25 August 2021
TRAIL-BLAZING ASIA’S FORMAT PHENOMENON
The man behind The Masked Singer | Part 2
By Lulu M
The ATF Formats Pitch this year (2021) will have the privilege of submissions being judged by the original creator of the worldwide smash hit format, The Masked Singer. Wonwoo Park, CEO and Chief Creator at DITURN, has been working on more than 200 TV shows since 1997, and continues to make a strong endeavour to globalize K-FORMAT.
He spoke to iNSiGHTS magazine about his journey before, and the years following, The Masked Singer phenomenon. Read on for some unique (and candid) insights during the production process, through the eyes of one of the leaders in the Korean TV format industry.
While one of the most common questions many have asked has been about the secret ingredients that make a format successful, there have been few who can recap a pragmatic answer.
In a word, empathy.
“I believe it’s public empathy,” Wonwoo summarised. “Genres can vary. There might be people who have their favourite genres and only watch them. Therefore, no matter what show producers create, the range of the audience would not be expanded unless they empathize with it.
“To spread it by word of mouth, for example, ‘I watched that show and it was so funny’, means that there is a person who empathized with it, and they deliver what they feel to others.
“When the empathy derived from the show spreads to people like a virus, it becomes a success,” Wonwoon expounded.
Touching on a peculiar conflict of perspective, Wonwon, while noting that formats must also be new and original, where producers should find something that hasn’t existed in the world, it would then also be difficult to make someone understand the ideas because it hasn’t been seen anywhere else on the planet.
“In any case, I have yet to encounter successful original formats so far,” Wonwoo admitted.
CEO & Chief Creator
The Magic Factor of Multi-Cultural Attraction
Laughter cannot be left out in formats, says Wonwoo, remarking that most of the recent formats he has been working on have comical elements.
For example, in the Korean original version of the Masked Singer, each singer had a modifier or a nickname that was not adopted in overseas’ versions, such as “Righteous Robin Hood”, and “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. It spread like a buzzword among people in Korea.
In another example, a new show Wonwoo is currently working on is held in an unimaginable place. In this format, when the eliminated contestants fall into a toilet or perhaps when 300 fans start singing together with a singer, “such moments become poignant, and make people cry and/or laugh.
“I think laughter makes the formats attractive across various cultures,” Wonwoo observed.
Yet Another Singing Format?
iNSiGHTS magazine asked Wonwoo if the world is ready for new ideas in the Formats world apart from yet another singing format.
Wonwoo responded with an intriguing answer: “Aren’t we ready to be ready?”
Perhaps we are, and all it takes is someone to make it happen.
Wonwoo offered that perhaps, a new show combined with new technologies will be born soon. “There are technologies that we might not want to miss out on. I think these technologies can narrow the distance between TV and the young generation, which has been receded over the years.
“Therefore, global companies should invest – technology and capital – in the format market. I’d like to say to Samsung, LG, Apple, Google, Tesla. Let’s work together on format development,” Wonwoo urged, giving a peek into what may soon come.
Being successful – Linear? OTT?
Wonwoo expressed having concerns about the difference of successful format ideas on linear TV, as opposed to that of OTT.
“On OTT, there should be fun or impressive things rather than something that needs immediate responses,” declared Wonwoo. “TV shows must be competitive because there are other formats on at the same time on different channels, and one needs to win over viewer rating shares.
“However, a common point across both platforms is the decision to watch the next episode. In this respect, I believe the show should be mysterious and provoke the audiences’ curiosity.
“Whether the running time passes fast, or the audience eagerly waits for the next episode, curiosity is the name of the game. These platforms seem different, but I think it is the same in the end,” concluded Wonwoo.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted in Korean. The English reflection of Wonwoo’s responses has been edited for clarity and length.