A TV format describes the overall concept, premise and branding of a copyrighted television program.
The format is licensed by TV networks, so that they may produce a version of the show tailored to their nationality and audience. Formats are a major part of the international television market. Format purchasing is popular with broadcasters, due principally to:
- the lower risk and extra revenue potential associated with an already-proven idea;
- the preference of national audiences to watch national programming (as opposed to broadcasting the original, foreign version of the show);
- the ability to tailor a show for a particular market.
The most common type of format are those in the television genre of game shows, many of which are remade in multiple markets with local contestants. Recent examples include Survivor, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Pop Idol and Big Brother that have all proved successful worldwide.
Particular models in the genre of sitcoms are often sold as formats, enabling broadcasters to adapt them to the perceived tastes of their own audience. An example is The Office, a BBC sitcom which got adapted as the The Office US, Le Bureau in France, Stromberg in Germany, La Job in Quebec and La Ofis in Chile.
TV formats are viewed as a form of intellectual property (IP), and are regularly bought and sold by TV producers, distribution company and broadcasters. For example, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has been recreated in 108 territories, while local versions of Idol have aired (over 129 series) in 42 territories receiving about three billion votes, most notable being American Idol.
However, TV formats are not generally protected under copyright law.[page needed] As a result, copycat formats are sometimes created, which seek to duplicate the success of an original format without paying the rights-holder of the original format. Format developers seek to prevent this by various means, including the use of trademarks or withholding distribution of other programs. Establishing "Proof of Review" and exposure to companies reviewing new TV formats is one important aspect of protection by the industry at the Television Writers Vault. The Format Recognition and Protection Association (FRAPA) aims to protect rights to formats and lobbies for legal protection.
- List of British television series remade for the U.S. market
- List of U.S. television series remade for the British market
- Radio format