How did you guys come up with the idea to create 2025?
We came up with the idea of 2025 with co-creators Yoram Zack and Erez Tal. We wanted to create an environment that hadn’t been used before in reality TV: the near future. We wanted to explore the way technology is going to influence and change the way people live and interact with each other - and also the dynamic of how people interact with A.I. Our near future city of 2025 is a ‘smart’ city run by six humanoid hosts. This hasn’t ever been done before. So that was the inspiration behind the show itself.
How long did it take you to develop the format, because what we have heard is that it’s been more than three years?
It took about two and a half years of development to create a brand new near-future reality and a brand-new world – the city of 2025 - that is convenient, safe and comfortable. And then we spent 18 months developing the technology that would enable that world to exist and make 2025 a ‘smart’ city. Everything in the city is controlled and operated by one integrated system – the bank, the shop, the vending machines, the hotel – and the contestants interact with this system using their smart watches. These watches allow them to make purchases, receive instructions, open certain doors, and calculate exactly how much social currency they have at any given time.
What makes 2025 different from other reality shows?
We are marrying the two different TV worlds here – one that we are familiar with in premium scripted series like Westworld and the other from reality TV. In 2025, contestants interact in our vision of the near future - which is very high tech, very convenient, comfortable, and completely digital. We see how they interact with the humanoid hosts, with the A.I., and how this affects the human relationships between them over the course of ten weeks. Also, the theoretical principles and mechanics behind this new format - the need to collect social currency and form friendships in order to survive – and how transparent that is, with a ‘live’ scoreboard displayed for all to see.
With all of these technical innovations can we say that the whole format is an innovation itself?
Yes, the whole show is an innovation: the development and then the actual construction of the city and its technology, from the ground up. We’ve built a completely bespoke unit on a 64.000sq ft plot situated 30 minutes south of Tel Aviv that houses the 2025 city itself, the production rooms and a set for the live show. One of these important elements is the humanoid hosts. They each have a very specific role: there’s a bartender named Red, a waitress named Goldie and Pink manages the shop. Mr. Brown runs the hotel, and Mrs. Silver the bank. There’s the mayor of the town who’s called Mr. Black. Each one of them is very distinct in terms of their personality and voiced by different actors. Each interacts in their specific roles with the 12 contestants on a daily basis. So, for the first time we have been able to develop relationships between “robots” and real people. Those relationships have been incredible to watch, whether it’s flirtation that’s happening between the humanoid host and the contestants, or a confessional relationship that’s opening up there. It’s completely fascinating because obviously in the world of reality television we’ve never experimented with anything like this before.
Getting back to the production side of the show, how easy would it be for others to produce this show, and are you offering the use of your studios?
Yes. We are obviously using the 2025 production hub while Keshet 12’s series is on the air. But during the rest of the year we will have space for at least two or three additional countries who come on-board. We have built this city for the long term, for our use and for others’ use.
How will you pitch this format to international buyers and has there already been interest for the show?
There’s been a huge amount of interest in Israel and abroad. I think that people heard rumors that we were developing something massive, something 24/7, and everybody who’s in the network business or the OTT business was very keen to hear about that. It’s got that “wow” factor.
We are approaching those buyers and networks that we know are actively searching for 24/7 reality formats, and those with the capability of producing 2025 in terms of budget, skill, slots and programming. Dozens are coming to Tel Aviv to see the set themselves - this is the kind of set that has to be seen in person! I can tell you that every client who’s visited has left with their jaw on the floor.
What are some of the things that you learned after the first few weeks of the project?
We’ve made small tweaks to help the contestants adjust to the game and the viewers better understand the game play. Working with a behavioral economist, we’ve adjusted the some of the pricing and tweaked city projects and missions to challenge contestants to bring more social currency into the game. We’ve also re-jigged exchange mechanisms in the game to create cliffhanger “must-see” moments and drive greater suspense for both the contestants and the viewers.
And are you planning any changes in the rules for the second season?
We’re developing the second season in parallel to the first. We’re always talking about transparency, and that’s demonstrated well by our communications room. Unlike other reality shows, our 2025 residents have multiple connections to the outside world including phone calls and real-time articles that are made available to the contestants by the viewers.
For example, viewers recently chose to share the news of Luke Perry’s death and the contestants were so shocked and saddened, they paid to read about it. We were all talking about Luke and so were they, and there was a strong connection between the viewers and the contestants that week. I think moments like this feel a lot like actual social networks. 2025 is about friendships, it’s about ‘likes’, it’s about sharing. It’s about what you want to publish, how you want to tell your story, whether it’s online or in front of viewers.
I think that by constantly adjusting that transparency and the communication between the outside world and the world inside of 2025 is something that’s going to grow in future seasons.
There have been a lot of speculations, but can you tell us how big is the investment in this format?
We’ve made a big investment because we believe in 2025 so strongly. From developing the idea, to investing in cutting edge technology to create a smart city, to literally building that city from the ground up and then kitting it out with all of the necessary production equipment including the 150 cameras and 300 staff needed to bring a 24/7, 10-week long reality show to air. And the payoff? The show enjoyed the biggest reality launch since the Channel 2 split back in February and has since seen off stiff competition from other established brands, winning its slot 15 out of 17 episodes so far. And now we are launching it to MIPTV!