Format adaption global or local?

Essay, 2009

13 Pages, Grade: 4,0 => 2,0 (vgl. Anm.)


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Format adaption

3. Format adaption-global or local?

4. Big Brother.

5. Conclusion

6. References

1. Introduction

This essay addresses the topic of format adaption. The definition of a format, the development history as well as the role of format adaption in the global and local media landscape will be examined. The main focus will lay on the question if and how format adaption has influenced the media world and why formats are so successful. These questions will be linked to the cultural imperialism and globalisation discourse. The theoretical construct will be complemented by the example of Big Brother to clarify the most important aspects of the argumentation. A discussion of this topic is valuable because the arguments raised in the positioning of format adaption reflect the general point in the media imperialism (critique) and globalisation debate.

2. Format adaption

Whether switching on the TV set in Switzerland, Germany or Finland-one is very likely to stumble over a program that seems familiar apart from the faces and the language. The reason for this experience is a progress called format adaption.

The situation has developed over the last twenty years. After the revolution of satellite television, the next level was introduced by multichannel cable systems. (Cunningham & Jack & Sinclair1998, pp, 178; Keane & Moran 2008, pp.155) In the decades when television was defined as a national industry, the government protected it with regulations that made trade impossible. Developments like privatisation, liberalisation, deregulation, and new technologies introduced a new era where flows of capital and programming could move quite freely. This created new profit-oriented focal points on the basis of private ownership, resulting in growing homogenization. Also, the mounting number of channels and the rise of their air-time created the need for new and cheap programs to fill all the time spots and attract advertisers. All those elements smoothed the way for the demand and success of formats and their adaptions. (Waisbord 2004, pp.360, 365)

Historically, formats developed due to two circumstances: Subtitling programs is forbidden in some countries (e.g. Indonesia) and therefore the language of television is either a local one or English. In such cases, acquiring a foreign script and producing it in the local language is preferable over buying a canned show because it provides business for the local economy and the audience reception is better. The second aspect is linked to quota policies. Many European countries are worried about the high number of international television imports. Therefore the governments have implemented quota restriction policies to protect national television. By purchasing a format, broadcasters by-pass those restrictions since foreign shows are accepted if only they are produced in the country itself. (Waisbord 2004, pp.363)

A format in the television world is defined as programming ideas and concepts that are sold to at least one other country than the one they were development in. (Jensen, P.M., 2007b, pp.14; Waisbord 2004, pp.359) The next step is the adaption. This means that the purchased format is adapted to the national context and culture as well as it is realized domestically. (Jensen 2007a, pp.119; Waisbord 2004, pp.359)

Keane and Moran use the concept of ‘franchising’ to describe the format adaption trade. The owner of a format sells it to an independent client. This buyer, called franchisee, has the right to use the already approved model to sell the product under the known brand. (Keane & Moran 2008, pp.156) This approach not only explains the processes, rights, and obligations for the different involved parties well, it also carries the business element which is strongly embedded in the concept of format adaption. Waisbord uses the fast-food chain concept with the term ’McTelevision’. This concept incorporates the characteristics of the McDonalds-business model which apply for format adaption: “efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control that caters products to specific local requirements, usually informed by cultural factors.” (Waisbord 2004, pp.378) Dancing with the Stars, Who wants to be a millionaire?, Idol, and Big Brother are some of the most known format adaptions. They are more and more conquering the prime time spots of television channels in many Western and Asian countries. (Jensen 2007a, pp.119) One of the elements that paved the ground for the success of format adaption is internationalization, especially in the global television industry. (Keane & Moran 2008, pp.156)

The advantages of format adaptions are numerous. An adaption offers a certain amount of security concerning the success of the program. It has passed two cycles of R&D already, by having been developed and reviewed by broadcasting executives as well as it stood the test in front of a viewing audience. Incorporated in the ‘format package’ are also the Bible and a consultancy service. The Bible includes information concerning aspects like scheduling, target audience, and ratings. The consultancy service consists of a producer from the format-owning company who assists the local production. (Moran 2004, pp. 259) It is also cheaper than creating own national or local content. A format adaption delivers, as the term ‘package’ already implies, a ready made ‘construction kit’ that only needs to be put together on site. This is desirable for the television industry which generally follows a low-risk strategy. (Keane & Moran 2008, pp.157) Therefore the chiefs of broadcasting companies will rather approve of a domestic format adaption than to an own production. The other way to fill time slots is to buy foreign content. But those shows can fail because of cultural differences since the audience prefers to see their own culture represented in the program. (Cunningham & Jack & Sinclair1998, pp, 181; Waisbord 2004, pp.364, 368) Formats allow domestification because they are neutral in the way of being deliberately free of national and cultural aspects. For those reasons they allow to be nationalized again. (Waisbord 2004, pp.364, 368) From the beginning, they are created with enough openness to allow for a context-specific adaption. The original concept only operates as a basic framework. (Moran 2004, pp.264)


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Format adaption global or local?
University of Helsinki  (Communications)
Introduction to Media and Global Communication
4,0 => 2,0 (vgl. Anm.)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
449 KB
Das Finnische Notensystem geht von 5-1,wobei 5 die beste Note ist und 1 noch genügend ist dh eine 5 enspricht einer Schweizerischen 6 bzw. einder Deutschen 1.
Format Adaption, Global, Local, Televison, Media, Big Brother, Communications
Quote paper
Nina Ratavaara (Author), 2009, Format adaption global or local?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Format adaption global or local?

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free