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SELLING FORMATS: HOT AIR OR HOLY GRAIL?

Many options for format rights to Australian shows have been sold abroad in the past five years, but that’s been the end of the road for the majority. Where production has occurred, very few have gone to a second series in the same territory, and generally that has to happen for there to be any chance of real upside.

The Quick Read

Wentworth, Wilfred, Secrets & Lies, Review with Myles Barlow, The Slap, Rake and Small Time Gangster are among the dramas and comedies that have been remade. New versions of the documentaries and factual entertainment shows My Kitchen Rules, Border Security and Go Back To Where You Came From also exist. It is understood that those scripted shows that have been optioned but not produced beyond pilot stage - not yet anyway - include The Code, East West 101, Fat Cow Motel, House Husbands, Jack Irish, Laid, Love Child, Lowdown, Offspring, Packed to the Rafters, Spirited, The Strange Calls, The Straits and Twenty Something, but tracking them is not easy.

The big risk is that remakes made for English language territories can have a negative impact on sales of the original or make buyers of that original very cranky. Producers are often caught between their distributor and dreams of world domination. They are also often caught up in the idiosyncrasies of the US market: opportunities might be rife but beware the subterfuge hidden in contracts and being seduced by options that go nowhere.

On a more positive note, engaging with agents, broadcasters and producers abroad as a result of format deals can create a lot of opportunities for new partnerships, especially if members of the original creative team are hands-on. Being on board also delivers fees that don’t have to be shared with investors.

Big thanks to all nine producers who participated in this search for information about format sales. And thanks to the distributor that gave her point of view too.

Screen Australia has some financial data on the US format deals of a dozen dramas and comedies that it has invested in.

US$12,000

The top price paid in thousands of US$ for an option fee. The lowest is US$2.5K and the average is US$8K.

US$100,000

The top purchase price in thousands of US$. The lowest is US$25K and the average is US$70K.

US$36,000

The top per episode price in thousands of US$, but it’s very unusual. In nearly all the deals it was US$5K