The passage given below is followed by a set of questions. Choose the most appropriate answer to each question.
Not many Britons watch “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” these days. The quiz show, which routinely drew more than 15m viewers in the late 1990s, now attracts fewer than 5m. While “Millionaire” is fading in the country that invented it, though, it is thriving elsewhere. This week Sushil Kumar won the top prize on the Indian version of the programme. Cote d'Ivoire is to make a series. Afghanistan is getting a second one. In all, 84 different versions of the show have been made, shown in 117 countries.
Hollywood may create the world's best TV dramas, but Britain dominates the global trade in unscripted programmes—quiz shows, singing competitions and other forms of reality television. “Britain's Got Talent”, a format created in 2006, has mutated into 44 national versions, including “China's Got Talent” and “Das Supertalent”. There are 22 different versions of “Wife Swap” and 32 of “Masterchef. In the first half of this year, Britain supplied 43% of global entertainment formats—more than any other country.
London crawls with programme scouts. If a show is a hit in Britain—or even if it performs unusually well in its time slot—phones start ringing in
production companies' offices. Foreign broadcasters, hungry for proven fare, may hire the producers of a British show to make a version for them.
Or they may buy a “bible” that tells them how to clone it for themselves.
“The risk of putting prime-time entertainment on your schedule has been outsourced to the UK,” says Tony Cohen, chief executive of FremantleMedia, which makes “Got Talent”, “Idol” and “X Factor”.
Like financial services, television production took off in London as a result of government action. In the early 1990s broadcasters were told to commission at least one-quarter of their programmes from independent producers. In 2004 trade regulations ensured that most rights to television shows are retained by those who make them, not those who broadcast them. Production companies began aggressively hawking their wares overseas.
They are becoming more aggressive, in part because British broadcasters are becoming stingier. PACT, a producers' group, and Oliver & Ohlbaum, a consultancy, estimate that domestic broadcasters spent £1.51 billion ($2.4 billion) on shows from independent outfits in 2008, but only £1.36 billion in 2010. International revenues have soared from £342m to £590m in the same period. Claire Hungate, chief executive of Shed Media, says that 70- 80% of that company's profits now come from intellectual property—that is, selling formats and tapes of shows that have already been broadcast, mostly to other countries.
Alex Mahon, president of Shine Group, points to another reason for British creativity. Many domestic television executives do not prize commercial success. The BBC is funded almost entirely by a licence fee on televisionowning households. Channel 4 is funded by advertising but is publicly owned. At such outfits, success is measured largely in terms of creativity and innovation—putting on the show that everyone talks about. In practice, that means they favour short series. British television churns out a lot of ideas.
Yet the country's status as the world's pre-eminent inventor of unscripted entertainment is not assured. Other countries have learned how to create reality television formats and are selling them hard. In early October programme buyers at MIPCOM, a huge television convention held in France, crowded into a theatre to watch clips of dozens of reality programmes. A Norwegian show followed urban single women as they toured rural villages in search of love. From India came “Crunch”, a show in which the walls of a house gradually closed in on contestants.
Ever-shrinking commissioning budgets at home are a problem, too. The BBC, which provides a showcase for independent productions as well as creating many of its own, will trim its overall budget by 16% in real terms over the next few years. The rather tacky BBC3 will be pruned hard—not a great loss to national culture, maybe, but a problem for producers, since many shows are launched on the channel. Perhaps most dangerously for the independents, ITV, Britain's biggest free-to-air commercial broadcaster, aims to produce more of its own programming.
Meanwhile commissioners' tastes are changing. Programmes like “Wife Swap”, which involve putting people in contrived situations (and are fairly easy to clone), are falling from favour. The vogue is for gritty, fly-on-the- wall documentaries like “One Born Every Minute” and “24 Hours in A&E”. There is a countervailing trend towards what are known as “soft-scripted” shows, which mix acting with real behaviour. “Made in Chelsea” and “The Only Way is Essex” blaze that peculiar trail.
These trends do not greatly threaten the largest production companies. Although they are based in London, their operations are increasingly global. Several have been acquired by media conglomerates like Sony and Time Warner, making them even more so. Producers with operations in many countries have more opportunities to test new shows and refine old ones. FremantleMedia's new talent show, “Hidden Stars”, was created by the firm's Danish production arm. Britain is still the most-watched market—the crucible of reality formats. But preliminary tests may take place elsewhere.
There is, in any case, a way round the problem of British commissioners leaning against conventional reality shows. Producers are turning documentaries and soft-scripted shows into formats, and exporting them. Shine Group's “One Born Every Minute”, which began in 2010 as a documentary about a labour ward in Southampton, has already been sold as a format to America, France, Spain and Sweden. In such cases the producers are selling sophisticated technical and editing skills rather than a brand and a formula. With soft-scripted shows, the trick is in casting.
The companies that produce and export television formats are scattered around London, in odd places like King's Cross and Primrose Hill. They are less rich than financial-services firms and less appealing to politicians than technology companies. But they have a huge influence on how the world entertains itself. And, in a slow-moving economy, Britain will take all the national champions it can get.
Which of the following cannot be concluded from the passage?