EXCLUSIVE: Banijay has put in place the building blocks for its latest adaptation of Lego Masters, inking a deal with Kiwi broadcaster TVNZ to make a local version of the show. The deal comes as Lucas Green, Banijay’s global head of content operations, talked up a “perfect storm” for unscripted shows globally.
Lego Masters started life on Channel 4 in the UK and has since journeyed to 14 territories, including Australia, Spain, and the U.S., where Will Arnett hosts for Fox. Screentime New Zealand will produce the show for state-owned TVNZ having previously made local versions of shows including Popstars and Eat Well For Less.
Green, who acts as the guardian for Banijay’s super brands around the world, said Lego Masters is a “playful, joyful, positive” format that appeals to different generations because it is tied to an iconic product. These are useful ingredients, he added, when families have been stuck at home fighting for the TV remote.
Other shows under Green’s watch include Big Brother, Masterchef, Temptation Island, and Survivor, some of which have enjoyed a purple patch over the past couple of years. Survivor, for example, will be in a record 22 territories this year, with three more likely. Big Brother, meanwhile, is in 23 countries.
Both shows have proven their resilience during the pandemic. Indeed Banijay, which has a slate 75% weighted in favor of unscripted, thinks its expertise in the genre helped keep its losses down during the pandemic. Banijay’s EBITDA dropped 13% from €385M in 2019 to €334M last year amid steeper declines at other major studios.
“Unscripted is more robust to the pandemic, because you can easily swap in reserve contestants and put people in the bubble. You haven’t got to lockdown if a key director or key talent tests positive [for coronavirus],” Green explained.
The former Fremantle executive has a team of “flying producers” who provide centralized expertise to Banijay group companies around the world adapting tentpole formats. This is not a new idea, but has come into its own during the pandemic, when sharing best practices has been important to ensuring shows are made safely.
Green argued that the durability and adaptability of unscripted is one factor in a boom for the genre. Other factors he pointed to include streaming giants recognizing the potential for global reality shows and, at the same time, taking single-territory rights to series, such as Amazon adapting Banijay’s Hunted in Germany.
Green added that local streaming services are also a good outlet for format sales, while he also remarked on the ability of unscripted shows to adapt to social movements, recognizing issues including Black Lives Matter and the revolution in gender and sexual identity. “You’re seeing new iterations of those shows that feel like they can adapt to modern audiences, both tonally and structurally,” he said.
Green concluded: “There has been a perfect storm of different things that have all happened simultaneously that have prompted this creative boom.”