the former then part of Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica and the latter an upstart UK production and distribution group that Lis Murdoch had founded in 2000.
Fifteen years later came the merger of Endemol, Shine and US-based Core Media, creating the Endemol Shine Group. For the first time, major formats such as Big Brother, The Money Drop and Deal or No Deal were in the same catalogue as MasterChef, The Island and One Born Every Minute.
At the same time, Shine exec Perrin was named CEO of Endemol Shine Creative Networks, a division bringing together her development unit, Shine Network, and Endemol’s creative operations unit. Endemol stalwart Iris Boelhoewer exited as a result, only to return later as co-CEO of Endemol Shine Netherlands.
Creative Networks was originally formed as a resource that would make it easier for Endemol and Shine formats to travel internally – and, by extension, internationally.
“I’m from the Shine side, which moved formats round in an organic and creative way – we would have discussions with heads of development about how to create things,” says Perrin.
“Our international department sold formats and tape, while Endemol sold formats separately, which made it a more sales-y approach. When I took over, I changed the format to a more organic, Shine-style way of approaching formats that is more about discussions.”
In a sense, Endemol Shine Creative Networks is the fulcrum that the 21st Century Fox and Apollo Global Management-owned Endemol Shine hinges upon, as Perrin explains: “My department is development, music and secondary rights, third party acquisitions and production consultancy, and it sits alongside side marcomms very nicely. It encompasses everything – we join the global network together.”
That’s a big task – Endemol Shine now comprises 120 production companies and distribution unit Endemol Shine International, which sells more than 50,000 hours of in-house and third party programming.
Perrin was working in television entertainment back when ITV Studios was Granada Television (where she first worked for her current boss, Endemol Shine chief creative officer Peter Salmon).
Like the format business, her story is intertwined with both Endemol and Shine. She left Granada, worked at the BBC and later joined Endemol, before becoming director of popular factual at Tiger Aspect – which Endemol then bought. In 2008, she was named director of entertainment commissioning at UK channels group UKTV before joining Shine TV as creative director in 2009. Five years later, she succeeded Claudia Danser as managing director of Shine Network in 2014 and then took on her current role when Endemol came back into the picture.
She is now based in London, with half her team working out of base camp in Amsterdam and others in Miami and Copenhagen.
Perrin says Endemol Shine Creative Networks is “not a central development division, but one that brings key creatives together to create new formats”.
“Our production entities around the world are all creative entrepreneurs, who want to sell,” she adds. “If they have a great format, they’re not going to hide it. They are hungry and want to know what’s coming through the pipeline. My job is to tell them and bring people together.”
Perrin points to an unnamed pilot Endemol Shine UK prodco is producing for terrestrial BBC One. “All the creatives in the group came and saw it being filmed, and are ready to pitch it,” she says. “The materials are ready, as my department also does internal marketing, so everything is ready to go.
“The advantage of having my production background is I know the zeitgeist and what broadcasters want. I instinctively know what people want and where things are heading. I still see a lot of the broadcasters.”
Internally, this is all achieved through a mix of company creative days (16 to date in 2017), and blue-sky initiatives that look to identify where gaps in the catalogue or opportunities at broadcasters exist.
“Development and creativity isn’t about putting people in a room and expecting them to make something,” says Perrin. “It’s about respect, relationships and understanding people, and we know how that works.”
Perrin says one current trend is the success of classic formats – a reboot of Fear Factor in the US has delivered MTV its largest new series launch in two years, while evergreen British building format Ground Force has been sold into Denmark. Even daytime cooking competition show Ready, Steady, Cook is returning, with new deals in territories including Finland.
“Part of our strength is having heritage brands, which people are still watching online,” says Perrin, pointing to some deep-dive research into physical gameshow Total Wipeout (pictured left). “It was been off UK screens for a long time, but it is so popular on YouTube, so there is an opportunity with those formats that people are engaging with. When it’s not on telly, some people think no one is watching. They are.”
In some cases, classic formats may actually have reached a level that can’t be bettered. “Nobody has done a Changing Rooms as well as Changing Rooms,” says Perrin of the home makeover BBC format. “People still talk about it now. You’d think it is older people engaging with those heritage brands, but it is 18-34s engaging with Changing Rooms and Ground Force. That is interesting.”
An opportunity for such shows is coming from the newly acquisitive digital platforms, both in terms of distribution and commissioning. “Netflix knows very clearly what it is in scripted, but is still feeling its way in non-scripted,” says Perrin, adding Amazon Studios’ Conrad Riggs “has done some really interesting stuff – The Grand Tour made an impression whether you thought it was a success or not”.
From the newer end of the market, Endemol Shine is looking closely at what Apple does (“deep pockets and hiring Jamie Erlicht and Zack van Amburg from Sony shows it is serious”), and Perrin says Facebook has “really big ambitions”, adding: “The really interesting area is where the site can change people’s viewing habits. At the moment it is really just in short-form, but it wants to be in long-form too.”
The entrance of the OTTs does mean producers and distributors have more options – the adage of it being a great time to be a producer rings true. “As a creative, you can really think about whether you should go to the BBC or go to Brandon [Riegg] at Netflix in LA and just roll it out all at once,” says Perrin, who predicts this all means a rights ownership battle is coming to international TV.
“It will be interesting with Alex [Mahon, Perrin’s former boss at Shine Group] going to Channel 4 – she understands the value of IP ownership,” says Perrin. “I suspect there will be much more aggressive positioning from broadcasters going forwards.
“Our business is about content creation and IP ownership, and everyone has cottoned on that is how you make money. Distribution platforms are important, but that is not where you make money. We’d like to keep 100% of our IP, but we’re always up for doing deals – we own 50% of MasterChef and that has served us well.”
Indeed, third party acquisition The Wall, an NBC gameshow from LeBron James, has also been a success.
Regardless of the catalogue, gaining commissions remains tough – “I don’t believe anyone can just walk it and get one,” says Perrin – but Endemol Shine’s size means it offers creatives a unique proposition.
“Our strength is we are not a studio, but a really big indie,” says Perrin. “I worked at Endemol, then went to Tiger Aspect, when I worked in the US, came back and then went to Shine, and it still feels like an indie. It’s a federation of companies and that is really nice.
“Our challenge is attracting key creatives. People are tribal, and want to be at the coolest party. We want to be there too. To attract great creatives you have to feel excited about the industry you work in, and they have to feel that you offer benefits to them. Those benefits are that we are muscly, and can give them some air cover and freedom at the same time.”
Perrin points to the overwhelmingly healthy state of the UK production market and its advantageous rights positions, and says that means creative producers “have umpteen choices”.
“You can come to us and play in our paddling pool, or you can get Danny Cohen’s or BBC Worldwide’s money and set up on your own,” she says. “You can even get the money from Engine or another of these big advertising agencies that are starting to pick content up as well.”
Perrin’s task remains proving Endemol Shine provides the most exciting pool.