Interview with Frances Adams, group director, brand strategy at Endemol Shine

Published: 10 June 2019 - 1:26 p.m.

DS: MasterChef has had more than 60 local adaptions broadcast in more than 200 countries. Why do you think it’s such a successful format?

I think MasterChef works because food and cookery are universal. It takes any form of cookery — baking, fine dining, home cookery, Asian, Italian, French, or whatever you choose— and it adapts beautifully to every single country. So, you take the idea of people who love cooking, but are amateurs, put them through a professional competition and see who wins and loses. It's interesting because often the people who are not the best cooks go on to win because they have that sort of imagination and drive. So, it really digs out hidden skills in people. It's less about can you cook five dishes in 10 minutes. It's more about do you have the taste, the skill, the determination, and that ability to develop as you go.

DS: How did Dubai’s Masterchef restaurant come about?

Well, we've been always looking about opening a MasterChef restaurant. The advantage of being international is that everybody has their own different take of MasterChef. So, you might love MasterChef UK. I might love MasterChef Australia. Someone else might love MasterChef US. You know, there’s so many different variants that it allows you to sort of bring those all together. What I love most about Dubai is the fact that you can experiment here. The people are willing really to try new and different things.

DS: It’s taken two years.

Duncan and I first met about two and a half years ago and started talking about the concept. There was no obvious answer to what would be the dishes on that menu. We came up with a solution of tying it to the winners. So, we work very closely with the different winners along the years: we’ve taken 10 winners from Australia, 10 from the US, and 10 from the UK. And they’ve worked together to create the menu. So, when you're presented with a dish, you have a lovely story behind each one that connects it to the TV show. If it goes well, we would love to replicate it elsewhere.

We have MasterChef now in 60 different territories around the world. So, we have 60 different local versions and we broadcast in over 200 markets. Last year, we won a Guinness World Record for the most travelled food format to hit the 60 mark.

DS: Do you plan to bring any of the TV shows here?

I hope so. We’ve brought some of the TV shows before. We filmed in Dubai. And definitely, I see this is an opportunity to be able to come ad film here and actually take over the restaurant and have a challenge where you could have a dinner, cooked as part of the competition.

DS: Coming to Endemol, you guys have created a lot of great international formats. How do you come up with a concept?

It’s a lot of work, you know. You can’t sit down with the development team and say I want to come up with a format. We are constantly brainstorming different ideas, but also revisiting ideas that we thought were great two to three years ago and somehow have never got off the ground. I’ve really learned to never assume because a broadcaster says no that you wouldn’t get the idea off the ground. Sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board and start again. But other times, may be it was just not the right time for it.

DS: What’s your approach to localisation in different territories with your formats?

I think this is a real balancing act between what you don’t change, and being aware of local customs. We have a team of flying consultants who talk to broadcasters and production companies about it. If they need to change something, they understanding why, is it for budget or cultural reasons, and then consider the changes; rather than just saying yes or no.

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Masterchef Australia Season 09 Episode 18 Part 02

DS: What is your criteria for selecting the production company to work with?

MasterChef is quite a complex show to produce. So, above all, it’s about someone who’s got proven knowledge in that area, who works really well with the broadcaster. You can’t have a production company that doesn’t have a good relationship with your broadcaster. Otherwise, you’ll always end up in a three-way discussion between you as the brand owner, them as the production company, and then the broadcaster and that’s what you don’t want. You want to feel that you're in it together and do the best you can together. Again, it's about getting the right time and the right opportunity. The Middle East, Asia, and Africa will be real areas of growth for us over the next couple of years.

DS: With the media landscape changing, how does that change for you?

It’s constantly evolving, every country is different. Yes, partners bring in new challenges, but also new opportunities. With MasterChef in Brazil, we put ads on the main broadcaster and then 20 minutes later it goes out on to YouTube channels because there people are so used to watching shows either on YouTube or on Vimeo that you have to do both at once. And what’s really interesting is that has driven more audiences back to the main TV programme. So, I think it’s about being aware of what your market is.

If you’ve got a market which is still very linear, yes, you can go down the linear route. If you’ve got a market that’s really moving across multi platform and on to the likes of YouTube as well, well then you have to embrace it. I think to bury your head on the sand and assume there’s not changes coming. It’s never going to happen. But I think the TV industry already always has had change.

When I started years ago, it was all about VHS sales then we went to DVDs. And now, we’re on to streaming. So, we’re used to different models and I think that’s what’s really important.

DS: How do you see the industry moving and how has the past year been for Endemol?

Last year was a very strong year for us. I think there will be changes, but it's really hard to predict where they will be. I think that's what makes it exciting. It’s all about being flexible, being nimble, being willing to try new things, and to be adventurous. And that can be hard in a huge company, but Endemol Shine gives you the ability to do that.

DS: Where do you see the biggest opportunities?

I think it’s looking at the volume of broadcasters – there is still need. Audiences have never had more power because they can vote with their feet. They can choose what they want to watch. But what they will want more than anything is not just the variety, but also quality that doesn’t diminish. And I think that’s what’s absolutely key. It’s very easy to say, “You now have more platforms. Therefore, the budget goes down.” Actually, you’ve got to keep the quality high and keep that level of interest.

DS: Lastly, how do you deal with piracy?

Piracy is always an issue. We have various different systems we use to help monitor it. Our feeling is there’s a big difference between someone being inspired by something and someone actually just taking your show and copying it. And I think you’ve got to respect your IP, respect the content creators, ultimately it’s those shows that will help keep the industry alive. And if everything is just ripped off all the time, then you don’t have the level of investment that you need into the big shows. So, there’s a real interest from our side to make sure that, one, of course our content is not copied, but that people respect quality content and we know that viewers love it. You know, we know the viewers do respect. You know, they can judge what they see on screen. They take it seriously.

We have MasterChef now in 60 different territories around the world. So, we have 60 different local versions and we’re broadcasted in over 200 markets. Last year, we won a Guinness World Record for the most travelled food format to hit the 60 mark. So, that’s what’s really exciting with MasterChef, but that's also a challenge because how do you a keep alive a format that's doing so well, keep it alive, exciting, and fresh.

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Highlights from Big Brother 2018 (UK edition)

DS: Which is more successful: Masterchef or Big Brother?

MasterChef reaches more markets, but Big Brother runs for such a long time. So, it depends whether you're judging number of hours versus revenue. In terms of revenue, I would say they are both on par with each other really because, you know, you have shorter runs on MasterChef and then you have more secondary sales with it. We can actually sell the tape further. While Big Brother, you have a lot of co-viewing. So, you know, it goes out live after on a streaming platform as well as on the online broadcaster.

That’s funny because they’re two such huge sort of formats, big beasts, but they’re so different. I look after both teams and it’s really interesting. They are both two extremes of reality TV.

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