Format Review: 'Homeland' Is Good, But Doesn't Fit Everywhere

Prisoners of War

Drama format by Keshet International was sold to USA, Europe and Asia. But it isn't a perfect bet for every broadcaster.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Israeli production and distribution company Keshet International recently sold drama format 'Prisoners of War' to South Korea. reviews the format and analyses its suitability for worldwide markets.

What is 'Prisoners of War'

The format originates in Israel and was sold e.g. to USA. According to official annotation, 'Prisoners of War' follows two soldiers as they attempt to re-adjust to their lives after returning home from captivity for 17 years. In addition to their personal struggles, it becomes clear that there is a profound secret. Final output varies with territory, for example North American adaptation focuses on single soldier and involves Iraq and CIA.

High production values and big deals

Original Israeli version of 'Prisoners of War' is undoubtedly a quality show with high production value. Good camera, good plot with twists... And also good ratings: season 1 achieved 37% share in households on Keshet Channel 2, season 2 followed with 40% average share.

Best possible scenario followed: cable broadcaster Showtime acquired 'Prisoners of War' in USA and remade it as 'Homeland'. The format would suffer on regular broadcast channel (just like another Israeli show 'Hostages' did on CBS), but cable TV like Showtime is different. Similarly to HBO, Showtime also focuses on production side and effect on channel brand first. Multiple prizes confirm it and after winning 5 Golden Globes and 8 Emmys the format itself gained additional big value for the format as well.

Russia and Turkey followed and now there are plans to make Korean 'Prisoners of War'. The format is on the top now.

Not suitable for every broadcaster

Sales to USA, prizes, renewals for many seasons (season 4 was confirmed in USA, season 3 in Israel) shows there is no doubt about quality of the format. But despite all these facts 'Prisoners of War' is not universally adaptable like 'Desperate Housewives' because it is not a mainstream scripted concept.

There are two conditions on adapting 'Prisoners of War': appropriate audience and country history. "Audience" means there must be a specific target group interested in such a heavy drama focusing on post-war situations, international conflicts, intelligence agencies, suspicion and terrorism. All the territories that adapted the format have one thing in common: specific situations in the history of a country. U.S. adaptation focuses on Iraq and Middle East situation, Russia is a country of many historical conflicts, Korean version will focus on a conflict between South Korea and North Korea. And Israeli version involves regional disputes too. 'Prisoners of War' can't be simply translated, you cannot buy scripts and follow them from A to Z. Format itself is more about main theme and calls for extensive local changes.

Politics and war: Who can benefit from 'Prisoners of War'

There are still perfect territories for 'Prisoners of War': format might be easily adapted in Balkan territories, other Russian speaking or post-soviet countries, we also see its potential in Africa and Latin America. On the other hand it is hard to imagine it in plenty of countries - Canada, Nordic territories and others. In these cases we suggest buying finished programme - both Israeli (distributed by Keshet International) and American by Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution are very good.