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RTÉ Rounds Up Homegrown Stock for Format Farm
14 Aug 2012 : By Eva Hall
RTÉ Two commissioning editor Eddie Doyle
RTÉ has announced a new scheme to pilot five original Irish TV formats at part of its recently launched autumn schedule.

Developed under the working title Format Farm, the broadcaster will air five original pilots starting from August 30. Each pilot has an international distributor on board which has funded the project along with RTÉ. The scheme has been developed by RTÉ Two commissioning editor Eddie Doyle.

The five chosen pilots are ‘The Takeover’; ‘Six in the City’; ‘The Hit’; ‘Baptism of Hire’ and ‘The Love Clinic’.

‘The Takeover’, which will air first, was developed by Louth-based Toto Productions, and sees the boss of an ailing company step aside for two weeks while the employees take over in a bid to revive the business.

The pilot episode focuses on the Tea Time Express bakery in Dublin, with ‘Dragons’ Den’ star and Harmonia publishing boss Norah Casey presenting. SONY US is the distribution company on board, after it was triumphant in a bidding war with another international distribution company for the rights to the show, according to Eddie Doyle.

‘Six in the City’, a Waka TV production, sees three couples compete to be crowned party king and queen after they each organise a night on the town. The couples attempt to showcase their home town in all its glory, with the other couples scoring their efforts. Comedienne Katherine Lynch and Waka TV partner Warren Meyler are producing for RTÉ.

‘The Hit’, as already announced on IFTN, is a music-based format which will give an Irish songwriter the opportunity to have one of their songs sung by a successful recording artist. Dublin’s Vision Independent Productions is behind the format, while Grammy-winning music producer Steve Lillywhite has an executive role on the project. MTV presenter Laura Whitmore will present the show, while former Westlife member and ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ judge Brian McFadden and Royseven frontman Paul Walsh are the musicians on board. ‘The Hit’ will air on September 6, backed by Warner Brothers US.

Doyle says the show “responds to how the music industry is changing and how there’s a wealth of singer songwriters in Ireland. It’s something we’re culturally strong in.”

‘Baptism of Hire’, an Animo production, is a hidden-camera show helmed by Darren Smith and Adrian Lynch. Although the duo are still negotiating with a number of distributors, the format of the show is locked down, with the premise an office-based prank on an unsuspecting worker. Animo previously brought hidden camera shows ‘Anonymous’ and to our screens. According to Doyle, there is so much interest in the format from distributors, Animo have the advantage of choosing which company to partner with.

The fifth pilot to air is ‘The Love Clinic’, a dating show with a twist from Straywave Media. The show follows those unlucky-in-love on dates, while attempting to break down the reasons behind their failures in the dating world. It takes a psychological approach to dating, with a psychologist, a life coach and a stylist on the panel.

“It’s all about positivity and trying to correct the mistakes of the past, it’s very much about positivity and useful advice,” says Doyle. Warner Brothers is also the distribution company behind ‘The Love Clinic’.

Earlier this year, RTÉ called for submissions from Irish production companies through its e-commissioning system, and whittled down over 60 formats to just six. One of the six, a wedding-themed format, could not be developed in time for this Format Farm, but Doyle told IFTN RTÉ hopes to revisit the project at a later date.

“We have made this a cross-genre initiative. While I’m RTÉ Two commissioning editor, and the programmes will play on RTÉ Two, there are other commissioning editors involved in this process. We want to be in that environment where commissioning editors are almost scrapping to get [the shows] so we have gone out of our way to ensure that this is not development for development sake or innovation for innovation sake. This is very commercially focused both in terms of international sales and in utility for us," said Doyle.

“We really want to push them internationally and hopefully get an international broadcaster to pick up on it, thereby bringing cash back into the country, and giving a leg up to intellectual property creations,” he continued.

The five formats will run on Thursday nights consecutively from Thursday, August 30, on RTÉ Two, at 9.30pm. The following four will air consecutively on Thursday’s. This is the same slot that ‘Masterchef’ will air when it returns next month. Doyle says this prime time slot is to ensure the shows get “as big a rating and as much exposure for them as possible. Then thereafter we’re looking at real on-air development, new programming innovation and broadcasting for the distributors and the production companies. They’re interested in doing business with us. Also looking at the international market, any ratings, metrics or information we can give them, is useful in business terms for those guys.”

The five formats will air just in time for the international MIPCOM event held in Cannes from October 8-11. Submissions for the Ireland on Screen stand at the event are now open.

Doyle says there is “a lot of genuine positivity about this, for us as broadcasters, for international distributors, as a business proposition, and for producers as well as a business proposition. It’s an appropriate pro-business response to the commercial and broadcasting environment that we’re all in. Formatted TV is on the rise. Irish producers can make great formatted TV, and what we’re saying now is we think this can be made to serve both our audiences here and for export.”

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