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Entertainment & Variety Exchange program

Entertainment & Variety Exchange, which will take place in Los Angeles from 25 – 30 April 2004.

Content
This year’s Exchange will give television producers and executives an insight into the development and production of entertainment shows and the keys to successfully adapting new formats to the US market. The week of structured meetings will also give delegates access to the key creative and business professionals working in this vibrant sector in Hollywood.

Participants
From Europe, we will be joined by Germany’s most successful commercial broadcaster RTL Television and Belgium TV station VRT, with others waiting to confirm.

Background
Entertainment is key to the networks in attracting audiences. Far from dying away, as network chiefs predicted annually over the last 3 seasons, shows have seasoned into useful tools for boosting a network’s ratings or profile. Gain an overview of the US landscape at a time when increased reliance is being placed on such shows to add to the brand of a network, as well as in seeking to retain channel loyalty from an increasingly fragmented audience.

The Entertainment & Variety Exchange 2004 will provide an opportunity to explore selected elements of these genres in the US, and to make contacts with US producers, distributors and networks in an area where formats are continuously crossing borders.

WHY?:

Gain insight into the creative thinking and development behind the latest hits
Understand the current and future trends with the key decision-makers
Evaluate the impact, benefits and pitfalls of sponsorship deals and advertiser funded programming
Identify markets and partners for your own programming

“The Factual Entertainment Exchange gave me tremendous insights into the current creative and business trends in American variety and factual programming. It also brokered new relationships with key US producers which is extremely valuable in the global format business.”
Phil Dolling,
Executive Producer
BBC Television (UK)

WHAT:

TOPICS FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT & VARIETY EXCHANGE 2004 WILL INCLUDE:

 Broadcast networks are becoming increasingly selective about what they believe will work. Executives are looking worldwide for that off the wall format which can be easily translated and accommodated into their own schedules to provide an unexpected overnight hit.

 Have reality and alternative programmes taken over the entertainment genre in primetime on the main broadcast networks for good? “Reality programs were the clear choice of viewers during the first week of sweeps (when US networks put on shows in February to attract and set high ad pricing for the year)” analysed a Television Week article (Feb 2004). Providing the networks with their much needed “water-cooler” ratings.

 With the lines between scripted and unscripted entertainment programming blurring, the arrival in March 2004 of Fox Network’s Forever Eden is awaited with interest. The unscripted soap opera produced by the UK’s Mentorn in association with the US’s hot factual entertainment producers A Smith and Co.

 Cable networks provide innovation and opportunity. The audience demographic targets are specific. The bonus is in cost effective, original productions branding a network’s identity and aimed to attract its target audience. MTV actively seeks shows with the potential of a one-season wonder. Recently renewing its Sunday Stew 2-hour mix they focussed directly on the 18-34 male audience the broadcast networks are so anxious about having lost this year.

 Entertainment on the major networks had always thrived in late-night, daytime and through syndication with magazine, talk, dating and game shows forming the greater part. With a more rational approach to syndicated programme production and distribution led by big players, Sony, Tribune, Warner and Fox, the daytime drought of the last few seasons has lifted. The new raft of talk shows has thinned out dropping Sharon Osbourne and leaving Ellen as the leading newcomer. Early primetime also has a new alternative with Fox Network’s On Air with Ryan Seacrest.

 Debate continues over the unpleasant qualities of some alternative and reality shows such as dangerous tasks, disgusting foods and rejected suitors. It was forecast that softer, warm’n’fuzzy shows would eventually arrive as a reaction. TLC’s VP of Programme Production, Chris Sloan, looks to put a “new face” on dating shows this season with the arrival of Perfect Proposal and Second Chance. Considered by Chris as “the next generation of dating shows” they are “not going to be in any way sensationalist or tabloid.”.

 Sketch and variety shows: NBC’s Saturday Night Live still rules the satirical arena whilst MAD TV has found a second home on Comedy Central. NBC has plans to follow up with another season of Last Comic Standing. The WB, home to The Jamie Kennedy Experiment and Steve Harvey’s Big Time, is developing a new Kennedy project as well as the upcoming Sketch Show (from a UK format).

 Audience levels for late-night are not high by primetime standards but presence, profile and impact are what the networks really seek from these slots. The Jimmy Kimmel Show transferred Comedy Central’s successful Man Show host into the ABC arena. Despite an initially slack response, Jimmy Kimmel has found an audience as well as its niche amongst its talk show colleagues.

 Reality producers and networks such as GSN (the newly re-branded Game Show Network) and Reality Central (a new digital channel launching in 2004) are taking the lead in audience interactivity. Complex deals involve broadcaster, producer, sponsors and wireless carriers in a race to produce the next innovative show and its related interactive services and platforms.

 Programme Budgets/Advertiser Funded Programming: Budgets for entertainment have undoubtedly increased. With a high end of $1million per hour of Survivor - through Big Brother’s $300,000 which is equivalent to a high quality documentary one-hour - to cable’s cost effective focus. But with limited rerun value broadcast networks are still challenging their producers for the most cost-effective models and format alternatives. The Restaurant made a splash and plans a return, though not with its original Amex “sponsor”. How will networks accommodate future AFP attempts and just how big a part does this kind of packaging play in the budget and the content?





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Chatelin Bruno
(Filmfestivals.com)

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