Love Island, the smash hit British reality dating competition, is “on the verge” of cracking on into the United States and a number of other major markets – fresh from its latest finale scoring record breaking ratings for ITV2.
An overnight audience of 3.6M and a peak of 4.1M watched Dani Dyer, daughter of British action star Danny Dyer, and cheeky Essex stationery salesman Jack Fincham win the show on the youth-skewing network and clinch the £50,000 ($66,000) cash prize. This was up on the 2.6M (13%) that tuned in for last year’s final as well as the 2.9M (16%) that watched this year’s opener.
The show, which is produced by ITV Studios and Motion Content Group, has become a bonafide hit in its home market, mugging off the competition and coupling up with viewers every night for the past two months. It has already been picked up for another season and is now starting to roll out internationally, with remakes in Australia, Germany and across Scandinavia as well as a major deal for the UK series with Hulu in the U.S. The Caroline Flack-hosted format has also become a significant driver to the British commercial broadcaster’s bottom line with CEO Carolyn McCall lauding its success to investors last week.
Love Island brings together a group of sexy singletons – 38 chiseled contestants in the case of this year’s series – all looking to find love in a villa in Mallorca. However, unlike many dating shows such as The Bachelor or Temptation Island, there is a less formal structure to the format, with producers reacting to the shenanigans in the house to determine how to proceed. There’s also a cheeky narrator, comedian Iain Stirling, to make sure that the show, which ran for 49 episodes across the summer, doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Mike Beale, who is Managing Director of Global Creative Network and Nordics, ITV Studios and oversees the global roll out of the company’s formats says that the show “wasn’t just another dating show on a beach”. While there are eliminations, resulting when contestants do not “recouple” with someone, as well as a handful of challenge tasks such as a lie detector, firemen stripteases and a low-budget Fear Factor-style assault course, the majority of the show is based around the conversations between the contestants.
This year’s cast of characters included Alex, a permanently sunburned and PDA-fearing doctor, nuclear systems design engineer Wes, Laura, a desperate-to-find-a-husband flight attendant from Scotland, Britney Spears-snogging Paul, bad-boy Adam and Georgia, a young woman who constantly professed her loyalty to her friends despite kissing their boyfriends.
The format, which was based on a celebrity gameshow that launched in 2005, was rebooted for ITV2 in June 2015. The first and second seasons performed well for the digital channel, but the third season, which saw Amber Davies and Kem Cetinay win, kicked things up a gear, both in terms of ratings in the UK and international sales potential.
Beale says that patience was key to the show becoming a hit. “You need to give an audience time to become fans,” he tells Deadline. “Something happened after last summer because it kicked up again.”
This was when meaningful international conversations began to happen. However, former NBC Universal exec Beale admitted that it wasn’t the easiest show to sell on paper. “We have pontificated massively about how we positioned it. We found that after last season, we started going in to buyers for one or two hours and taking them through the beats of the show. There’s loads of format points but it just doesn’t have an order or a structure. There’s not a rose ceremony every Thursday, it’s more about reacting to what’s happening. That can be quite scary for buyers,” he adds.
It wasn’t, however, too scary for buyers at Germany’s RTL and Australia’s Nine Network, which became the first two global networks to strike local deals. The show launched on youth-skewing RTL II in September 2017 and on 9Go! in Australia, hosted by Entourage star Sophie Monk (right), in May 2018. Next up is Scandinavia, where it will launch in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland between now and the end of the year. Filming starts soon in the Canary Islands and ITVS is particularly interested to see how these slightly lower budget versions fare, which may allow it to extend to even more markets that do not have the same deep pockets as the UK, Germany and Australia.
ITVS is working closely with Motion Content Group on the international roll out. The WPP-backed company helped to bankroll the original ITV2 series, which due to its long-running nature was initially considered a risky investment. The firm, run by CEO Richard Foster, is involved in a number of the global deals, on a territory-by-territory basis. “They’re very much our partners, we work very closely with them to enable them to potentially bring similar deals into the projects as it travels,” Beale adds.
Hulu acquired the first three seasons of the show, as well as a day-and-date deal for the latest run, earlier this year after VP of Content Acquisition Lisa Holme noticed how popular it was becoming. The digital platform rolled out the earlier episodes in April with the fourth season running concurrently with its ITV2 bow. Although Hulu does not disclose viewing figures, it’s thought that viewers were bingeing on average around three episodes per session, over two hours a day, making it a growing franchise on the over side of the pond.
ITV America, the company behind Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, which is run by CEO David George, is now targeting a U.S. version. A source close to the company told Deadline that the show is “on the verge” of being picked up for a remake. This comes after a deal was previously struck for a 20-episode order from MTV before the decision was overturned as a result of a management shakeup, a move that may ultimately help ITVS score a bigger deal.
“For us, it’s about finding the right place,” says Beale. “It’s very different offering to anything else America has done before, even in this dating environment. We talk about the key elements being the event, the stripped nature and multiple platforms so getting that right is important and that’s tricky. We’re definitely working on it.”
In fact, ITV CEO Carolyn McCall alluded to there being a large deal for the show in the very near future. “It’s a very strong franchise and we’re about to sign something else that would be another market and that would be a decent, a really good market,” she said, speaking after the company’s recent quarterly financial results. She added that the show, which “delivered £10M ($13M) incremental nonspot revenue on last year”, was a major driver for the overall business, thanks to sponsorship, via the likes of pharmacy Superdrug and fashion retailer Missguided as well as the sales of Love Island-engraved water bottles.
Beale says that by “breaking every rule” and “taking the piss out of our own reality TV dogma”, the show will continue to flourish. “There’s going to be more territories, we’re looking into 2019 now,” he says. He and his team are already looking at whether the Love Island formula could be applied to other non-scripted areas. “Could we pull it out of its genre? Could we do this with any genre? Could we create this dystopian reality show in every genre? I reckon we probably could.”