Much as it did with October’s Mipcom, Israel’s Keshet International dominated the just-wrapped Mip-TV market. The savvy folks behind Rising Star energized the Croisette this week with ticking time bomb format Boom!, which closed at least a deal a day including in the U.S., France, Spain, Belgium and Hungary. And, interactive singing competition Rising Star, which had already locked down more than 25 territories since last October, is still selling. But save for Brazil, which on Sunday became the first territory outside Israel to debut a local version of Rising Star, the shows have yet to be tested abroad and Mip was abuzz with anticipation, mixed with some skepticism, about the ultimate results. Underscoring that, Brazil, which scored strong numbers, had a technical glitch that meant some home viewers had trouble entering their votes. I understand this was not the same sort of situation suffered by NBC’s Million Second Quiz last year when its app crashed during the premiere. In the case of Rising Star, I’m told there was no loss of connectivity and the live show was not affected. But, it’s a fair bet that other networks who have acquired the format are keeping a keen eye on the international rollout. Portugal is next to bow in May, and ABC debuts the format in June; it’s playing close to the vest with details.
In Cannes this week, execs up and down the Croisette praised the folks at Keshet International for their marketing acumen, enthusiasm and ability to generate creative formats. The company is often credited with putting Israel on the TV map thanks, most notably, to scripted drama Prisoners Of War, aka Homeland. The deal success of Rising Star, and now Boom!, had more than one observer marveling this week that Keshet has taught “a masterclass in marketing.” A key element of that masterclass includes bringing both formats to the Riviera sales shows hot on the heels of their respectively record-breaking debuts in Israel on Keshet Channel 2. Each format’s gimmick has also been highly touted. Rising Star‘s interactive app, incubated in Tel Aviv’s cutting-edge start-up community, lets viewers control the show’s outcome. Boom! is more of a straightforward quiz show. But the concept of contestants defusing (fake) bombs onstage, while shocking some, has made buyers sit up and take notice.
Still, more than one industry watcher suggests that overall, Israeli reality formats will need to prove themselves abroad before they can truly be anointed as the Next Big Thing. Israel’s scripted programming “has proven results” overseas, an exec says. But “in unscripted, there are no results” outside Israel. There are “a lot of sales, and a lot of marketing. But we don’t have the blockbuster audience scores which will definitively put it on the map in unscripted.” Non-Keshet shows that will have a chance to prove their mettle going forward include The Big Picture which Nordic World boarded at Mip, and The Extra Mile, which was picked up by Endemol for several territories.
Many execs wonder how effective the formats, especially the high-profile Rising Star, will be when they finally make it to air elsewhere, notably the U.S. This depends largely on the execution by producers and networks in different territories with whom Keshet is partnered. In Brazil, Rising Star premiered last Sunday on free-to-air channel Rede Globo. It generated a 31% share and a 13% household rating. Those aren’t record numbers like in Israel which launched to a 49.4% share last year, but some context is worth noting. Israel has two free-to-air TV channels and a population of about 8 million; Brazil has more than a dozen in a country of over 200 million. The voting app is expected to get to 3 million downloads in Brazil by next Sunday’s episode. It’s got about 1.5 million in Israel and I’m told that suggestions it can only handle 50,000 users at a time are unfounded. Any glitches that Brazil had are expected to be eradicated by Globo’s next outing on Sunday. According to local press, four of the acts received the required 70% approval rating and moved on to the next stage.