It all starts with a good idea

31.08.2020, The Netherlands

The Format Creation Group (FC Group) launched one year ago. Backstage met Matthias Scholten, Managing Director (MD) of the FC Group, to learn more about its first year and how everything starts with a good idea.

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The Format Creation Group (FC Group) launched one year ago, and their first format, Like me — I’m Famous, started on TV Now on 11 August 2020.

Backstage met Matthias Scholten, Managing Director (MD) of the FC Group, to learn more about the first year of the FC Group, and how everything starts with a good idea for him. Together with a team of six, Scholten is based in Hilversum in the Netherlands, working on creating successful, exclusive formats for RTL broadcasters and streaming services across Europe.

Matthias Scholten was appointed to run the newly created FC Group in July 2019. His mission was to gather a small, creative team to develop formats for FC Group stakeholders, including Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, Groupe M6, and RTL Nederland.

Matthias Scholten © William Rutten

“I think it is important to have a close connection and good relationship with all the stakeholders in the different countries, so I spent a lot of time travelling in the first few months,” says Scholten. “There are a lot of cultural differences involved in creating and producing TV shows, so I wanted to get to know the broadcasters, their strategies, ways of working, and also how we could help them with their needs.”

The first few months were busy, as in between travelling to different European cities Scholten met many people to form the FC Group team, and at the same time worked on developing ideas for the broadcasters. After four months he had put together a team of five, and they started to pitch their newly created formats to TV channels. The time spent getting to know the broadcasters was essential prior to pitching to them, he says: “If you just try to pitch blindly, there is little chance of the broadcaster saying ‘yes, I want that show’. The format has to fit their schedule, strategy, target group, and even the moment. Perhaps they had already tried a similar idea to the one you are pitching, and it was a flop.”

The time they spent learning about the broadcasters’ needs paid off early this year: “We got some traction, had the first concept ready and said ‘let’s focus on this’, in order to go in to develop this show. I had the feeling it could be really successful. Then, the evening before I was going abroad for a meeting, the lockdown was suddenly put in place and, as we all know, everything changed.”

The initial weeks of the coronavirus crisis was a challenging time for the team for many reasons, says Scholten: “We had to find out how to work as a team with video calls, and learn how we could be creative without meeting face-to-face. At the same time, the broadcasters were busy resolving their own complications. It was not the easiest time, but after a few weeks we found a sort of routine.”

It turned out to be easier than expected to be creative via videocalls.

“You have greater focus on a one-to-one video call than when you are physically together in a room. You can’t hide, look at your phone, answer calls or be distracted in the same way. That focus was really helpful, so we used those first months of lockdown to create new ideas.”

The FC Group got back on track about the same time as everyone was getting used to the new reality of working from home. Now they are even doing creative pitches with broadcasters via video calls. “Pre-corona, everyone thought you had to be in the same room for a pitch. During corona everyone understood that it’s possible to pitch via video call. We’re not post-corona, but now we think it can be done both ways. It is especially nice for our team to limit the time spent on the road, as we can spend more time on the creative side instead of travelling.”

Today the team consists of six people, a combination of researchers, designers and creatives. The researchers are essential to for getting more than just a feeling when developing a concept. “You can’t just take a premise and go with it; you have to do your research. We research everything from viewing trends and what’s happening in the media industry to specific topics related to a show.”

As the team is working in an international context, their pitches and presentations need to be easily adjustable visually and not only language dependent. The creation and production of TV shows might differ between countries in the terms of storytelling, and also in how and when production takes place. As for similarities, Scholten says: 

“The main principle is the same everywhere: do you like the initial idea and the premise?”

Scholten has worked both in front of and behind the camera before heading the FC Group. Growing up, he dreamed of becoming a TV host, something he achieved prior to joining the RTL Nederland management board. “Being in at the start of something new gives me energy,” he says.

“I have always been really passionate about creating something new. It all starts with a good idea. After that, the real hard work begins, with blood, sweat and tears.”

Asked what the FC Group’s blood, sweat and tears will produce in future, Scholten says: “A personal goal of mine is to have four shows commissioned this year. My main wishes would be a big international hit, and good health.”

After the first year of FC Group, the future looks bright. They have a few shows commissioned and in production, throughout a various genres, from reality to a quiz show.

Backstage would like to thank Matthias Scholten for giving us some insights into the first year of the FC Group, and wish him and the team the best of luck with future formats. Hopefully we will be reporting on other successful formats… and that “big international hit.”

Read more about the formats the FC Group has cooking here
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