Paprika Studios: Big potential for growth in Romania
Christophe Brackx, MD and Creative Director of Paprika Studios, talks about his first year at the helm of the company and the potential for further growth on the Romanian market.
Christophe Brackx, MD and Creative Director of Paprika Studios
Christophe, how was your first year leading the Paprika Studios team in Romania?
You always need some time to adapt to a new country. Fortunately, I do speak French and Portuguese, so I started understanding Romanian quite fast. Workwise, we had to create a new team and we started hiring fresh and young creatives. That was quite some time absorbing and I also had to dive into the Romanian TV market.

What type of shows are popular in Romania?
Generally speaking, classical proven formats such as Got Talent, Survivor, The Voice, and MasterChef dominate. Also, Asia Express, 18 years after we made the first series as Peking Express at Kanakna. It’s the format that really started our ‘story’ at that Belgian production company in 2004. So, I frequently see my old colleagues who are consulting Antena, on the plane back to Belgium.

What, in your opinion, is the most significant difference between the markets in Western Europe and Romania?
The most successful formats are not produced by companies that own them, such as Banijay or Fremantle... because they are not present in Romania, and you can’t option these formats as a production company because the broadcasters do. So, there are entirely different ‘dynamics’: the broadcasters hand the formats to the production house they believe is best suited. That is something you have to get used to. Also, the primetime shows are much longer and there are far fewer paper formats because there is a “focus on proven formats”.

Are there any formats that you believe could be successful in Romania?
I’m thinking specifically of My Restaurant Rules, a show where a couple/duo can win their own restaurant - you open five restaurants all over the country, and the television public can go eat there, and even vote on whether these resto’s must stay open. I produced this show in food-obsessed Belgium, and we received a plus 50% share on the country’s largest commercial broadcaster for 20 weeks in a row. I believe that these ‘aspirational shows’, in which viewers can ‘participate’ in some way, could work well in Romania. Another type of format that is still underdeveloped is ‘family co-viewing’ like LEGO Masters, The Voice Kids, or The Great Model Railway Challenge. And I also believe Romania could benefit from more scripted reality.

I believe that the Romanian market is following the lead of the international market in focusing on proven success. However, as a format developer, I would love to see some more self-created formats. So, as Paprika Studios Romania, we want to work more on format development, and we will invest in making pilots - always a good way to convince broadcasters.

What has been Paprika’s biggest hit in Romania this year?
We have now produced nearly 200 episodes of Come Dine with Me. It had been tried twice before in Romania, but it never ‘worked.’ We tripled/quadrupled the share on the small broadcaster Acasa, and the reruns on PRO TV even received a 20% share. That’s excellent for such an efficient and ‘low cost’ format. Actually, it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

What is the most significant difference between Romanian and Western reality productions?
Some Romanian broadcasters are so afraid of casting that they create ‘fake reality’ with actors or would-be-actors. I’m sure you can make much better shows with real people. That’s how I started my career 30 years ago, so we put a lot of emphasis on casting. We have excellent results with ‘authentic’ shows and real emotions, real stories by real people.

How do you see Paprika’s growth potential in Romania?
I’d like to produce more big reality shows. I’ve produced nearly all of them in the West, and we have the teams to do so. I hope to start producing some (smaller) shiny floor shows; there’s a least one very good format that has never been tried in Romania. We’ve also recently begun producing scripted reality, which is another option to expand. But, fiction is the biggest target for 2023. We’re getting ready to pitch some ‘real Romanian’ fiction series, to local broadcasters. In Romania, that is still a domain with a lot of potential... Let’s not forget a lot of European and American fiction was shot in Romania during the last two decades…
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