1 School of Communication and Culture - Media Studies, School of Communication and Culture, Arts, Aarhus University2 Roehampton University3 School of Communication and Culture - Media Studies, School of Communication and Culture, Arts, Aarhus University
In the twenty-first century, the use of television formats, developed in one market and sold internationally for local adaptation, has become a widespread practice amongst commercial television broadcasters around the world (Moran 2009, Oren and Shahaf 2012). Most formatted programming falls within the light entertainment category and is well suited to providing the consumption friendly environment that commercial broadcasters seek to offer their advertising clients (Brennan 2012). A notable number of formats, including Dancing With the Stars, The X Factor, I’m A Celebrity- Get Me Out of Here! and Got Talent, have proven to draw exceptionally large audiences internationally. Most other formats, such as The Hotel Inspector, The Biggest Loser and many cookery shows, have smaller audiences but benefit the broadcaster in that they are comparatively cheap to produce whilst at the same time allowing for additional income from product placement and sponsorship. Formats make commercial sense because, in general they are either (financially) efficient and/or, - especially as far as the big format hits are concerned, - highly ‘effective’ in their contributions to a channel’s overall audience share. Maybe most importantly, commercial broadcasters favour internationally tried formats over original content because formats satisfy the key management objective of ‘de-risking’ (Esser 2013). The impact the format trade’s acceleration over the last decade has had on both, production and broadcast schedules around the world is such, that it would be no exaggeration to speak of ‘creative destruction’ (Schumpeter 1942). How has this impacted on the production and provision of public-service broadcasting? Public-service broadcasters historically have different objectives to private commercial broadcasters and format adaptations, as Jérôme Bourdon has noted, had no history here because they “contradicted almost everything public service broadcasting stood for” (2012: 114). Even though in many countries PSBs are also expected to provide entertainment, next to quality information and educational material, the overall idea that viewers should be addressed as citizens, not consumers, still applies. This also implies that PSBs should help imagine the nation (Anderson 1983), provide content that is culturally relevant, and cater to the diverse needs of the nation. To test whether PSBs still fulfil these objectives and fill the gaps left by the commercial sector rather than follow it, we studied the primetime schedules of PSBs in Australia, Denmark, and Germany between 2000 and 2012 (Esser 2010, Jensen 2013, Esser and Jensen forthcoming) for their employment of internationally franchised content. The quantitative analysis, presented in this paper, reveals not only that PSBs consistently employ substantially fewer formats than their commercial rivals, but also reveals an interesting difference between the Danish PSBs, who employ several formats, and Australian and German PSBs who employ next to none; something that is a result of structural differences between the respective television markets. Moreover, a closer analysis of the genre and content of those formats employed, shows that the PSBs studied, even when buying and adapting formats from abroad, have tended to choose formats that fulfil the public-service remit.