ITV America is “cautiously optimistic” about its remake of Love Island for CBS as boss David George lifts the lid on the reality dating format as well as how he anticipates the forthcoming “streaming wars” giving unscripted a much-needed boost.
CEO George admitted that there’s a lot of pressure resting on Love Island, which launches Tuesday July 9 at 8pm. The show, hosted by Greek star Arielle Vandenberg, launches with a 90-minute special to introduce eleven islanders searching for love in Fiji.
“We’re cautiously optimistic. I think we have done a very good job of taking the sensibilities of the UK show and bringing it over here. We’re taking the best parts of the UK show and applying it. The show is a culture phenomenon in the UK, those are big shoes to fill. You never know how long it’s going to take for the audience to find it,” he told Deadline.
The show, which has been a breakout hit for ITV2 in the UK, is produced by ITV Entertainment and runs through August 7. George said the biggest challenge was to ensure a smooth production process, featuring 80 camera positions, for a gruelling show that has a very quick turnaround. “The hard part of this show is the fast turn, you have to have the right producers in there, it’s very exhausting because it is such a relentless schedule,” he said. ITV America has brought over a number of producers from the British version of the show including exec producer Mandy Morris.
He added that the series will have the same “cheekiness” as the British version, which features comedy narration from Iain Stirling. “For us, the tricky part is the cheekiness, the sense of humor that comes around, because it’s a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. We wanted that same tone to come through. When you watch shows like The Bachelor or some of the older formats, they are so serious and Love Island lets the viewer feel like it’s a fun ride, this isn’t life or death,” he said.
George revealed that there were other broadcasters keen to buy the show before CBS secured the rights last August. “Because CBS has Big Brother, they have an audience that are used to watching a show two or three times a week. Most broadcasters in the U.S. can’t provide that kind of scheduling and there were other places that wanted to buy the show but they couldn’t give us that kind of commitment. If the audience isn’t coming back every night, it just gets lost in that sea of content,” he added.
CBS runs other shows including Survivor in Fiji, which offers a “nice” tax break for productions. The network is hoping that it can replicate the success of the UK version, which continues to increase in the ratings despite being in its fifth season. George said broadcast network audiences are still trained to watch reality shows compared to the SVODs. “We all know the landscape is changing, the streamers are coming on gangbusters, but I also believe that when the networks take chances, they tend to do a little bit better than when they play safe. If you look at Masked Singer, that was a show that was shopped around for years, and the fact that it came out with the numbers that it did should be a wake-up call to a lot of programming people and also to production companies that are always trying to create the next American Idol or those shows that feel like knock offs.”
However, he said the majority of its recent show sales are to the streaming platforms, building on the success of its reboot of Queer Eye. “We are starting to see that shift; we’re selling more show to streaming platforms than ever, we’re probably selling more series to streaming platforms than we are to broadcast and cable so there is a fundamental market shift as to where these shows are going to be long term,” he added.
While it is somewhat difficult to encourage the likes of Netflix and Amazon to commission localized versions of hit international formats, he believes this model is changing and he believes that there will be more format remakes in the future, pointing to Magical Elves’ Nailed It!, which has had a number of international versions. “I feel like the winds are shifting in terms of format creation in the U.S.,” he said.
George (right) anticipates the U.S. market to move towards more of a UK/European system, where producers are able to take advantage of international and back-end rights to formats rather than just working for a production margin. “We are a margin based business and those margins are just coming down so I think things are shifting more towards the European model so there’s going to have to be some give on the rights or the back end or ancillary, that’s going to be the big thing that will happen over the next year,” he said.
He anticipates the “streaming wars” providing a boon for unscripted programming. “We had a project that had two streamers that wanted to go straight to series on it and it was my belief that that’s the first time that that had happened, where it became a bidding battle and it was like the future is now. What’s going to happen in the next twelve months is going to be the best thing to happen to unscripted since the advent of cable, it’s a new frontier for us to navigate.”
The other area that he believes will grow is low-cost, high volume formats. “Cheaper is always better. I think networks are really tightening their belts right now,” he said.
It is looking to remake British gameshow 5 Gold Rings (left), which is produced by ITV Studios’ Possessed and John De Mol’s Talpa. The show, which recently scored a bumper order in the UK, is a physical game show that’s played out on a giant interactive LED floor. Players are given a quintet of rings and must answer questions over five levels. It was previously piloted by NBC. “We think gameshows in general, because they can be low cost, high volume are particularly attractive in this marketplace. The days of these $2.5M an hour shows is numbered so higher volume, lower cost is the name of the game,” he added.
Elswhere, Queer Eye returns to Netflix on July 19 for its fourth season and ITV America is also in production on its fifth season. It is also developing a number of other projects for Netflix that share a similar secret sauce to the makeover format. “We’ve got several series that are about self-improvement and are positive and are about not judging a book by its cover. With the younger audience, there is a certain interest in the world and they’ve been taught not to judge people and we are living in pretty strange times in the U.S. with all of the politics, I think when people watch these kind of shows they realise not everything is bad.”
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