Welcome to Global Breakouts, Deadline’s fortnightly strand in which we shine a spotlight on the TV shows and films killing it in their local territories. The industry is as globalized as it’s ever been, but breakout hits are appearing in pockets of the world all the time and it can be hard to keep track… So we’re going to do the hard work for you.
This week, we head to the Netherlands, birthplace of Big Brother, The Voice and The Traitors, for a nostalgia format that appeals to both old and young. Don’t Stop the Music whet buyers’ appetites at the recent, formats-dominated Mip TV market and is a buzzy, authentic series that dances to its own tune, demonstrating the best traits of a nation that has over the decades become an entertainment TV powerhouse.
Name: Don’t Stop the Music
County: The Netherlands
For fans of: The Voice, Dave
Distributor: Newen Connect
Be in no doubt about it, the Netherlands is the land of formats. Buyers from across the globe are constantly looking to the Western European nation for the next big hit — after all, it has already spawned the likes of Big Brother, The Voice, and, most recently, The Traitors. The latter has given the formats genre a much-needed shot in the arm, becoming a hit in the U.S., UK, Australia and France.
Don’t Stop the Music is the next one to watch. It launched on Dutch public broadcaster NPO3 last month and has been pulling in top ratings across linear and digital since.
Produced by Pants on Fire indie CCCP and distributed by Newen Connect, the series taps into buyers’ growing penchant for nostalgia formats. It cleverly manipulates the sub-genre to both take advantage of one generation’s nostalgic memories while creating them for a younger one.
Inspired by hit FX comedy Dave, in which the hilarious protagonist attempts to morph from YouTube viral sensation to serious artist, Don’t Stop the Music takes established older artists whose audience is made up of mainly over-50s and challenges them to break free of their comfort zones by creating a viral hit for the younger generations. They are helped along by a trio of hip young hosts, Daan Boom on music, video producer Tobias Camman and Stijn van Vliet, who provides light relief.
In the space of just a few weeks, these much younger presenters must get to know the artist they’re working with, win their trust and gain their approval for a music video that will most likely put them in an uncomfortable, unfamiliar position, before it’s performed to family, friends and fans.
Tim van den Berg, Head of Creative at CCCP, credits NPO3 for taking big bets on formats with regularity. “We love the Dutch musical heritage, so wanted to make a show that gave these artists a new audience,” he adds.
NPO3 and CCCP have taken a “fully cross media” approach to launching the show, van den Berg explains, by premiering episodes on YouTube several hours prior to linear, to catch age ranges from Gen-Z to pensioner.
“Dutch broadcasters are having problems getting young people engaged, so here we can introduce a new audience to Dutch PSB [public service broadcasting] and celebrate our national culture,” he says. “We have to accept young audiences are watching on YouTube and social media and try and connect with these audiences. NPO have thought about this in a modern way and aren’t trying to cannibalize.”
The tactic has reaped rewards, with Don’t Stop the Music becoming NPO3’s biggest YouTube launch of the year in terms of views, reactions and likes, while the first episode peaked at nearly 600,000 viewers — 72% up on NPO3’s average linear share.
Meanwhile, the songs become available on Spotify once recorded, another way in which the creators and commissioners can drive audiences to the show.
Regardless of launch strategy, and in common with other Dutch sleeper hits, Don’t Stop the Music’s budget was minuscule and the producers had to find ways to make it work. “The budget was very tight but we needed Hollywood-style video,” says van den Berg.
Filming of the videos was often limited to just one or two days, he adds, but this “became great TV and added excitement.”
In this vein, van den Berg considers how shows from the Netherlands try to be “as close to reality as possible,” citing The Traitors, contrasting with U.S. networks, who “are always frightful” of letting things play out naturally.
Breaking the artists out of their comfort zones was another challenge and van den Berg reveals that one band, Surinamese-Dutch outfit Trafassi, nearly pulled out.
“They were being told what to do by three white hosts and the response was, ‘That is not how you make Caribbean music,’” adds van den Berg. “But we use that in the show to steer things in another direction. The artists were really willing to learn and we learned as much from them as they learned from us.”
Having shopped CCCP’s Pants on Fire, which also debuted on NPO3, Newen Head of Formats Andrew Sime is now tasked with selling Don’t Stop the Music around the world and has already helped broker an option deal with a German production company.
The show is easily adaptable as local networks can transpose the concept on to bands from their own country, he adds, while NPO3 is proving that it can be made at a cheap price point and that it lends itself well to multi-generational co-viewing.
“For me the eye-opening bit is just how tense the actual creative process is when you watch it,” adds Sime. “The presenters have to take critical feedback in their stride, which is an inbuilt tension and shows you don’t have to build artificial tension.”
Format sales veteran Sime is a huge fan of concepts from the Netherlands and believes there are several reasons why the nation produces entertainment behemoths with such regularity. He praises Dutch producers for recognizing the importance of casting and local knowledge, and also points to structural factors at play.
“The industry is comparatively well funded via the public sector, with channels catering to different sections of the populace, and that helps in combination with a very strong private sector,” he adds.
“And then you look at the rich history of formats from people like [Big Brother creator] John de Mol. There is clearly an awareness from producers that there is a bigger world into which they can sell their content.”
Mip TV was abuzz with formats hype driven by the success of The Traitors. In Don’t Stop the Music, buyers might be on to the next big thing.