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Photo: Itiel Zion
'Hostages' (R) and 'Rising Star'
Photo: Itiel Zion
How successful are Israeli TV shows abroad?
Israel has become one of the leading marketers of television formats in the world, but many spin-offs of Israeli programs have generated medium ratings while some formats have failed to reach the production stage.
Israel has become one of the world's leading marketers of television show formats in recent years. "In Treatment," "Homeland," which won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, and "Traffic Light," which won the International Emmy Award in its Israeli version, are just a few examples of programs originating in Israel.

  

 

But selling the format is just the first stage in a long process, which will not always generate a new show. Sometimes the format is sold as is and simply translated into a foreign language, sometimes an entirely new version is produced, and sometimes the process gets stuck and the format just lies in a drawer, forever.

 

So what happened to all those Israeli shows which went out into the big world in the past year?

 

'Hostages': Ayelet Zurer in French

One of the greatest successes of the past year was Israeli drama series "Hostages," starring actress Ayelet Zurer, which was aired on Channel 10 and sold to the CBS network. Its American version was produced even before the show was broadcast in Israel.

 

Its first season was not very successful in the United States and it did not get a second season, but the fact that it was sold through the Armoza Formats company is a real achievement.

 

'Hostages' in French

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The series was also sold to France, where it was aired with French dubbing on Canal+, a premium cable television channel which broadcasts series from around the world, including American political drama "House of Cards." According to Ynet's correspondent in Paris, Yaffa Iron-Kutz, this is "a very important achievement."

 

The show will also be aired on British television channel BBC Four in its Israeli version. The format has also been purchased in Australia, but has yet to be produced there.

 

'Shtisel': Swedish haredim

Another Israeli series broadcast overseas in its original version is Yes TV's award-winning drama "Shtisel," which tells the story of an ultra-Orthodox family living in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood.

 

The show has been purchased by Swedish channel Axess TV, a relatively small private channel launched in 2006.

 

'Shtisel' on the Swedish channel

 

'Rising Star': A falling star?

The biggest achievement of the past year belongs to Keshet Broadcasting, a franchisee of Israel's Channel 2 TV. Its reality television singing competition "Rising Star" was sold for spin-offs in dozens of countries, and the format became a hit.

 

The enthusiasm slowly died down, however, due to its American version. The ABC network received medium ratings for its first season and has yet to decided whether to produce a second season to compete against "The X Factor," "The Voice" and "American Idol."

 

The British company which purchased the format decided not to produce it in the end, and the German broadcaster cut the season short due to low ratings.

 

'Rising Star' in Brazil. Featuring bands only

 

In Brazil, the show was renamed "SuperStar" and aired on the Globo network. Unlike in the Israeli version, the Brazilian show features bands only. "The ratings began rising towards the end of the show," says Rina Hazki, who has been living in Brazil for more than 30 years now. "It created a buzz on the street and one could say that it was successful."

 

The show was also broadcast in Portugal, and was recently sold for production to China's state television broadcaster, CCTV, which plans to air it for two seasons. "It's the biggest channel which broadcasts to the entire country, and this is definitely an Israeli achievement," says Hili David, an Israeli living in China.

 

A Portuguese-speaking 'Winning Couple'

One of the biggest surprises in the past year was the sale of Channel 10's reality show "A Wining Couple," in which several couples compete for cash prizes, through the Dori Media Group.

 

Portuguese version of 'A Winning Couple'  

 

The program has already been produced in Portugal under the name "O Poder do Amor" and is expected to be aired in Brazil in the coming year. In Israel, the show will not be receiving a second season due to cutbacks in Channel 10.

 

'Boom!' creating media buzz in Spain

Spanish terrestrial television channel Antenna 3 has recently began airing Keshet's game show "Boom!" three nights a week. The program, which is reportedly bringing good ratings, has become one of the channel's main shows and received major promotion in the local media.

 

'Boom!' in Spain 

 

The provincial 'Green Project'

HOT's "The Green Project," which presented wild skits performed by a variety of comedians, was sold to the Chinese channel Hunan TV. Armoza Formats, which was responsible for the sale, defined it at first as "China's biggest television channel," but a short inquiry revealed that Hunan TV is a provincial satellite television channel, which is considered relatively small in China.

 

"It's not a very significant channel," says Hili David. "If anyone wants to watch it in Beijing, for example, they have to order a satellite, which is pretty expensive and not everyone can afford it, and then purchase the channel. It's not a simple procedure."

 

According to Armoza Formats, the show was also sold to companies in Germany, Russia, Lithuania, Portugal and Uruguay. The company says it is "very proud of the program's achievement, being broadcast on China's second biggest channel."

 

'Split' in French 

 

Several children and youth shows have also been exported abroad in their original versions with local dubbing. Yes' "Greenhouse" and HOT's "Split" have been broadcast in France, and "Galis" has been aired in Italy. Model and actress Dar Zuzovsky, who starred in "Greenhouse" told Ynet that people are already recognizing her on the street in Paris.

 

Still in the works

Many other programs have been sold abroad but have yet to reach their final stages.

 

Reshet TV's "Game of Chefs," for example, is in the casting stage in Germany. HOT's "Injured in the Head" and "The Prime Minister's Children" are in their production stages after being sold to the American Cinemax and CW networks, respectively, with the help of Hadas Mozes Lichtenstein of the ADD content agency, which is also responsible for another format – a series based on the story of Prisoner X that has been sold in Britain but has yet to be produced.

 

The "Malabi Express" comedy series, which was aired on Channel 10, has been sold to the Fox network, but it is unclear whether a spin-off will actually be produced. The ABC network produced a pilot starring David Schwimmer based on Reshet TV's series "irreversible," but has decided to stop working on it for now.

 

The French version of "Girlfriends," a series broadcast on Channel 10, is being developed by the TFI network and is expected to be aired in the coming year. The show has also been sold in Russia, Ukraine and the US.

 

According to a source in the industry who has sold quite a few formats abroad, "in most cases, the sale doesn't involve big amounts of money. The industry does generate funds, but if the series fails to succeed in the US, the sums aren't big. Even when they do succeed, it's not as big as people may think."

 

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