Thank you for taking time out from your
busy schedule for us. I know that many
in the industry, including our Writers
and Producers at the TV Writers Vault,
will find your perspective invaluable.
It’s my pleasure.
Your service is a very valuable asset
for anyone involved with production and
Thank you very much. We're fortunate to
contribute to the marketplace and the
television community. Your background
and contributions to programming and the
television industry are extremely
impressive. You must possess that unique
combination of having both an acute
business and creative sensibility to
have handled so many hit shows. Would
As much as I would like
to agree, I have to admit that as a kid
I watched way too much television….and
to this day, nothing much has changed.
I really have to get a life.
Years before the Reality TV boom, you
pioneered Sony's entree into the TV
format business, ultimately heading up
international programming and
development for them. Did you have any
idea of the reality format craze that
was to follow, or were you concentrating
more on game formats at that time?
When I worked at King
World I was asked by Michael King to
work with King World’s then
International President, Fred Cohen, and
try to figure out “this format thing.” I
wasn’t familiar with it at all but with
Fred’s patience as a teacher I was able
to figure it out.
By the time I left, we
had Wheel and Jeopardy! formatted all
over the world. I left King World
to get Sony in the format business and
at the time, my mandate was to exploit
their library of game shows. Once
we had the world blanketed with the Sony
game shows we started acquiring third
party formats of which included reality
formats. One of our most
successful reality formats was a show
from Nippon TV called Dragons’ Den which
we formatted in over 20 countries.
That format eventually found its way to
ABC TV where it was renamed "Shark
Scott Manville: Is
reality-based programming a good thing
for the industry? I know that many of
the Hollywood brass were concerned that
it delivers too many one-off programs,
and wouldn't generate the long running
branded shows that studios and
syndicators need for security and
longevity. Do you trust reality tv in
I disagree….Cable is
having a successful time re-running
their reality shows.
Where do you see the future of reality
tv content heading?
Its going to keep getting
stronger as producers try and push the
envelope to higher levels. As a
viewer, I would hate to see them push it
In Reality TV, there's a wide variety of
game/competitions, elimination series,
make-over shows, wish fulfillment
series, court shows, and countless
hybrids. In your experience, what type
of content or formats hold the most
potential for becoming an international
Some of the genres
that you referred to are difficult to
format. Docu-series are difficult
to format since the distributor has
nothing to offer to the licensee that
would constitute the show as a format.
Court shows have not been formatted
since the justice system is different in
most countries. Bottom line:
All of the other genres have the
potential to become worldwide
hits...[game, competitions, elimination
series, make-over shows, wish
For the Development Executives
[Production Companies] scouting formats,
turning tv show "ideas" into tangible
projects, what key components should
they focus on delivering as part of a
packaged project so they're not just
delivering an "idea".
TAPE TAPE TAPE
I’d like to touch on game show formats.
Earlier in your career you produced some
of television’s biggest hit game shows,
such as, “Wheel” and “Jeopardy!”. How
are the hit game shows that are
generated today (“Millionaire”, “Deal or
No Deal”, “Are You Smarter Than A 5th
Grader”) different from those created
before the Reality TV craze? Or are
There are many
factors with the shows of today that
make them very different….like 60 min
format shows of today vs 30 minute shows
of yesterday. I assure you that if
Merv Griffin created Wheel today there
ain’t a chance he could sell it.
I’m sure of that. They’re too
What makes a great game show?
It’s a very
tough question to answer because I don’t
think there is a correct answer. Years
ago I would have said a great game show
is one where the viewers can play along.
However, if you take "Deal or No Deal"
there is no home play along. The
Creators/Producers have done a terrific
job of making that show entertaining.
In 2000, you helped found FRAPA, (the
Recognition and Protection Association)
whose mission is stated as "to
ensure that television formats are
respected by the industry, and protected
by law as intellectual property".
With many shows being derivative of each
other, and often seeming to be "cookie
cutter" versions of proven formats, what
advice can you give to our writers and
creators who are working to deliver
original concepts, but fear intellectual
property theft or conflict in the
marketplace when pitching?
If it’s still
possible, be creative and original and
then you won’t have to worry about FRAPA
pounding down your front door.
With your finger on the pulse of
programming trends in the U.S., do you
find that foreign territories such as
the U.K. or Australia share the same
tastes in entertainment? Do you see
areas in programming where they're more
progressive than us?
For the past several
years the UK has been a hotbed of
successful formats. We’re all
looking for them to create the next big
show as they did with "Who Wants to be a
Millionaire", amongst others. I am
frequently asked what kind of shows are
successful around the world. My
answer is always the same: They
watch the same shows that we do. I
could blindfold my wife, take her
abroad, check into a hotel, turn the tv
on without the sound and she would have
no idea of where she is since today all
TV seems to be the same.
I understand that you Sheppard the sales
and distribution of an incredible
library of U.S. shows to the foreign
markets. Are you ever scouting formats
in other countries for exploitation in
the U.S., or is that left to other
global production outfits like Endemol,
Our group at CBS is
always looking for 3rd
party formats to distribute. We
acquired two game show formats this
year. One is a show called "Catch
21" which is now in its third very
successful year on GSN and the other was
a pilot we acquired called "Every Second
Counts" that we have sold in many
territories in the past two months.
For anyone reading this, as I mentioned
earlier, the best way to pitch us and
the other distributors is to bring us
tape, tape, tape.
Being so immersed in television as a
business, do you still truly enjoy it as
a form of entertainment, or is it
difficult to not look through the show
you're watching and see only the
strategy and choices behind it as a
project? Does being part of the machine
kill the magic?
Not at all for me!
I still love watching TV and appreciate
what it has to offer. I just
wonder some times what it would be like
to read a book.
What advice can you give to the aspiring
format creator and writer starting out
in this Industry?
a leader and not a follower. As
Michael King used to say to me all the
time “we have to zig when everyone else
Thanks again for engaging us with some
great insight, Paul.
you Scott! Keep up the good work.