Broadcasting veteran Peter Salmon has a job that demands he be ubiquitous, crossing platforms, formats and countries alike as he spins ideas around the ‘internationally travelling community’ of one of the world’s biggest content factories.
“I’m like the maître d’’, says Peter Salmon, when asked to describe his job at global production powerhouse Endemol Shine.
Salmon’s official title is, of course, Chief Creative Officer, overseeing a network of 120 production companies in over 30 markets with a portfolio of some 600 titles across scripted and non-scripted genres.
But he uses the maître d’ analogy, adding that he is also a bit of a spymaster-in-chief. “I am a bit ubiquitous. A lot of people know me here, upstairs and downstairs. And I know quite a lot of the broadcasters and customers we work for.”
This knowledge has been built up over a long career working at a senior level in broadcasting. A former Controller of BBC1, his CV also includes spells as Director of BBC England, BBC Studios and BBC Sport, CEO of indie group The Television Corporation, and Controller of Factual Programmes at Channel 4.
Based in London, Salmon doesn’t tend to get involved in the details of Endemol Shine shows or formats – rather he will help to ensure that ideas, information, trends and best practice are shared around the group to help foster creativity.
Endemol Shine, he says, has “R&D networks” everywhere. “We use our network to learn from each other,” he says. “One day, I might be talking to our Israeli team, then chatting to the Black Mirror gang, and then maybe meeting with a BBC commissioner to find out what is next for them and how we are doing.”
The aim, ultimately, is to help Endemol Shine to continue to develop shows that have decent business margins, says Salmon.
On the day that he speaks with IBC, he is preparing for a week ahead that will see him divide his time between two big Endemol Shine operations in Amsterdam and Cologne.
He’s recently back from an Endemol Shine MasterChef convention, which brought together all the global producers of the format – from territories such as Australia, Israel, Scandinavia, the UK and the US – to share ideas about the show. Endemol Shine is making 43 series of MasterChef this year. “We get together and talk about what is next, often around the biggest shows we make together.”
Ideas aren’t just shared around the world in non-scripted, but in scripted too: for example, Endemol Shine companies have produced five different language adaptation of Scandinavian hit The Bridge.
The company’s global scale is an advantage, says Salmon, allowing Endemol Shine to keep an eye on emerging ideas and hits around the world. “We are an internationally travelling community. We have more expertise in serving the global world than just about any other set of production companies.”
It is this global scale that has caught the eye of potential buyers of Endemol Shine.
At the time of writing, Endemol Shine owners 21st Century Fox and Apollo are in the process of selling the business. A long-list of 12 companies has reportedly been whittled down to three or four big players prepared to pay more than $2.5bn for the superindie group.
Salmon won’t be drawn on the sale itself, but says Endemol Shine is excited by the process: “We are in a world of superscale of global players in terms of reach, distribution, power and influence. We are obviously already in that space.”
“It isn’t something that impacts on any of our operating companies or our talent right now – it is a challenge and issue for our most senior management, that is all.”
‘Everything is changing the way we build our relationship with content. That is a massive challenge to us as a huge content factory and will also throw up a huge range of opportunities’
Brave new world
Salmon prefers, instead, to talk about the subject he will be addressing at IBC in September: how content and programmes are having to adapt to the new digital world.
“OTT, social media, tech platforms, cameras, mixing desks, wearable content and phones – everything is changing the way we build our relationship with content. That is a massive challenge to us as a huge content factory and will also throw up a huge range of opportunities.”
It’s a challenge that Salmon thinks Endemol Shine’s global network can come together to solve.
One of the big trends, he says, is produce game shows at scale, citing series with spectacle like The Wall, one of its best-selling formats around the world.
Endemol Shine, notes Salmon, has more than 250 game shows in its archive. Buyers in many territories are “very keen on how we might reboot the old and trusted and guaranteed in clever ways.”
He also points to the Spanish talent show Operacion Triunfo, which was successfully rebooted last year for RTVE by Barcelona-based Gestmusic Endemol, seven years after being cancelled.
RTVE wanted to attract younger audiences back to television, so Operacion Triunfo was devised as a ‘360-degree’ project, running with highlights and live streams on YouTube and with content available via WhatsApp too. Viewers could also see the acts in stadiums, and deals were struck around merchandising and sponsorship. In effect, Operacion Triunfo combined the physical, digital and linear to create a hit.
“The Monday night show on RTVE as a consequence had a real audience. The finale of Operacion Triunfo had a 50% spike in younger audiences,” says Salmon.
Endemol Shine will be taking producers out to Barcelona in the autumn to meet with the makers of Operacion Triunfo, to learn more about how the show was made and the deals it struck with partners – essentially to learn how it moved seamlessly between commercial public service TV and digital to create one big project. “Because that,” says Salmon, “is where the biggest brands will be serviced or generated going forward, without any doubt.”
Traditional broadcasters like RTVE very much account for the bulk of Endemol Shine clients. They are home to many of its big shows such as Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, Hunted and The Island.
But FAANG is a big client too. Endemol Shine is operating, he says, in a mixed economy. “They have a different set of requirements. They buy and commission content in all sorts of funny ways, often through LA and increasingly through Europe with new commissioning teams. They sometimes have challenging business regimes that we need to think about, but we do as well. We are quite capable of looking after ourselves.”
Salmon cites a number of upcoming Endemol Shine shows that are being made for OTT players, including factual entertainment series Project Interiors, produced by DSP for Netflix and BBC2. Endemol Shine label House of Tomorrow is behind Netflix hit Black Mirror, while Endemol Shine Germany made Dark, a German language hit which has picked up a legion of fans around the world.
Such a show is proof, it seems, that great content is travelling further than ever in the digital age. Which perhaps explains why a global content producer like Endemol Shine is exciting such interest – and such a high price tag – from potential buyers.
IBC2018 Peter Salmon will be speaking in the Global Gamechanger session Creating content for the connected generation on Thursday 13 September