At this year’s MipTV, The Wit hosted its first-ever presentation for a Fresh TV Lab, hosted by CEO and co-founder Virginia Mouseler and focused on Esports, podcasts and brands.
“Esports is a growing entertainment option, not only for younger people but with a wider and wider audience. Of course, Esports is primarily about online gaming and streaming platforms, but it’s not generating its own game show formats. Are they imitating TV, or should TV imitate them?” Mouseler asked.
Starting in Spain, the presentation kicked off with “Top Gamers Academy,” from “Operación Triunfo” producers Gestmusic, an Endemol Shine Iberia company. An early transmedia phenomenon, the show is broadcast on linear network Neox, streaming websites Twitch, YouTube and digital streaming platform Atresplayer, with Banijay handling distribution. Similar to one of Spain’s most popular reality formats of the last decade, “Operación Triunfo,” contestants on the program live together, train together and compete against one another weekly over the course of a season.
“The Next E-Talent: Team Gullit” launched last year on Dutch SVOD platform Videoland, part of the RTL Group. Featuring EA’s FIFA, one of the most popular video game franchises on the planet, the series is hosted by legendary Dutch soccer star Ruud Gullit, who is on a mission to recruit members for a new Esports team.
“What is interesting in the Esports competitions, is that the contestants must have the Esports skills but also what we call in television the ‘X-factor,’” noted Mouseler. “They are content creators, streamers or influencers. A star E-gamer has to be a talented social media personality.”
Another soccer-series, “Making the Squad: The FIFA Edition,” a two-season success online, was produced for the first time in 2020 for SVOD broadcaster Insight TV. In the program, 10 U.K. streamers compete for a spot on the G2 Esports team, and for a huge cash prize.
“Another strategy to attract a wider audience to Esports is to get mainstream celebrities into the game,” said Mouseler before introducing “FIFA Face-Off,” a Twitch and YouTube-streamed series which pairs competitive FIFA players with mainstream celebrities in an Esports parallel to “Dancing With the Stars.” In the example shared by The Wit, coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), with his stalwart assistant coach Bear (Brendan Hunt) at his side, team up with top-notch streamers against “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah and his pro gamer partners.
Shifting from video games to branding, the presentation highlighted Spanish production “Roosters,” a drama series inspired by the Redbull brand and distributed by Beta Entertainment Spain. In the program, street MCs go head-to-head in the Red Bull Batalla de los Galles, Spain’s famous freestyle rap competition which has launched generation of hip-hop super stars.
“The sound is more than a soundtrack, it gives the meaning of the drama, mostly a love story,” said Mouseler of Canada’s “For the Record,” a short-form series which draws on the PolyGram music catalog – including The Beach Boys, Nina Simon and The Weeknd, among others – to tell a series of rom-com style stories of modern relationships. Anthology Productions distributes.
“A World of Calm” is an HBO Max series from the U.S., based on the popular sleep app Calm which features relaxing stories told by A-list narrators including Mahershala Ali, Idris Elba, Nicole Kidman and Keanu Reeves, to name a few. Similarly, Netflix’s “Headspace Guide to Meditation,” based on the Headspace app, is an animated series which demonstrates the positive benefits of meditation to its viewers.
For several years, popular podcasts have made their way to TV, and The Wit presentation finished with a brief look at some recent and coming titles which have looked to grasp onto the phenomenon.
“Many projects are in development, over 60 shows at the moment according to The Wit database, and in 2020, 20 shows based on podcasts were launched,” explained Mouseler.
Later this year, “Annika” will launch on Alibi and PBS, based on the long-running BBC Radio 4 drama series “Annika Stranded.” A cop-drama set in coastal Scotland in which Annika takes on a new investigation each week, the series is distributed by All3Media.
And finally, not a podcast, not a popular IP and nothing to do with Esports, The Wit featured Apple TV Plus’ star-studded audio drama “Calls,” distributed by Studiocanal, described as a one-of-a-kind new format and a brand all of its own. Told entirely through phone calls with minimalistic video accompaniment, the series suspenseful nine narratives are pitched as best experienced in a dark room with headphones on.