Making The 1% Club - Andre Renaud, Dean Nabarro, Andy Auerbach
BY Stanislav Kimchev
The 1% Club debuted on ITV in 2022 and quickly turned into one of the most-talked about shows in the UK. BBC Studios started selling the format even before its premiere and took it to key territories like Germany, France and Australia where the quiz gained a hit status in 2023. The format’s success is easy to explain: the questions in The 1% Club are all about logic and common sense, and anyone can play along.

Stanislav Kimchev met the creators of the format Dean Nabarro and Andy Auerbach of MagnumMedia, as well as BBC Studios’ Senior VP of Global Format Sales Andre Renaud at MIPCOM where the distributor organized a live play-along game with market attendees and journalists in order to find out why The 1% Club is the fastest selling new gameshow format.
Andre, Dean and Andy
Let’s start with the basics: what makes The 1% Club so popular with viewers in the UK and other territories?
Andre Renaud: I honestly think the simplicity of the gameplay is the thing that catches people. When we first started looking at this show, I remember very clearly going: “I get the concept, I understand the game”. I think that’s the thing that resonates. It’s a show that’s scalable, a show that’s returnable, a show that you can play with family. All of those things make it successful. During the presentation here, you heard ITV say that they had a million viewers on demand afterwards as well. It keeps outperforming where it airs. Germany did really well. Australia is a real success for us too, because we were always told that the potential for gameshow is really tough there. So for it to be successful is down to the gameplay and also the host. I think those two things together to create this sort of entertainment show is what has resonated with people.

If you look at all of the shows that have been successful over the last several years, it’s something that’s adaptable, something that makes it feel like it can be in my own country. And the fact that you’re taking this and you’re actually polling your own nation is a really strong success story for why this gets localized. The humor that you can build is a local story.

What have been the latest deals for the format?
Andre: We announced a deal for Turkey at the market. It was a conversation we started at MIPTV actually. There’s one other deal I think you’ll find out about soon enough. I do believe that there is opportunity in Poland, in Hungary, I even think Czechia and Slovakia could do it. Bulgaria - absolutely. And Greece, I really think the opportunity for it, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, is high. If something works in Germany, then I think it should work in Poland. And then I’d love to see it in Asia. I’d love to see it in Latin America as well. The show can go anywhere. The fact is that France, Germany, Spain, even Israel, demonstrates the success and the scalability of the show.

Dean Nabarro: Something that we look at in every single territory, whenever we see it go out, the ratings seem to do something different to what ratings usually do. Entertainment television tends to start big and then go down to low. This starts pretty well and then just grows. And I think that’s to do with the extra bit of something that makes the format work in all these different territories, which is people wanting to talk about it and to share, in this case, the questions to talk about. This is what is the extra ingredient.

As you started talking about this, what are the latest trends according to you in terms of formats?
Andre: There’s a conversation now about reality with a twist. I think people are talking about it and, you see a lot of them out there. What’s also coming through is authenticity, truth in storytelling, factual entertainment about human interest. But I truly also still believe that games, quiz and entertainment are running high. Тhe other thing is that because you can scale it up and down, I think you’ll always have space for entertainment shows, family shows are still ongoing.

The French Version: 100% Logique

What are BBC Studios’ bestsellers right now?
Andre: Some of the shows that we’re launching at this market are leaning into that human story. One of them is called Lost Dogs Live, which is a format where people are trying to reunite families and their lost dogs. The statistic in the UK is that 93% of lost dogs are found, but only 20% of them actually get back to their homes. We are using social media audience live shows to try and bring people back. I wouldn’t want to lose my dog, but at least there’s a show out there that’s trying to create social media story around it.

We have another one called Inside Our Autistic Minds, which is a show about autistic people trying to create a world so people who aren’t autistic understand what it is like to be autistic. We’re still talking about Bridge of Lies that had a Spanish commission as well. But obviously the cornerstone for us has been The 1% Club.

Now let’s talk about the development process. The show differs from many other quiz formats by the fact that it’s more of an IQ test rather than testing general knowledge. How did you come up with the idea of a different type of program?
Andy Auerbach: It all started with one question, and this was the car park question. It was a question that Dean and I, on our lunch break, would ask each other these brain teaser type questions and we saw this question and neither of us knew the answer. We couldn’t work it out. It was just hard. But Dean took it to his family. He showed it to his 11-year old son and he literally got it within an instant. We thought that was remarkable and then that got us thinking that that was a wonderful thing for a quiz. What if there was a quiz where it didn’t matter how well educated you were? It didn’t matter if you’d been to university. What if there was a quiz where everyone was on a level playing field because it tested how your brain works, not how much knowledge you have? And we thought that’s a great start to a quiz.

How long did it take to develop the show and put it on air?
Dean: Once we saw that type of question, we did actually start testing. We started writing more ourselves, and we wanted to find out what percent of the country could get it right. So we sent them to the sort of place that tests who’s voting for who and whatever and they test, they send it out to a thousand people. Once we got those percentages, we spoke to ITV аnd we showed them the questions and it really got them talking. They started playing it themselves. They started arguing about it. I won’t name names, but one of them, very high up, didn’t do so well and it caused a bit of a moment. At that stage, they asked us to develop it more into a full show and they commissioned a pilot pretty soon. We also got the host on board, Lee, who we knew from doing a different show. Same thing we sent him about 15 questions and straight away he said, I love it, because people got involved. So we did the pilot and then they committed to it. It feels like a long time but actually it was in the world of television, it was pretty quick.

Play Along in Cannes

Any additional research like audience testing?
Andy: No, ITV didn’t. They acted on instinct, which is very rare and it’s to their credit. They heard an idea, they saw a pilot and they just had faith in it and they commissioned a series very, very quickly, and even before the first series had transmitted in the UK, ITV saw it and liked it so much that they commissioned a second series, so we were working on season two before anybody knew whether this show would work.

Andre: We also secured the commissions in France, Netherlands and Israel before it had even aired.

Do you consult on the international versions of the show?
Andre: BBC Studios has a group of flying producers. We have one in particular who works really closely with Andy and Dean on it. The whole purpose is to make sure that we understand the essence of it. I always describe it as a seed of a tree growing different branches and Andy and Dean are really exemplary in being involved in that conversation that we have. It’s our responsibility to do justice to the work that they’ve done.

Andy: It has been a fantastic working relationship. As Andre says they have producers who make sure that the quality control around the world is high and they constantly ask us to ask our advice, our opinion.

Dean: But the great thing for us has been we’ve got to know, all of the companies, all the producers that have been making it in the other countries. When it was on in France, I couldn’t watch it, but I followed Twitter live. I could see what was going on and it was replicating what happened in the UK. Exactly the same.

When it went out in Germany, we’d spoken to the guys in Germany all the time. We’d know about it. And then you say, you want to know. And then it worked with them. And they taught us a lot. That’s the thing we’re learning from them as well. Each one of them, like the Australians, have had some great little tips.

What has been the toughest question in The 1% Club?
Andy: That’s in a sense the wrong question to ask. Because of course, our toughest question is a 1% question. Also, everybody finds questions, some questions easier than others. So, a 1% question for one person will be much easier for a 1% for another. But I don’t know. I mean, what question really, can you think of anything that just really stumped you?

The 1% Club UK version

Dean: I really think that it’s not about the specifics, because if we choose one, it goes against the very nature of what we keep saying, which is that it doesn’t matter what we as producers think, right? It doesn’t matter. It’s not our job to decide what’s a harder question for other people, that’s what the surveys do. That’s what the percentages do. The nation tells us how hard the question is. The truth is, though, as you said, because it’s how your brain works. One person will find 1% question easier than perhaps another 1%. And I don’t know what makes that happen.

If we gave you a question and we said there’s no time limit, you would do a lot better on the question. In the UK there’s an app and every day there’s a question but there’s no time limit on it. I watch people play it and people are getting it maybe in four minutes and 20 seconds right, because they can do it. But if you give them 30 seconds as you did with your big question - oh, it’s harder, it’s harder. That’s what determines the percentages. What we’re saying is not 30% of the country could get this question ever. It’s 30% of people can get this question for 30 seconds, in that time. Because that is the key.
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