Six International Formats To Watch In 2023: Balloon Artists, Wilderness Temptation And Country-Sized Obstacle Courses

by Faraz Buck

It’s been another year of format fun in television, with Banijay’s Dutch mystery competition series The Traitors emerging as a new global hit, especially in the UK on the BBC, while the likes of Big Brother and Survivor have fronted a reboots commissioning revival that has divided entertainment producers, buyers and sellers. As the year comes to a close and the world heads into 2023 under threat of recession and belt-tightening, Deadline has placed six new formats that could help shape the genre in the spotlight. As is often the case, programs from the Netherlands dominate, with three on our list, while others hail from the UK and Canada.

Tempting Fortune (UK/North America)

Credit: Shutterstock

Dropping contestants into the wilderness as a device for a reality format is nothing new, but dropping them into the wilderness to reach a gold chest bursting with £1M ($1.2M) is — especially when they’re presented with tantalizing and enticing temptations along the way. Over three weeks, each time they succumb to the offer of a creature comforts, a big chunk of the shared prize pot is removed. Channel 4 and Roku are teaming for the first time on the “noisy and provocative social experiment,” which London-based maker Voltage TV is calling “the ultimate test of our willpower and self-restraint.” Voltage TV CEO Sanjay Singhal says the show “asks questions about what we value the most in life,” while UK-homed distributor Cineflix Media CEO of Rights Tim Mutimer adds: “It taps into the dilemmas that confront us all, wherever we live around the world, in a highly entertaining format with scale, impact and mischief.” For Voltage and Cineflix Rights, both best known for their pedigree in docs, the show marks a push into unscripted formats. Sounds hard to resist.

Ultimate Challenge (Canada) – Gurin Company

Credit: The Gurin Company/CBC

This Canadian format has a unique selling point: it promises to turn an entire country into an obstacle course. Part Ninja Warrior, part SAS: Who Dares Wins and part cultural tour, Ultimate Challenge sees 24 competitors coached by a group of elite-level athletes taking on challenges in jaw-dropping locations across a country. In Canada, where CBC commissioned the original version with Insight Productions and distributor The Gurin Company attached, the show features 100m Olympic champion Donovan Bailey, six-time Olympic cycling medallist Clara Hughes, NFL Super Bowl champion Luke Wilson, ex-Canada rugby seven’s captain Jen Kish, ISU World Cup winning speed skater Gilmore Junio and co-captain of Canada’s Olympic water polo team Waneek Horn-Miller. They lead six teams of four on solo, tandem and team challenges, as a presenting duo of Craig McMorris and Nikki Reyes call the action. Tasks include a 459ft sprint to the top of an Olympic ski slope in Whistler and a ‘Spider-Man’ race to descend the Chateau Frontenac hotel in Quebec. The show launches in Canada in February 2023, and Gurin Company founder Phil Gurin is expecting wide pick up next year. “When discussing the format with global commissioners in London recently, I realized we are onto something with the local angle — the world wants to celebrate their own countries, and this show does it,” he says.

The Floor (Netherlands) – Talpa

The Floor

Credit: Talpa Entertainment Talpa Entertainment

The Floor has all the ingredients for a big-selling format: coming from the mind of legendary creator John de Mol, big cash prizes and 100 contestants battling it out in a studio setting. The Risk-like premise is pretty simple. The contestants each occupy one square of a gigantic LED floor. Random players are selected to duel an adjoining contestant in a quiz-off, playing the category of the second person’s square — this might be ‘famous athletes,’ ‘Hollywood actors’ or ‘mammals,’ for example. One is then eliminated and the winner can choose to play on or tactically pass their go to another player and preserve their status in the game. Eventually one is left and a €100,000 ($106,000) prize is theirs. The action plays out over a series of episodes, meaning narratives can build and viewers gain affiliations for players. The show is another for Dutch commercial broadcaster RTL4, with de Mol’s Talpa Entertainment Productions attached and Talpa Distribution selling the format. A 2023 launch will follow. As Deadline revealed in October, Holey Moley maker Eureka Productions is working up a U.S. version that will span 10 episodes and offer a $1M prize.

Blow Up (Netherlands)

Credit: Banijay Rights

Toys and crafting have provided the creative spark for several of Banijay‘s biggest formats of recent years — think Lego Masters – and the latest on that production line is Blow Up. Hailing from Endemol Shine Netherlands and RTL4 via the super-indie’s Banijay Benelux division, the competition format, which Deadline revealed at the 2022 London Screenings ten months ago, sees a nation’s best balloon artists take on unique challenges within limited timeframes to be crowned the champion. Local adaptations are underway in Australia, New Zealand and Germany after the first season in the Netherlands hit number one in all commercial demos and was especially big among 6-12s. “We’ve been able to build on our expertise in this area, with a strong catalogue of formats that celebrate colourful crafting for broad co-viewing audiences,” says Lucas Green, Head of Content Operations at Banijay. “Blow Up showcases supersized balloon artistry with mind-blowing designs, proving balloons aren’t just for kids.” Sounds like the stuff, just don’t talk about inflation.

Five Star Chef (UK) – Warner Bros International Television Production

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With MasterChef, Iron Chef and Top Chef all continuing to perform well on the international stage, any new entrant into the market needs to work hard to find its niche. Upcoming Channel 4 and Netflix series Five Star Chef from Warner Bros Discovery UK indie Twenty Twenty might just have that: 25 unknown but highly-professional chefs compete over six weeks to win the right to have their name across the doors of a restaurant at a world famous hotel. In the case of the six-part UK series, which debuts next year, the prize will be an eatery in the five-star Langham Hotel next to the BBC’s headquarters in Central London. Tasks range from making the most Instagrammable dish to banquet catering, money making skills and restaurant management and crazy room service demands from millionaire guests, with a panel of Michelin-star chefs and the hotel CEO judging. “This is a real world setting with real professionals and a real, tangible prize at the end,” says Andy Zein, Senior Vice President of Creative, Format Development and Sales at distributor Warner Bros International Television Production. In a brutal first week, each chef pitches their restaurant concept and the weakest 15 immediately leave the competition. Three will make it to the final, where they re-pitch their evolved idea, with two going on to cook three dishes from their menu before the winner is crowned — probably in a giant chef’s hat.

The Bodyguard (Netherlands)

Credit: Newen Connect

The Bodyguard was once only known for Kevin Costner heroically saving Whitney Houston by diving in front of a bullet in the 1992 film, but another emerging Dutch format promises to give the name a new meaning. Sold by France’s Newen Connect, the format sees a group of 10 contestants undergo intense training under the watchful eyes of two hardened security industry professionals. Each of the eight episodes on original commissioner NPO3 in the Netherlands saw them tested physically and mentally through a range of challenges in areas such as attentiveness, flexibility and resilience. Each week, one candidate was jettisoned until one was left, with a future as a professional bodyguard in front of them. The format is from Tuvalu Media, whose army camp competition format Surviving the Special Forces also sits in the Newen catalog.