Exploitation of TV Formats

Research Question:

How are television formats traded in the absence of protection under copyright law? Why pay when you can copy for free?

Methodology: Three Steps-

1. Creation and analysis of database of 59 reported format disputes between 1988 and 2008.

2. Semi-structured interviews with media sellers / buyers at 3 international TV trade fairs (NATPE Las Vegas, Discop Budapest & ATF Singapore).

3. Emerging patterns specified through 3 video case studies of FremantleMedia formats: Idols, Got Talent & Hole in the Wall.

Key Findings:

Format developers use several groups of strategies to exploit TV formats globally.

– Formalizing & transacting know-how: ‘production bibles’ (e.g. sourcing contestants, audience organisation, production elements and structure); supplied under confidentiality; implementation via ‘flying producers’.

– Brand management (registering trade marks, brand localisation, merchandising).

– Social & distribution networks social norms (trade fairs, industry bodies, mediation, retaliation) speed to market (global production bases).

Project Team & Methodology:

Prof. Martin Kretschmer (Principal Applicant)
Martin Kretschmer (Vordp Berlin; LLM LSE; PhD UCL) is Professor of Information Jurisprudence and Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management (www.cippm.org.uk), Business School, Bournemouth University.

Jonathan Wardle
Jon Wardle (BA (Hons), MBA) is the Director of The Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, the only HEFCE Centre for Excellence in the media area in the UK which is working with a range of industry and education partners to create different ways of accessing higher education, to transform student learning experiences, and to produce graduates who will shape the future of the creative industries.

Sukhpreet Singh (Lead Researcher)
Sukhpreet Singh (MA Bournemouth, completing PhD Bournemouth) is an Associate Lecturer in Media Management at Bournemouth University, and a researcher at the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management, one of the leading IP research centres in the UK.

Principal Funding Body: 

ESRC, under the Business Placement Fellow Grant No: RES–186–27–0012

Fremantlemedia Enterprises, UK.

Interviewees who participated in this research from Fremantlemedia Enterprises: 

Tony Stern (EVP, Commercial & Business Affairs, Worldwide Production); Stephen Flint (SVP, Content Partnerships, Worldwide Entertainment) and Bart-Jan Gorissen (VP, Commercial and Business Affairs, Worldwide Production).

Administrative Support: 

Emily Cieciura (Bournemouth University) and Kirsty Kelly (Fremantlemedia Enterprises)

Videos (Filming & Editing):

Emma Savage & Allen Jennings


The Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management specialises in copyright, industrial design, patents, trade marks, law & policy, IP exploitation and legal education. It welcomes proposals for bespoke research based consultancy from industry on television format rights or any other aspect of media and broadcast management. Please visit the CIPPM website for more details.


Please cite this resource as:
Kretschmer, M., Singh, S., and Wardle, J. (2009), The Exploitation of Television Formats, ESRC Digital Resource, Bournemouth University (http://tvformats.bournemouth.ac.uk)