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U.S. Companies Look Abroad to Sell Reality Formats

American media companies are increasingly looking overseas to sell two words: reality shows. Foreign production companies are particularly useful in this endeavor because, according to The New York Times,  they buy "formats." Formats are essentially entertainment ideas, such as a reality show, that can be adapted and aired in practically any nation and appeal to multiple demographics. They travel well and are cheap to produce, making them more appealing to sell than scripted shows.

So what's the difference between a format and a completed show that American companies sell that are dubbed or have subtitles added overseas? Formats are only pieces of intellectual property. Given that classification, local producers in foreign countries can purchase the rights to the format of, for example, "Teen Mom." The U.S. media company that owns that format then just sits back and watch the dough pour in without investing much time or money.

Formats tend to be reality or game shows, which means they cost less than a scripted series and will likely be more popular because foreign audiences would rather watch their local countrymen or celebrities than "Grey's Anatomy." Additionally, intellectual property has the wonderful ability to be altered or updated and sold repeatedly. In other words, over years formats can make hundreds of millions, making them more attractive for American companies to sell overseas than their scripted series And more big name studios are catching onto this wave.

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