A scene from 'Hostages'
A scene from 'Hostages' Photo by Itiel Zion
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Courtesy of Showtime
'Homeland' was based on the Israeli series 'Hatufim.' Photo by Courtesy of Showtime

At this week’s MIPTV Media Market in Cannes, France, which officially kicked off on Sunday, Israeli production companies Armoza Formats and Keshet Media Group have already closed major deals for TV formats to be developed and distributed in the United States, Canada, France and Thailand.

From Armoza, “Hostages,” “While You Were Sleeping” and “You, Me and My Ex” will all be developed in Canada while Keshet’s “Boom!” has been purchased by Fox for development in the United States. Armoza also sold “Runway in my Closet,” “The Killer Inside,” and “The Final Cut-Down” to parties in France and secured a deal for “I Can Do That” in Thailand, raising the number of countries where that format is in production to 10.

Feeding off the widespread success of “Homeland” (Showtime) and “In Treatment,” (HBO), the popularity of Israeli TV formats is slated to continue with Keshet’s “The Believer” and “Skufim” (“False Flag”) also being set up at Fox. Additionally, “Your Family or Mine” (TBS), “Coercion” (NBC), “Irreversible” (ABC), “Connected” (AOL), “Ran Quartet” (CBS), and “Rising Star” (ABC), are all currently being developed for distribution in the U.S. market.

Based on the evident international interest and popularity of Israeli formats, MIPTV is hosting a “Focus on Israel” series of panels and screenings at this year’s event.

“The Israeli audiovisual industry combines innovation and creativity with the cutting-edge use of new technologies to better engage the audience around programming,” said Laurine Garaude, director of the television division at Reed MIDEM, organizer of the event.

“As the world’s leading event dedicated to content development and new creative trends, it is opportune that MIPTV should host this special focus on Israel,” she said.

Despite being a small market without a strong tradition of creative entertainment development or production, Israeli companies have been able to interest U.S. buyers in their TV formats, which are the underlying ideas and concepts that comprise a television show, through both creativity and a special understanding of the U.S. entertainment industry.

Avi Armoza, CEO of Armoza Formats, whose company has closed sales and content distribution deals with networks and studios based in the U.S., China, Canada, France, Hungary, Argentina and Portugal -- just since the start of this year, said that international buyers look to Israeli formats and production companies for three main reasons.

“Israeli culture is very comfortable with risk-taking and living with uncertainty. The formats industry is the business of not knowing. No matter what you do, you can never know 100% that a format will be a success,” he said.

“The second key success factor lies in the budgetary restrictions of the market. We have gained the experience and knowledge on how to be creative with our solutions and produce cost-effective shows that still have the appearance of big budget productions, making them more accessible and attractive to other territories.”

“The third and final reason is more specific to the dramas that are coming from Israel… people respond well to the combination of stories of everyday, real people within the setting of a greater social and national drama. Taking, for example, our new drama ‘Hostages,’” he said.

Sharon Tal Yguado, executive VP for scripted programming and original development, Fox International Channels, who is shepherding “The Believer” and “Skufim” (“False Flag”) at the studio, noted that Israelis also benefit from a unique situation for a non-English speaking market: U.S. shows, with the exception of children’s television shows, are not dubbed on domestic channels.

“Israelis consume American content in a pure way. We grew up watching so much American content, consumption was so basic, we almost learned the American subculture indirectly. American culture became a subculture in Israel,” she said.

“Israelis hear the original nuances. When it’s dubbed, you miss a layer of culture,” she said.

One of the oldest proponents of Israeli formats has been Fox, under the leadership of Dana Walden, chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox Television Studios and Yguado, through Fox’s format-based partnerships with Keshet Media Group.

“Israeli creators think out of the box. Being entrepreneurial is a part of Israeli thinking, and this works well with Fox’s brand and editorial direction,” said Yguado.

“The ideas from Israel are very advanced and sophisticated, but execution in the U.S. is more polished, since we have bigger budgets and more experience. So when you put them together, it is perfect,” she said.

Israeli production companies have also been able to take advantage of the increasing demand for content, which has been partially created by an increasing number of distribution outlets. This has led to more willingness among some executives to consider a wider range of source material.

“People today are really looking at everything for ideas: books, articles, graphic novels… so, it’s a good time to have good ideas,” said Yguado.

For a television executive, an extremely competitive position within an industry known for its cutthroat nature, MIPTV offers the rare opportunity to purchase a proven entity, since most formats up for sale have been successfully developed and released in their originating market.

Israeli formats have not only made it in the domestic market, but have also produced spin offs of numerous shows.

“Every success helps the next format and gives confidence to broadcasters that Israeli formats can, and will, travel well,” said Armoza,