May 19, 2009

Book Review – Trading TV Formats

Trading TV Formats – The EBU Guide to the International Television Format Trade by Christoph Fey

The book is published by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in an attempt (I reckon) to somewhat formalize and establish best practices for a trade, which almost dates back as early as the first TV programs. But it is as vital as ever, with international format licenses on smash hits such as “Survivor” and “Who wants to be a millionaire?”. The international format business is worth some €2.4bn.

The book
It is outlined in three distinct parts with the aim to help licensors in packaging and pitching their ideas to producers or broadcasters. The parts cover how to package a format, how to protect the format, and an overview of several different court cases.

The part that deal with the package and how to strategically arrange for the license deal is quite hands on with straight on suggestions for clause constructions. It also discusses hoe to relate to the IP in the deal, both so you do not transfer more than you intended but also from a protective perspective.

The part on protection provides a good overview over issues to be thought of not to unintentionally let go of your potentially valuable asset.

The part of the book which I found most interesting is the one that discusses the rights of the buyer; what is it he is licensing? It all comes down to the issue of that TV formats as such is an unknown concept for copyright legislation. There have however been attempts to actually award the creator of a format some sort of protection for her work. Either if this is through copyright or through different types of unfair competition legislation.

To me the issue of TV format protection shows the sometimes inaccurate or at least inflexible way IP legislation can behave. Formats have been licensed for half a decade with, I guess, quite good rate of success. But the more valuable the formats become, both in themselves for TV production but also for external merchandizing, the greater efforts are taken to circumvent the established practices. One other factor might be that the TV broadcaster market have gone from almost only state owned public service companies to a greater breath in broadcasters today.

I think this is an interesting area and will get back to it here at Intangitopia in the future. Especially since it in such clear way shows many of the interesting characteristics of IP; intangible but defined by a tangible transactional object (compare the “Format Bible” to a patent for instance), value driven by transactions and transactional structures can be custom made in almost any way.

Johan Örneblad

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1 comment:

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