Gepke, Be-Entertainment was established in 2017 as an international format distributor representing some of the greatest content from Belgium. Since then, you have been closing numerous deals for Belgian formats turning them into international hits. What makes these shows so successful and attractive to viewers around the world?
When it comes to Belgian content, I like to use the word craftsmanship. Belgian producers really take an idea and try to make the best possible program for their local audience. They’re not anxiously trying to create the next world hit like creators in some other countries. I believe that that gives Belgian content the fresh and authentic kind of creativity that stands out in the world, original content with a heart. Who are your main partners in Belgium?
Be-Entertainment is part of DPG Media, the biggest media company in Belgium that owns all media outlets including the biggest commercial TV channel VTM. We, therefore, have close ties to the channel, the development team and its internal production company. This gives us the opportunity to spot and nurture interesting titles in the pipeline at an early stage. We also have close ties with the best (external) producers in the country that we represent internationally. In short, we are able to work with anyone. One of our big entertainment formats The Musical Of Your Life, which recently also launched in Spain, has been airing on the competing channel PLAY4 in Belgium. How do you explain the rise of Belgian content on the international scene?
The creativity was already there. However, in the past there was only one company focusing on Belgian content. This meant that many of the talented content creators went outside of the country to the bigger groups to represent their content. When Be-Entertainment entered the market, we saw that more talented producers were placing their titles with us and this gave us more opportunity to shed more light on the Belgian story and its great content. You have now started to expand your catalog with content from other countries as well. What shows have attracted your attention and why? How big is your catalog now?
We have started broadening our scope outside of Belgium when in search of great content to distribute. An example is our new title Swipe Around, a dating show where duos of single friends travel through Europe while swiping through dating apps for some fun in the sun, traveling with benefits if you will. The format was already very successful in Austria on ATV for five series before VTM picked it up. Be-Entertainment is now bringing it to the international market at MIPCOM. We have the luxury that we can test drive content on the VTM channels/platforms before bringing it to the international market, but we can also offer IP that is tried and tested elsewhere.
We are always looking for great content to add to our catalog which currently consists of a nice range of (non-)scripted formats and we also have (non-)scripted tape titles to offer. We believe that one of our main strengths as a distributor is the fact that we can be picky when selecting new titles so we can give every title the attention it deserves. You can find all genres in our catalog, from larger-than-life reality adventure competition Destination X, to great factual entertainment like Out of Office and big entertainment shows like The Musical of Your Life. This diversity without an overflow of titles in a single genre makes every title stand out. Destination X was one of your big hits at MIPTV, with a sixth commission announced in July. Is this format your biggest hit so far and what is the history behind it?
The creators of Destination X, Geronimo, were already working on this title for over 4 years before its launch. A great example of one of those shows that really got the chance to grow thanks to the creativity and drive from the producer, but also the channel daring to invest in a larger-than-life paper format. Thanks to the structure of our group, we were involved in an early stage to make sure we could arrange for the best possible launch internationally. We can safely say that this is our biggest launch so far and we have secured six commissions, including a deal with NBC in the US and the BBC in the UK within months after its launch. After Belgium, two other territories are recording the show this year and we are currently lining up different countries for their 2024 recording for which we are also negotiating terms in CEE, so fingers crossed that we can soon start our first Destination X adventure in the region.What are Be-Entertainment’s other hit formats?
One of our most recent hits is The Big Bang, a studio entertainment show that sees three celebrity duos compete in fun balloon-popping-obstacle-course through a series of exciting assignments. The format is developed by the creators of The Way Out and co-developed with Talpa and VTM. With all the heavy topics in the world, we feel that viewers are looking for uncomplicated entertainment, they just want to have a good laugh and a moment to share with their family and The Big Bang offers them just that.
And riding that same trend, we are gaining momentum with Finder$ Keeper$, the show where a fortunate family gets the chance to win up to 100.000 euros while trying to find cash that is hidden in their own home. With a recent launch in Spain and a second series in production in Belgium on top of the productions in Germany, French-speaking Belgium and Portugal, the format is off to a great start. A good example of a fresh creative idea from Belgium.
Another one of our hit formats is The Big Job Switch. In this format five people engage in a life-changing experiment. They resign from their current job, while a team of experts will try to find them the perfect new job. With series two soon launching in Belgium, the format has been sold to Germany and France for a 2024 launch. Be-Entertainment also sells scripted shows. What are your best-selling series?
The scripted title in our catalog that has traveled best is Code 37, a very strong Belgian crime series that has seen multiple successful seasons with almost 40 episodes produced and broadcast.
Another title that we think is strong for adaptation or tape sales is Crimi Clowns, a quirky crime series about a group of professional clowns that turn to crime at night. An extraordinary story that really stands out from other shows out there.
We’re also working on a new telenovela, Milo, that tells a modern-day musical tale about a talented girl with a magical voice. This is such a universal story, that we believe that this title will definitely travel so we’re happy that VTM ordered more than 300 episodes in one go! What are the latest trends in terms of formats on the international market? What kind of genres are broadcasters looking for?
With so many players trying to get viewers, we see that broadcasters bet on a couple of big titles like Destination X. Titles that are big and loud enough to stand out in all the noise.
On top of that we also see a trend of escapism, as mentioned earlier, viewers are eager for some uncomplicated entertainment, they just want to have a good laugh and share a positive moment with their family, something we offer with Finder$ Keeper$ and The Big Bang. We know that TV players mainly prefer to “play it safe” by commissioning old hits over and over again. Being one of the few companies that is constantly bringing fresh shows to the market, how hard is it to convince the rather conservative buyers to try something new?
First of all let me congratulate or better thank VTM for their brave commissioning. This year alone, the linear channels bring 22 new titles (which can range from international formats, local series to new formats with international potential). We can cherry pick the best titles to bring to the international market all with a proven track record.
So even though we see a lot of conservative commissioners out there, we believe that this is exactly where we can be of great value so we actually see this as an opportunity. Be-Entertainment can help by offering low(er) risk proven formats for conservative broadcasters that want to offer fresh ideas to their viewers. Streaming services have ramped up their content spend as well. Is there a big difference between them and traditional TV players when it comes to content demand and commissioning?
Streamers and traditional players are moving closer together when it comes to non-scripted content offering. However, there are still titles that work better on streaming services vs linear TV and the other way around so even though there is a bigger overlap in the demand, certain titles are just more suitable for one of them.
We evaluate this on a title per title basis, but to be very honest, as a format distributor a more traditional roll out of a format still provides more commercial potential for us as long as streamers keep demanding global rights. ′