Reality Week: ‘Holey Moley’ Producer Eureka Productions Plots New Non-Scripted Worlds To Build Following Australian Pandemic Production Boom

Holey Moley
ABC/Christopher Willard

Eureka Productions has been on a roll recently, picking up orders for series such as a Magic Mike competition series at HBO Max and an adaptation of 1980s videogame Frogger at Peacock.

But the unexpected boom for the business, which produces Holey Moley for ABC, has been having a sizeable production division in Australia during the last twelve months. The company has been able to take advantage of the fact that Covid has been much less prevalent down under, allowing it to shoot a number of U.S. shows in Sydney.

It filmed a reboot of Name That Tune, hosted by 30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski, for Fox, is filming Frogger and another, yet to be announced show, in the country, during the pandemic.

“It was so circumstantially great that we had an Australian arm – we look like geniuses but it was completely happenstance that we had a huge production entity in a place where Covid was practically non-existent,” co-CEO Chris Culvenor told Deadline. “The practicalities of being able to shoot with limited risk of shutdown and limited risk of Covid and protocols mean you can have audiences and people hugging and cheering. Never when I started Eureka would I ever have imagined shooting a Fox gameshow at Sydney Convention Center, but nothing was normal last year.”

Culvenor set up the company around six years ago with co-CEO Paul Franklin, who has exec produced shows such as MasterChef and The Biggest Loser, after the pair worked together at Endemol Shine America. Culvenor said that Franklin is the “executor” of shows and he’s the “sales jazz hands side of the business”, which is 25% owned by Fremantle.

He admits that the first couple of years were a bit of scramble but once they got Holey Moley away at ABC and Dating Around at Netflix, as well as a lucrative deal to co-produce The Voice in Australia as well as a bumper order for The Chef’s Line from SBS, they were off to the races.

“The critical success of Dating Around as an original format really made a lot of people sit up and notice and the huge commercial, broadcast success of Holey Moley showed the industry that not only could we come up with great ideas, but they could compete on the biggest stage in unscripted. They were the turning points and that allowed us to build a team that fuelled the fire,” he said.

Deadline recently revealed mini-golf competition series Holey Moley had scored a bumper two-season order, and it comes on the back of orders for flower competition series Full Bloom (right) at HBO.

Full Bloom

“The reason why I think we’ve had success recently is we made a decision very early in our growth that our formats were going to be non-derivative, they were going to be distinctive and part of that was building unscripted world that felt distinctly different to other shows. There’s so much choice and so much product out there, the only things that are popping their heads up are shows that feel different,” he said.

The Real Magic Mike (w/t) was the result of a close relationship with Warner Horizon and Eureka had made The Real Dirty Dancing for Seven Network Australia, while Frogger came about after “lengthy” but “worthwhile” negotiations with video game publisher Konami.

“When you say the word Frogger you can instantly imagine that world and how many shows can you say that about? It’s the most incredible set I’ve ever been a part of, it feels like you’ve been transported into a video game,” he said.

Culvenor said that there’s a few projects that it is currently working on in “fun spaces” with “big names” but it also doesn’t want to become a “spaghetti factory” and pitch too much.

“One of the things that contributes to our success is we’re very hands on. What that means is that we are on set, we are sweating in the edit, so the next twelve months is a lot of being on set and executing what we’ve sold. From a development sense, we don’t tend to pitch a lot, but what we do is big worlds and big ideas that we want to build out. There’s some really fun spaces and big names that we’re working with right now that we’re excited about bringing to the market because they don’t feel derivative, they’re playing in fun, different worlds,” he added.

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