Friday! goals: first Russia, then the World
For years, Friday! has been Russia’s most popular and innovative entertainment and lifestyle network. The success on the home market both on TV and the digital market has opened up new opportunities on the international scene.
Nikolay Kartozia, the mastermind behind Friday!’s hit shows and strategy, talks with Alexandra Shutova about their latest deals and ambitions on the international market, as well as the hybrid model of combining TV and internet elements which drives the channel’s success on all platforms.
Mr. Kartozia, the last time we spoke Instagram Girls had just been sold to Amazon. What news do you have around the show more than a year later?
We sold the Instagram Girls format to Poland, and the Polish adaptation aired on TV Puls in September. In the near future, the American platform Tubi plans to release Instagram Girls as well. There is still international interest in the format, and we are currently negotiating a sale with several countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

Back then, you also told me that you are negotiating sales for more shows. We already know that Melodrama was also sold to Amazon. What news can you share in terms of new deals?
Yes, Melodrama was released on Amazon Prime Video, and the first adaptation of the format was released on the Voyo platform in Slovenia under the Telenovela title. The first season was a hit on the platform, with a high rating on IMDb: 9 among an audience of 18-29. Voyo is now starting to film the second season of Telenovela. We are currently finalizing the Melodrama deal with a large distributor in the French-speaking territory, we will share the details later. Another of our series, the comedy blockbuster Teachers in Law, was also released on Amazon.

The development and creation of our own reality shows and series, which we will promote to the international market, is one of the priority tasks for us. During the pandemic, Latin America’s interest in our projects – both formats and ready-made - has grown. We are expanding genres: the teenage dramedy Suburbia about schoolchildren in a problematic area has attracted the interest of several European countries. We have an extensive catalog of formats that are interesting to both channels and platforms. At the moment, we are negotiating the sale of our reality and TV series with major players on the television and Internet market, and I think that within a year we will greatly surprise the Russian market with messages about new deals.

TikTok Talent

It looks like your shows work well both as ready-made titles and formats. How do you explain this?
First of all, all our shows have a bright high-concept. This is my thing. We do not launch a show if it does not have a vivid super idea, unusual rules of the game, which the viewer will immediately want to play. Casting is important: I’m looking for “forever face”. We choose the hosts and heroes of the show as the title role in a movie: I looked at the person for one second, turned away, but remembered this face forever. In pre-production, the drama of possible relationships between the characters is always thought out. We create tension for commercial purposes (laughs). Good casting, cool format and drama work both as format and as ready-made in any language.

Besides Instagram, you are quite busy developing projects with TikTok. Can you tell us more?
TikTok is one of the most popular and fastest growing platforms in the world, which is why we are actively working with this social network. Friday! is number one in TikTok among Russian TV channels: we have an official account and our own TikTok house, created on the basis of the reality show Patsanki (Ladette to Lady). It publishes additional content about the show and the participants, which we specifically shoot for this page. The total number of subscribers in two accounts of Friday! is 5 million people. But we went further and did the world’s first TikTok TV talent show.

What is TikTok Talent?
The TikTok Talent show was invented and developed by our team together with the TikTok head office. It is a hybrid show that combines a television format and a social network. We watched thousands of short videos, selected unique TikTok talent from across the country, and broadcast the best on our air. The winner was determined by live viewers using online voting on TikTok. The show has shown good numbers on air, and we plan to shoot a second season. In addition, there is international interest in the format - we are currently negotiating a sale with several foreign broadcasters and platforms.

Young Chefs with Konstantin Ivlev

Friday! remains the leading Russian channel for lifestyle entertainment. What is your recipe to keep the channel fresh and attract the hardest to reach viewers?
There are a lot of secrets. First of all, our presenters are hybrids. They are popular in two media: TV and digital. We take popular bloggers and teach them to be TV presenters, we take hosts and help them become popular bloggers. Therefore, the flow from the Internet to the air and back is very easy for the viewer. Secondly, I am constantly trying to turn TV air into the Internet. We’re adding features to a device called TV that it doesn’t have: direct voting, e-commerce, game formats, and augmented reality. We are content makers on the Internet: our shows are constantly trending on YouTube. All this allows us to be more than just a TV channel and to attract new audiences to the universe of Friday!

What are your plans for the new season?
We have already become the main food and travel channel in Russia - the best reality shows on these topics come out on our air. In the new season, we want to be a TV Talent Hub. We have been discovering talents on our air for a long time: we find the best chefs and pastry chefs, new presenters, various talents from all over the country were featured in the TikTok Talent show. In the new season, we will launch a show, which will be dedicated to children with unique talents. Another premiere of the season is the reality Young Chefs with Konstantin Ivlev, a host of the local version of Hell’s Kitchen. Ivlev will bring together young and talented chefs and turn them into professionals.
Nikolay Kartozia is the producer and general director of Russian TV channels Friday! and Saturday!, both part of GPM RTV Holding, owned by Gazprom Media.
He graduated from the Faculty of Journalism of the Lomonosov Moscow State University. Between 2001 and 2012 he worked at NTV as chief editor of the Namedni program and headed the Prime Broadcasting Directorate. In 2012, he launched the entertainment TV channel Friday! and in 2021 the TV network for young women Saturday! Kartozia is the author of the documentaries Brodsky is not a Poet and Sasha Sokolov The Last Russian Writer. Winner of the TEFI Award as Producer of the Year.
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